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  • Valentine's Day Gifts for Italians
    Find out how to make a good impression with the gifts you give to your Italian love
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    I got started on Valentine's Day early this year. I spent the weekend after the new year searching for the perfect gift for my husband. He didn't really like the clothes I chose for him for Christmas, so I wanted to find something great for Valentine's Day. I know that it's the thought that counts. And my love should be gift enough. But I get deflated when my husband opens the box and puts on a frown or that other face - the frown that turns into a forced smile in seconds - that tells me he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. It's painful. I get joyful when he opens a gift I give him with natural delight. My Valentine's Day gift to myself is buying him the perfect gift. Gift giving and getting is trickier with Italians that I imagined.

    Italians, as many of you know, believe in "la bella figura" or the idea that you should always make a good impression, that your outside is indicative of your inside. In other words, Italians are not quite on board with the "don't judge a book by its cover" mentality. In fact, my high school Italian teacher often told the story of employers in Italy asking for attractive people to apply for jobs when they were hiring. Such a practice would bring on a lawsuit in the United States. I'm not sure if this kind of thing still happens in Italy either. But I know that the concept of the "bella figura" lives on. This idea lends itself to gift giving, too.

    Many Italians give only one gift to their significant others for the holidays or Valentine's Day. But it has to be a good one. The expectation is that you'll give a fine piece of jewelry or designer, name brand clothing. Other popular presents include electronics - from laptops to cell phones. Indeed, those are the gifts that usually put a genuine smile on my husband's face. Still, I don't want you to think he's superficial or disappointed in me if he doesn't like one of my gifts.

    Antonio has a good heart, and he tells me that I'm his greatest gift, so it doesn't matter what I wrap up to give him on birthdays and holidays. But he is careful about gift giving to others, and he expects me to follow suit. For instance, he checks a million times to make sure that we take the price off the gift because it's important that you make a good impression with what you give. No need to let them know if you've gotten something on sale or bought it with dollars and not euro, which are worth more. He also tries to get name brand items for friends and family. He - and many of his fellow Italians who visit us - adore the outlets. Their favorites are Polo, Tommy, Calvin Klein, and DKNY. Victoria's Secret is atop the list for the ladies.

    Beautiful wrapping is something that I brought to the equation, which my husband appreciates. It makes the gift seem more important and fulfills the "bella figura" prophecy. As Valentine's Day approaches, if you are planning on giving a gift to an Italian lover, you have some idea about what he or she might appreciate.

    Still, Italians are like all people. Some believe in Valentine's Day and some don't. My husband has never been a fan of Valentine's Day. He says that he is romantic all the time, and he doesn't need to reserve one day out of the year for love. That's never stopped me from giving him a little present and doing something special on Valentine's Day. I've made him a big American breakfast for V-Day, and we've also spent the day at Sea World in Orlando, Fla. I'm not sure what we'll do to mark the day in 2010, but I have a gift for him to open that I think will make a "bella figura".

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can read about her life and career at her Web site.


    Article Published 1/03/10

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