As Italy’s core empties out come August, with most Italians heading to the coast or abroad, many of us expats head back to our roots. Preparing for the trip home usually entails some gift buying, and while it is fairly easy to find wonderful presents for most recipients, it may be trickier when it comes to babies—especially if you never hang out with any. Michelle Tarnopolsky put together this guide to uniquely Italian gifts for the new wee people you may be visiting at home this summer.
Think of just five of the many things that Italy is famous for: superstitions, the Renaissance, stylish silver, artisan crafts and fashion. All these are sources for great gifts for newborns.
1. GO THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE.
The most classic Italian baby gift is certainly the camicino della fortuna or ‘good-luck shirt,’ usually white silk or cotton. You can even include a note explaining the long-standing custom of dressing newborns in this shirt soon after birth to augur good fortune—and then saving it without washing it. Another popular custom is to give a little coral bracelet (for girls or boys) to ward off the ‘evil eye.’ If you’re visiting expectant parents you could also go with the typically southern Italian confetti di nascita, candy-covered almonds for them to give to visitors of their newborn.
2. SHARE SOMETHING FROM ONE CRADLE (OF THE RENAISSANCE THAT IS) TO ANOTHER.
My personal favourite baby gift is a little ceramic copy of Andrea della Robbia’s swaddled infants decorating the façade of Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti. Art and history lovers will especially appreciate this unique addition to the decoration of their baby’s room. You could also try to find—or if you’re handy, replicate—a desco da parto (painted birth tray) to commemorate the occasion as they used to in the Renaissance.
3. SAY IT WITH SILVER.
Italians have a knack for adding fancy flourish to the simplest of accessories. Turn your pint-sized beneficiary into the most elegant baby in the playground with a silver-plated holder for the pacifier or dummy. Italians also love giving silver picture frames, and you can find many with a baby theme.
4. GIVE SOMETHING HANDMADE.
If you can afford to splash out, the historic artisan shops TAF (via Por S. Maria 17r) and Baroni (via Porta Rossa 56r) feature exquisite christening gowns, baby clothes and towel sets, all hand-embroidered using time-honoured techniques. For something more modern check out the new 100% Birbe (via Ognissanti 2r) for delightfully unique and hand-crafted bibs, changing pads and diaper bags.
5. NURTURE A BABY FASHIONISTA.
Nothing says Made in Italy quite like stylish clothes, and in Italy babies start training in the tradition of the bella figura right out of the womb. They even begin sporting shoes long before their tiny feet actually hit the ground. Try Principe di Firenze (via delle Belle Donne 15r) for a classic, higher-end brand, Raspini Vintage (via Calimaruzza 17r) for discounted designer clothes and chains like Benetton and Chicco for more affordable yet still uniquely Italian finds.