What to bring home from Puglia
Trust us when we recommend you come with an empty suitcase! And we’re not talking tacky souvenirs. Unlike other destinations in Italy, here in Puglia is still possible to find authentic handmade items as well as many affordable options.
Smart souvenir shopping tips
Whether you’re buying something for yourself or others, it’s worth keeping these in mind.
- Avoid customs seizures and penalties
When it comes to food and wine, make sure you check with your airline first what you can carry onboard. Also verify that you are compliant with the latest regulations, both those from Italy and your country of origin. Most shops nowadays offer international delivery, so enquire with the sales assistant first if necessary.
- Choose your shop wisely
If you’re looking at the airport, you’ve left it too late. If you’re looking for something special, the airport is not the place to buy your souvenirs nor is any souvenir shop really. Rather, you should check small boutiques and local shops to find hidden gems and authentic finds.
- Pick something truly unique
You can buy keychains and mousepads everywhere, so you might want to look for something special you can only find in Puglia. Keep reading for some inspiration!
- Tight budget?
Cindy and I, the wife-and-husband team behind AuthenticPugliaTours, are avid travelers and have found ourselves in the same situation. What we found useful was to imagine we could only buy one thing during the trip, so whenever we wanted to make a purchase we would ask ourselves “Out of all the things we have seen, is this the one?”
Best authentic souvenirs from Puglia: where and what to buy
Amidst the many changes after the Reformation, Catholic churches in Puglia were busy trying to strengthen their communities, hence why statues were an important commodity. In the 1600s almost about anything was too expensive for the average person, that’s why the paper was chosen: it was cheap and versatile.
It’s bizarre but many of the first artisans that produced papier-mâché statues in Lecce were barbers. Between a haircut and the next, they would go to the back of the shop and craft statues. After all, they had the scissors and the dexterity required. Nowadays you can still find workshops that carry on this tradition where you can buy an item from. And don’t worry, you don’t need to buy a big statue, there are other smaller options too!
The town of Grottaglie (which you can visit on our tours) is famous for its family-run pottery studios, where you can buy crockery but also other items, local to Puglia. You can read more about Grottaglie ceramics in our dedicated article.
As it often happens in rural communities, where farmers and shepherds rear animals, complementary traditions develop alongside the main source of livelihood. One of these is, of course, leathercraft, which today is one of Puglia’s most important legacies. The town of Alberobello, in particular, is famous for its leatherwork, there are traces dating back all the way to the 1600s.
“Each item is unique and not one is alike as none are machine-made, they’re all handmade here in Alberobello.
We take great care and love in our work and can’t wait to make your special, one-of-a-kind keepsake piece!” – Laura, artisan
Embroidery, lacework and crochet
A century-old tradition in Salento, hand-sewn fabrics like tablecloths and towels were an important of the corredo, a bride’s trousseau, that grandmas and mothers would start sewing as soon as a girl was born into a family. The most cherished and precious items were then passed down from one generation to another. Today you can still find workshops with looms that carry on sewing and embroidering the way nonnas used to in ages past.
The local limestone, with its warm and delicate color, is used for handmade crockery and ornaments of rustic beauty, decorated with stunning hand-painted details. The stone type found in Lecce is actually quite rare, the only other quarry of this kind is in Malta. The wonderful Baroque buildings you find in town are made with the same stone and so are their intricate façades.
Food and wine
While Puglia burrata won’t stand a long journey, baked goods, preserves, wine and olive oil will! Puglia is home to many local delicacies and some make the perfect memento. Imagine being back home and throwing a dinner for your friends with Pugliese ingredients – if you ask us that’s better than boring them with a photo slideshow!
It’s true that nowadays you can find almost anything online or at a delicatessen, but a bottle from a vineyard you personally visited on a wine tour comes with an extra gift: all that you’ve learned from your visit! It’s also probably cheaper than other export goods you find abroad, which doesn’t hurt.
Something you may want to consider, although not edible, are beauty products made with olive oil, so you get those health benefits one way or another!