Italy Gift Giving Customs

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Flag of Italy

Capital: Rome

Languages: Italian, German, French, Slovene

Currency: Euro

Religion: Roman Catholic

A primary destination for travel, Italy is a country rich in history, art and cuisine. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, it is a good idea to know the gift giving customs in Italy before visiting, especially if you will be exchanging gifts during your trip.

Social Gift Giving in Italy

At an early age, Italian children are taught to put a lot of thought into the selection of a gift, considering their recipient's interests and tastes. As a visitor, you should do the same.
Gifts are expected for social events and to express thanks for an invitation. If you are invited to someone's home, a gift of wine, chocolates, pastries or flowers is appropriate. If you prefer to send flowers, have them delivered earlier in the day. You may consider a gift for the host's wife in appreciation for preparing the meal. And, if you visit a family, consider small gifts for the children as well.


Christmas Gift Giving in Italy

In Italy, most of the Christmas gift giving occurs on the Epiphany. The 12th day of Christmas, Epiphany is the day the three wise men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus. As the story goes, the three wise men stopped by the abode of La Befana. Although invited to join them, she refused but later changed her mind and set out to find the Christ child. According to legend, she is still searching. Everywhere she visits, she leaves gifts for the children in hopes of finding the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5, awaiting gifts from La Befana.

Gifts to Avoid
  • Red flowers – red flowers indicate secrecy
  • Yellow flowers – yellow flowers indicate jealousy
  • Chrysanthemums - chrysanthemums are symbols of mourning and used at funerals
  • Brooches, handkerchiefs or knives - these are associated with sadness
  • Do not wrap a gift in black – black is a color of mourning
  • Do not wrap a gift in purple – purple symbolizes bad luck and is the color of death

Business Gift Giving

Italians prefer to do business face-to-face with people they know and trust. Your business colleagues will be eager to know something about you as a person before conducting business with you. Net-working is a must. Take the time to build the relationship by inquiring about your colleagues family and personal interests. First impressions are important. Make sure to demonstrate respect when greeting your colleagues, especially when meeting them for the first time. Appearances matter – expect to be judged on your appearance, your attire and the demeanor you project. Because hospitality is important to Italians, business entertaining often takes place in restaurants. Refusing an invitation will offend your business colleagues. Also, business cards should never be given in a social situation.


When considering a business gift, keep in mind:

  • Gifts with a company logo are considered bad taste
  • Gifts should not be overly expensive but of good quality
  • Business gifts are given at a senior managerial level
  • Food and liquor are appropriate gifts
  • When giving wine, make sure it is a good vintage as Italians are wine connoisseurs
  • Small gifts are appropriate for co-workers and staff members

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