Why buying souvenirs isn’t as lame as it sounds

I used to think buying souvenirs was on a par with eating in those tourist trap restaurants with flags and fat menus in five languages…  Not cool, and certainly not the sort of thing any self-respecting traveller would be seen dead doing.  Especially not in Italy.

Keeping her poker face.....Marabella, Spaccanapoli

But I’ve mellowed.  Oddio, I still wouldn’t touch most souvenirs on offer with a barge pole.  But time and a few distracted, sentimental purchases along the way have taught me something I never really thought was true.  Souvenirs really do make you remember.  If I look up, I’ve got three in my sights straight away.  A clay magnet in the shape of a Neapolitan coffee pot from Spaccanapoli.  A terracotta  cup bought on the steps of the Duomo in Perugia where ceramics dealers from Deruta set up shop on odd week-ends.  A beaker turned pen holder once held mulled wine at traditional living nativity, il presepe vivente di San Gregorio d’Assisi, in Umbria.  My coldest ever Christmas and a lifetime ago it feels like.

When in Naples...

Upstairs there’s more.  A simpatico (promise!) macrame owl from a jeweller’s in Via Oberdan hangs off my bedroom door.  An alabaster amulet from the Gargano in Puglia on the other side.  A miniature picnic table in terracotta, laden with tiny plates and bottles of wine adorns a bookcase. Napoli again. In Marabella’s room, the timber cross above her bed we bought in Assisi imitates Cimabue.  Just a handful of things literally.  Tokens.  Without worth, but priceless for the way they can turn back time at a glance.

I get it now.  Souvenirs carry our joy.  They’re proof that, whatever else in life, we haven’t always stood still.  That we’ve been brave and gone out and lived, deeply.  And I need reminding sometimes.

Comments 9

  1. orvietoorbust January 7, 2012

    Janine…lovely post. True words…it’s the little things (even the tacky ones) that catapult us back to the time we bought them. My cameo ring – everyday it reminds me of the winter of 2009, the typical (I wrote “tipical” three times before I figured out that was the Italian spelling,ha!) chicken wine pitcher, the “Italia” sticker that rides on my car’s bumper….tangible memories. Hugs.toni

    • janinevasta January 7, 2012

      Grazie Toni! I get the spelling trap absolutely! Have the same trouble with words sometimes too… It’s exactly as you say – tangible memories. Comfort for when you have to spend a long time away from a place you really love. As we both, do by the sound of it! I would love to know your story…. Un abbraccio forte, Jx

  2. paninigirl January 8, 2012

    I am so happy to have found your blog-I am linking you. It’s so wonderful to read about your experiences and what are my exact thoughts about Italy and my desire to be there. I spend each and every day pining for Italy and figuring how I can get back. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • janinevasta January 8, 2012

      Thank you!! I am delighted to have stumbled your gorgeous blog just last night! When your comment came through today I was sitting here, Sunday morning, pen and note pad, sketching out ideas for how I can get to Italy. I promise!!!! More than uncanny… I really hope we can keep swapping stories. A presto, Jx

  3. Lisa | Renovating Italy January 11, 2012

    OMG you sound like me…ideas on how to get back to Italy lol. So I’m not the only one pining away! I collected Christmas ornaments as souvenirs, also charms for a bracelet for my daughter, a little necklace from Murano, and a bowl from Salina…love them all and remember sunny days in Italia!
    ciao lisa

    • janinevasta January 12, 2012

      This is too much Lisa!!! I collect charms for my little girl’s charm bracelet when I’m in Italy too!!! So lovely to hear from you. A joy. Where are you in the world at the moment? Un abbraccio.

      • Lisa | Renovating Italy January 12, 2012

        At the moment we are in Brighton Queensland and putting our house back on the market once we resolve the fence problem with the neighbors. When we sell we are heading back to Italy….it’s been a long time coming that’s for sure! Where are you???
        ciao lisa

    • janinevasta January 12, 2012

      Oh Lisa I hope you get all that sorted soon. I remember reading about your house dilemmas on your blog… Just think that every day that passes the closer you are getting to Italia! That’s what I do sometimes. Just take it day by day. I am in Melbourne – in body at least!!

      • Lisa | Renovating Italy January 13, 2012

        Yes, I wish I didn’t have to keep saying “piano piano”
        Melbourne is my hometown, I was there a few weeks ago with the kids and it was wonderful.
        we can always dream….
        ciao lisa

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