Good souvenirs are getting harder to find in this increasingly globalized age. Too many times did I buy something abroad that seemed so special, only to come home and find it stocked at a store like, right down the street. So much for risking carrying that delicate bottle of olive oil or hoarding melting chocolates in my bag, all in the name of cool vacation mementos.
There's one item that we use on a daily basis that I don't see sold in stores here: espresso and cappuccino cups. After all, cappuccino served in authentic cups is the best way to indulge the pretension and needs of espresso obsessives who lament the state of most domestic coffee and yearn for the good stuff overseas.
We're not the collecting types in general, but we're now proud of our little family of cappuccino cups from cafes, mostly in Italy: Caffè Sant'Eustachio and Tazza D'Oro in Rome, Parma's Gran Caffè Orientale, and Giubbe Rosse in Florence. We also picked up a cup from La Biela in Buenos Aires, and closer to home, Seattle's own Espresso Vivace. Even if the wares aren't advertised as souvenirs, sometimes all you have to do is ask. (It looks like Tazza D'Oro offers the cups online, but good luck arranging shipping to the U.S.)
On our last trip to Italy, however, we cheaped out when at the magnificent and opulent Gran Caffè Gambrinus. The flowery cup cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 Euros, a price point that far exceeded its peers. It was so gorgeous and nearly irresistible, yet we just didn't go for the overpriced souvenir.
Dumb us. Immediately upon leaving Naples we had an extreme case of whatever the opposite of buyer's remorse is (retail balker's remorse?), especially because Gambrinus clearly states on its website that cups are only sold at the landmark cafe itself.
But then, lucky us! H's friend Graz took off for a month-long trip to Italy that included Naples, and very kindly agreed to get us the holy grail of cappuccino cups. This promise meant making a frightening trip to the post office in Naples to ship it back. But they say adversity builds character. And in turn, it's helped grow our modest collection. (Morgan had also managed to get us an extra Sant'Eustachio cup back intact a few months ago.)
I better damn well not see a new item called "Cappuccino Italia," featuring a selection of cups from Italy's famed cafes, coming to a Williams-Sonoma near you.