Postcards from Italy

2022 CIU Travel Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are almost here, and what better way to celebrate than with Cantina Direct specialties for 2022! Whether you are sneaking gifts from Santa into stockings or under the tree, lighting candles for the Festival of Lights, ringing in the New Year, or simply enjoying the company of family and friends, our sister company, Cantina Direct, is stocked with gourmet goodies that will delight everyone on your holiday list and have them exclaiming, “It must be Italian!”

2022 Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Casa Gola

This is some of the freshest EVOO you can find in the US. It is from the 2022 harvest (3 weeks ago!) and originates from a small, family owned farm near Bevagna, Umbria.

The weather in 2022 was all over the news as drought conditions and extreme heat plagued Europe this past summer. The good news is that the small amount of extra-virgin olive oil coming from Umbria is of exceptional quality, so now is the time to place your order for this extraordinary oil. 

Our oil is produced by Casa Gola, an olive oil estate set on the Umbrian hills between the Torre del Colle castle and the Santuario della Madonna della Valle above the medieval town of Bevagna. Our friends Luciana Cerbini and Giovanni Picuti purchased this farm in 1997 as a passion project to begin producing high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and many of our clients have visited the property over the years to enjoy a cooking experience with Luciana at the farmhouse.

Fresh-pressed extra-virgin olive oil (called “new oil” in Italy) is particularly flavorful and packed with polyphenols…though you can consume olive oil right after it’s pressed between October and December, the flavor reaches its peak two or three months later, so January the best time to savor new olive oil. Both the flavor and nutrients begin to fade after six months and fall flat two years after pressing, so the younger your olive oil, the tastier and healthier.

We offer convenient five-liter cans of this uniquely piquant oil that is ideal to stock your own holiday pantry, give as a gift to the passionate cook or gourmand on your list, or divide into smaller decorative bottles as hostess or holiday gifts. Learn more here!

Parmigiano-Reggiano from Parma2064

We’ve been sourcing top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano from the Parma2064 cooperative for two years now, and anyone who has tried this artisan cheese has been an instant convert. Parma2064 is a group of five historic family farms located in Parmigiano-Reggiano country outside Fidenza that turns out certified authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano according to the highest standards of production and aging that have remained virtually unchanged since Benedictine monks invented this cheese almost a millennium ago. 

We offer four different agings—12, 24, 30, and 36 months—so you can compare the subtle variations in texture and flavor between wheels. The youngest “Primo” cheese is aged a minimum of 12 months, producing a lighter color and creamier texture with flavors of fresh milk and bright grass and herbs. 24-month “Classico” cheese is slightly darker and more granular, with floral or fruity notes and hints of spice and nuts. Crumbly “Lunga Vita” is aged 30 months for a more intense color and flavor with stronger herbal notes and traces of toasted nuts and spices. The longest-aged “Extra Lunga Vita” cheese takes on a striking color and grainy texture after 36 months, with a complex blend of flavors from sweet hay to chestnut. 

Unlike olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced all year long so there’s no need to pre-order during a specific season. This prized cheese is an ideal holiday gift and we are now selling wedges packaged in smaller 500-gram portions (about 1 lb.) that are easier to gift to friends and family. With one minimum order of three kg, you can treat five foodie friends and have a wedge left over for yourself! Order now for holiday delivery.

Florentine Gift Boxes from DolceForte, Firenze

Tis the season that shops across Italy begin displaying sumptuous “cesti natalizi” (Christmas baskets) of every shape and size. These decorative baskets or boxes stuffed with holiday goodies like panettone, chocolates, wine, and even lentils and zampone (a traditional New Year’s Eve dish said to bring good luck and future riches) is one of the popular and beloved holiday gifts in this food-centric country.

Our unique Cantina Direct holiday boxes are created exclusively for us by Elena Carradori, owner of the gourmet shop Dolceforte in Florence, and are updated regularly based on the new treats that Elena discovers over the preceding months. Each product arrives in its own packaging, so you can ship the box to yourself and divide the contents to create several individual gifts for friends, colleagues, and others on your gift list or pack it all into the included handmade Florentine paper box for a single show-stopping present.

We have four fabulous new gift box options this year. Learn more

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore