Souvenirs: the good, the bad and the plain ugly

It’s around this time of year that many of us (if we haven’t done already) are heading off on our annual summer holiday and with it two weeks of fun and relaxation away from home and work pressures. And when it comes to heading home and with it the purchase of holiday souvenirs that will last a lifetime we often are left floundering. Lets face it we have all done it at some stage, passed a local souvenir stand on holiday or made a last minute dash to the gift shop at the airport before boarding time and buying the first thing that seemed appropriate at the time only to encounter post purchase regret in the harsh reality of home.

No harm done, not to the Italians it seems, a few years ago a controversy arose with some locals and heads of state calling for the banning of trashy souvenir stands in a number of towns in Italy. Apparently it was a pair of boxers with a badly positioned leaning tower of Pisa that caused the problem, although a cooking apron with the famous naked image of Michelangelo’s David and a fan with scenes from a Pompeii brothel didn’t do much to help its cause either. Whether it was holidaymakers or outraged locals who objected is anyones guess but the story is just one in a long list that have confined holiday gifts purchases or souvenirs to the tacky wall of shame.

But do all holiday souvenirs and gifts always conjure up images of cheap tasteless and sometimes offensive tat? Its true sometimes that some kitsch gag gifts that seemed ironic and cool at the time, may not look so great in the reality of the family home. Yet like them or hate them, holiday souvenirs are a guilty pleasure, a token reminder of the good times in a place away from our normal surrounds. At their very heart they serve as a way to recapture memories of a time and place and allow us to share those same memories with people back home.

With careful thought they can prove memorable for the right reasons, the trick being to shop around and explore the many worthwhile gift options on your holiday. And there are many options, from the standard kitschy souvenirs and the ubiquitous fridge magnets, to more highly regarded and well thought out gifts of local produce and crafts from the region to even literal pieces of the holiday that don’t cost a penny, sand or seashells from your favourite beach etc. The trick is to look around for what you want.
Remember whatever your taste in holiday gifts or souvenirs extends to, be it traditional crafts and local produce, fridge magnets, a handful of sand or even controversial leaning tower of pisa underpants, the important thing to remember is to best pick something that plays to your own individual side and best encapsulates your experience of the trip. For, unless you are buying gifts for friends or family back home (and that is a different matter worthy of another discussion) then the only one who should judge your choice of souvenir is you.

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