I tend to stay away from those souvenir shops filled with crappy Made-in-China plastic memorabilia. I find that the items I bring home, for myself or for friends and family, have much more meaning than what you can find in every city in the world. Here’s what I like to bring back in my suitcase.

1. Something for the Kitchen

Olive wood spoon from Italy

We all spend a lot of time preparing and eating food in our kitchens, so why not bring a piece of a trip into this center of your home? On my past two trips to Italy, I have bought olive wood spoons in Cinque Terre, and I use them nearly every day. They always bring a smile to my face, and I swear using them makes the food better.

2. A Little Something Sweet

Boxes or tins of hard candies not only can brighten up your day, but they also make wonderful gifts that don’t take up too much room in your suitcase. This tin, purchased in Provence, probably did come from a touristy shop, but its vintage feel caught my eye. Inside are hard toffees.

3. Art

Here’s a cheat to bringing art home: if you can’t afford originals, you have two options. In this photo, the top image is from a vintage Italian magazine. I found stacks of old ads cut from magazines at a flea market in Lucca. The one below it is a mass-produced print I picked up in a Venice tourist shop. They look like they go together, don’t they? And both were under $5. Stick ’em in a frame and call it art!

4. Smelly Soaps

Another gift that will keep giving long after your trip! There’s a particular store in Cinque Terre that sells these bags of lemon-scented soaps. The ones I’d bought the year before had lost their scent, so I made a deliberate effort (and nearly missed my train) to buy a replacement set this last trip.

5. Local Food

olive oil from tuscany

So while theĀ amaretti cookies I brought home in September are long gone, they did bring me brief pleasure. What’s lasted longer is this bottle of olive oil that I bought from the villa where I spent my yoga retreat in Tuscany. It’s nearly gone 6 months later, but it’s given me a lot of job and memories of my trip.