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Understanding What You Can Bring Home from Italy

10 February 2024

Returning From Your Visit to Italy

A quick guide to what you can bring home, going through US Customs & even how to keep your wine safe

The process of going through US Customs & Border Protection, US citizen or not, can be stressful. For vacationers coming back home to the states it’s an emphatic vacation’s over reminder. With a little preparation, though, it doesn’t have to be too painful–and there’s even a few ways to expedite the process as well. 

A couple of weeks ago I covered what you need in order to enter Italy, now and in the future. Now I will help you to understand what you can, and cannot, bring back from Italy (or from most countries, for that matter) so that you can be prepared for the moment you get the US Customs Declaration form…or more importantly you know what you shouldn’t bother to buy overseas in the first place.

After I cover going through US Customs, I’ll highlight the Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler Programs, which are like the Express Checkout Lanes for US Citizens returning from abroad. The pricing is surprisingly affordable, especially considering the application/fee is good for 5 years.

I’ll finish up the blog discussing one of my (not so private) fears: Opening a suitcase and finding my beautiful bottle of Italian wine in pieces, having turned my clothes purple. Personal experience may or may not have played a part in how I came up with my suggestions for how to best travel with your wine. (Whoever said rolled newspaper is a great insulator is full of it, by the way.)

So, without further ado, here is your quick guide to navigating US Customs, and what you can bring home with you from Italy…or from any other foreign country.

Going Through U.S. Customs

What You Should Expect & What You Should Know

Sign Directing Travelers Entering the US

  • All travelers entering the US, including citizens, must pass through US Customs & Border Control if they are arriving from a foreign country. There really isn’t any exceptions to the process, though US Government & Military personnel have slightly different rules & regs. The only alternative option for individuals is to take advantage of the Trusted Traveler Programs offered by DHS. I discuss each of those programs in the next section of the blog.
  • Each individual is required to complete a Declarations form, officially known as Declaration Form 6059B. You will fill it out in its entirety and provide it to US Customs upon your arrival & interview. (You can see a photo of the form at the end of this section).
  • Each traveler may bring back up to $800 in goods with them. Basically that includes everything you have with you upon your arrival in the US that you didn’t have when you originally departed it. 
  • The US has some of the world’s strictest policies when it comes to bringing in certain foods. Not Allowed: Meat, Poultry, Eggs & “Liquid” Dairy. Certain cooked and pre-packaged foods might be okay (think like Slim Jim beef jerky), but its not even worth trying, honestly.
  • Other foods Not Allowed are fresh fruits, vegetables and raw nuts. Canned fruit & cooked/candied nuts are probably okay but, to me, watching US Customs confiscate your canned peaches just doesn’t seem worth it
  • Spices, chocolates and candies? Allowed. So is most seafood, which I found surprising. I was behind a woman that had a fresh octopus bagged and checked-in her suitcase. Seriously. Mind: Blown.
  • Of course Italian cheese is world-renowned. The good news is that many types of cheese can be brought home, as long as they: 1) are sealed/vacuum packaged (most cheese shops in Italy will do this for you upon request) 2) not liquid/runny–aka no Cottage or Ricotta and 3) do not contain any meat (like bacon). A friend of mine has a good write up here
  • There are different rules for individuals bringing home goods under that $800 mark versus people bringing home a mass amount of a singular product for resale in the US. That’s when duties, taxes and all sorts of questions arise. In this blog you can assume I am speaking strictly about personal use laws and restrictions. 
  • Although strict, it also doesn’t mean immovable when it comes to restrictions. Customs agents are sensitive to an individual’s specific dietary needs, and to dairy allowances & formula for infants, for example. Just don’t try and hide anything–It won’t end well. Be straightforward.
  • You can bring wine back! 1 Liter per person is allowed duty-free, though as long as you are honest and upfront about the extra wine being for your personal use Customs will not tax it (if they do, its probably a couple bucks each bottle). Also, Remember: 21 and up. Regardless if you were able to purchase the wine as a 20 year-old in another country the US laws on alcohol stand. 
  • Wine, specifically, must be stowed with your luggage, as it cannot be carried on (due to TSA liquid restrictions). I offer some suggestions for how to best pack and protect your grape treasure below. You want to have a gameplan for your return trip; kind of like bringing an extra suitcase expecting to buy a bunch of souvenirs. Having to purchase luggage at an airport at the last minute never worked out well for anyone’s wallet.
  • Tell. The. Truth. full stop.
  • When it comes to authority, almost by default humans have a tendency to become protective and secretive when it comes to “our stuff“. Avoid this urge. It is always best to be 100% honest and upfront with US Customs. These are people who have seen & heard every lie, half-truth and packing trick. Its not even worth it, honestly…the fines/penalties for lying on Declarations forms outweigh any benefit, and chances are you are lying about something they wouldn’t have even cared or bothered with anyway! US Customs & Border Patrol agents have little interest in confiscating a gift and ruining the end of your trip.

US Customs Form 6059B 

  • customs-declaration-6059b

  • Form 6059B US Customs ThumbNail

Be Sure to Check Out My Custom Amazon Recommendations Specific to this Blog! Personally Selected Items to Help Keep Your IDs, Passports, Travel Documents & More Safe During Your Travels!

You can also check out all the rest of my Amazon recommendations!

Trusted Traveler Programs

Homeland Security does offer a few ways to expedite your US Customs wait

Homeland Security's Trusted Traveler Programs

There is no escaping one undeniable fact: It is impossible to absolutely, 100% know all the intracies of the rules & regulations as you prepare for US Customs. That’s sort of the nature of the beast with a bureaucracy; you’ve got the strict laws of TSA, the always evolving restrictions from the USDA (they are always monitoring worldwide food borne illnesses and such), the complexities of the FDA and even the ATF setting standards…and that’s all before the IRS and State Department gets a say.

It underscores my last bulletpoint–just be honest and transparent and you should be okay.

While obviously experienced travelers may be more comfortable with going through US Customs, there are options for those who wish to expedite the process. Anyone who travels frequently, or anyone who wants to, for that matter, should check out the Trusted Traveler program operated by the Department of Homeland Security.

If you’ve been to an airport recently you’ve probably seen one in action. You know when you are in that long winding line, waiting for TSA to look at your ID and inspect your fancy shoes? Ever notice the people who seem like they are VIP status, going straight through off to the side? That’s the TSA Pre-Check, which is exactly like it sounds. It’s a “skip the waiting in line” pass for approved individuals. It costs roughly $80 and saves you some time & headaches. Like all the Programs, enrollment is good for 5 years.

Then there is Global Entry. The easiest way to describe Global Entry? It is the US Customs version of TSA Pre-Check. It’s basically a “skip the line” for Customs. Being enrolled in Global Entry also automatically enrolls you in TSA Pre-Check, so you don’t have to apply and pay for both. Global Entry eliminates you having to physically complete and submit your Declarations forms and paperwork; instead of waiting in line to meet with a US Customs worker  you can actually use a self-serve kiosk and skip the line entirely. Many of these kiosks are quite 22nd Century, if you will, with security features like facial-rec built right in.

Global Entry is obviously a little more expensive than TSA Pre-Check, but considering it includes both at $100 its practically a bargain. It can take up to 6 months to process your application, so signing up doesn’t do much for someone traveling very soon, but its a worthwhile endeavor for a lot of people–if you travel internationally once a year, even, I think its worth it.

Also, unlike TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry applies to individuals traveling via land and sea, as opposed to Pre-Check, which is air travel only.

A couple other programs to note, that don’t apply to Italy specifically, are the NEXUS and SENTRI programs.

NEXUS deals with travel to and from Canad only. Like Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, it promises quicker border crossings for pedestrians, vehicles and sea travel, along with air travel between a US and Canadian city (NEXUS includes access to TSA Pre-Check in these incidences). It’s $50.

I should note that NEXUS differs from the “Enhanced IDs” available to those living in New York, Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington. Those are kind of your “US – Canada Passport”. NEXUS lets you skip the line to show said Enhanced ID.

The final program to note, SENTRI, is for US/Canada and Mexico. It is $122, and is similar to NEXUS except it does not include travel via sea. Not exactly sure why, but it is what it is.

Traveling with your Italian Wine

A couple of suggestions and products to consider
for protecting your vino

It’s kind of the nightmare scenario, right? You come home from your fantastic, amazing vacation to Italy, and open up your suitcase, prepared to study the bottle label one more time, or maybe uncork a bottle ‘cuz you’re so giddy with anticipation…only to see that despite wrapping the bottles in every hotel towel you managed to swipe your entire suitcase, all your luggage, is colored burgundy. It doesnt matter if it was turbulence or the burly baggage handler…your dreams are dashed.

This makes me think of the Bob’s Burgers episode where one of the kids breaks mom Linda’s wine bottle, and she sops it up with a dirty rag…only to then, in desperation, wring out a few drops onto her tongue. Oh I am literally LOL’ing at the thought.  

Oh…how we wine lovers can relate to that feeling, eh?

There’s hundreds of products you can find online, but trust me, they are not all the same.

If you plan to bring more than a bottle or two home…or, hell, even if you plan to bring one bottle home…I got your back. 

Like with every blog I post here, I’ve created a small list of Amazon Recommendations in my Storefront. Unlike, for example, my “Fur Babies Travel Too” blog and recommendations, there are only a few items in this one. But check em out if you need some packing ideas or inspiration!

Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualified purchases. 

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