We visited Sorrento in the winter of 2003, our month in Italy overshadowed by the inexorable onset of war. While we did tourist stuff, millions of Europeans were marching in the streets to protest the bombing of Iraq, and the rainbow Peace flags hung from apartment balconies on every street.
But in Sorrento we had happier thoughts in mind as we strolled through a market street. A kitchenware store had a table of sale items on the sidewalk and we spotted some nice pasta bowls for an amazing 1.25 euros apiece -- at the time, about $1.15. We bought four and shlepped them back to the hotel, a long enough walk that we traded off carrying the bag once or twice along the way.
Before we made it home for good we carried those four bowls for about four miles, making our way between hotels and railroad stations and through airports. With every step we had to remind ourselves that the pasta bowls were beautiful, a steal, and our only souvenirs of the trip. We had invested not just the five bucks but a heck of a lot of sweat equity to bring them home.
But it was worth it! They have become our default bowl for pasta, not to mention the occasional soup or other juicy entree. I suspect they've been used at least once a week since we returned, and we never fail to think about our wonderful trip when we eat that last bit of food and reveal the red tomato.