It can be difficult to pack for any trip, especially with more people opting to carry-on. It’s a different challenge packing for Italy. How do you pack weather-appropriate clothing that will blend in with some of the most fashionable people on the planet?
You’re not supposed. However, you can still pack in a way that makes you look more local than tourist. This is a great idea because it will make you feel more at ease in crowds. It also makes you less attractive to pickpockets looking for tourists. My advice to you is to find the right combination of comfort and style that will look good in Italy.
Check out my Italy weather page for more information about the conditions during your trip.
Italians dress up more than other cultures, even for simple grocery shopping trips. Italians won’t be seen in public wearing yoga pants or sweats unless going to the gym. This isn’t a country where you can wear shorts. The jeans with all the holes that you see young Italians wearing are the distressed jeans. These are designer jeans that were made with precision.
For my Italy travel wardrobe, I only use one dominant color (black), but I do bring some bright scarves to add some color to the mix. I tend to bring one decent outfit, especially when I spend a lot of time in cities. This could be a basic dress that can travel well or a nice sweater or top (not a T shirt). This is a good guideline for men, but you can also bring a pair slacks that are comfortable and travel well.
It used to be that Italy was a country where you would rarely see anyone wearing shorts (except on the beach in summer), but things have changed. If you do decide to wear shorts, make sure you choose something more formal than your usual casual jeans. Capris are my preference. Don’t be shy guys! Capri-length pants for men are very popular in Italy over the years. They’re sometimes called “man-pris”.
You will need to dress more in winter for churches than you would in summer. Cover your midriff, knees, and cleavage. For the top half of the body, a large pashmina-type scarf will suffice.
If you want to be up-to-date on the latest fashions in Italy, I have a tip for you: Go to the outdoors markets to find clothing stalls and look for the colors you like. A scarf or shirt is an excellent option as it will add color to your neutral wardrobe or make you comfortable enough to wear it several times throughout your trip.
Unless I am going to Italy during the height of summer or I know it will be scorching hot, I usually pack a pair boots ( these have been my favorites), some sandals ( these are what I currently own), and maybe a pair walking shoes. I don’t try to keep up the style of Italian women who walk on cobblestones in heels. It doesn’t mean that I don’t shop for heels when I’m in Italy, but it does mean that I wait until I get back to wear them.
The younger generation of Italians is becoming more casual in their attire, even footwear. However, you won’t find those ubiquitous rubber flip-flops unless they’re on the beach. Even casual sandals from Italy are more stylish than what I am used to seeing at home. Although athletic shoes are very common, they are often more expensive than the casual sandals I see at home.
These are the things I pack regardless of where I’m going, and they all work well in Italy. Depending on where you are and how cold your feet are, the mileage of each item may differ. Here’s my list. It is my hope that it will serve as a guideline for you to create your own packing list.
- Pashmina Scarf I bring a large pashmina scarf with me everywhere I go, even if it’s summer in Italy. These shawls are great for cold plane flights and, if lightweight enough, they can be carried around for when you need to enter a church with a tank-top.
- Slippers– My feet are almost always cold, as I mentioned. I always have a pair of slippers in my bag. They fit in almost every bag. They can even be worn on summer vacations in Italy.
- Purse Hook These little gadgets keep your purse, daypack, camera bag, laptop bag or other small items off the ground and out of reach of thieves while you sit at an outdoor cafe. You can no longer carry your valuables on your lap or worry about them being stolen. Amazon has a huge selection of purse hooks, most of which can hold a substantial weight.
- Paper fan High humidity in Italy is a sign of hot weather. It’s even more difficult to breathe in the dense air in Metro stations. I keep a small stock of inexpensive, collapsible paper fans. You can find them at Asian markets and Amazon by the dozen. I bring one on all my trips to Italy. Although it isn’t portable air conditioning, it can provide some relief from the heat in a Metro train car.
- Clothesline I have never washed all my clothes in the hotel’s sink. Instead, I bring a few items to wash and rotate them every four days. However, I wash my socks and underwear in the hotel sinks so that I don’t need to bring too many. Although there are many travel clotheslines that can be purchased online and in travel shops, I have always used a Chinese jump rope. These are extremely affordable (you can buy many Chinese jump ropes online), and their circular design makes it easy to loop around items like doorknobs, windows latches, and chairs.