Comfort is paramount on vacation, but it does not just apply to feeling physically comfortable as you tour an ancient site or relax in a sidewalk cafe. It also means avoiding disapproving stares, and in Italy, a country famous for its fashion sense, that can be a challenge. Italians favor stylish clothes with simple lines, reserving what many Americans regard as daily casual wear as suitable only for the beach. Follow their lead, and opt for understated clothes with clean lines, neutral colors and easy-to-care-for fabrics.
Unless your plans include trips to the beach or daily jogs, leave the flip-flops and athletic shoes at home. Low-heeled, stylish, leather walking shoes are a better option for both men and women and can make the transition from Roman ruins to restaurant. Boots are heavy to pack and cumbersome to wear on a plane, so take them along only if your plans include country hikes or your trip is in mid-winter. Italians produce some of the world’s most fashionable — not to mention irresistible and expensive — shoes, but remember that Italian women have years of experience negotiating ancient streets in high heels. Save the new heels for home.
Summers can be steamy, but shorts are still regarded as resort wear by most Italians. Cotton slacks or capri pants for women are a stylish alternative. The appeal of jeans is universal, and a quality pair (no holes) matched with a pressed sports shirt or blouse is acceptable casual wear in Italy. Pack a sweater or light jacket for travel in spring or early fall. Winters, even in the south, can be chilly, and a wool jacket or coat is a wise choice — Italians tend to regard down jackets and vests as ski resort wear. A small raincoat or travel umbrella is a smart accessory to have year-round.
A hat and sunglasses are vital even in the city — piazzas can be hot and bright for a large part of the year. Most Italians favor a few simple pieces of jewelry, and Italian women generally wear simple makeup, opting for soft shades of lipstick and nail polish. Italian silk is world-renowned, so shop for a local scarf, shawl or men’s tie to dress up your travel wardrobe.
It is hard not to look like a tourist as you gaze in wonder at the sights. Downplay your image by opting for a messenger bag or sturdy leather purse rather than a backpack. Shop at travel stores for a stylish bag with reinforced straps to thwart knife-wielding purse snatchers. Fanny packs are susceptible to pickpockets and also label you as a tourist. Keep vital documents, money and credit cards in an inside jacket pocket or front pocket of your pants or jeans. Pack a crushable string or canvas shopping bag to avoid juggling cumbersome packages.
Women should dress modestly in Italy — churches and some museums often require it. Signs outside many churches detail clothing that is not permitted: usually shorts, bare arms, low-cut dresses and short skirts for women; and shorts, bare arms and tank tops for men. A head covering is not required for women in church, but in the conservative south, a shawl or scarf may be expected. Men should remove their hats as they enter church.
Keep in mind this is not a definitive list – everyone has individual fashion tastes, preferences,
opinions, and styles in terms of what they want to wear and bring along! This is meant to be a
good guide to help you in packing for your European vacation.
• 1 rainproof jacket/small umbrella
• 2 or 3 shorts/skirts
• 1 thick sweater
• 1 or 2 Swimwear and beach towel
• 1 or 2 pairs of jeans
• 2 or 3 T-shirts
• 2 or 3 casual shirts
• 1 set of nice clothes (eg going out dress, tie, blazer, jacket or suit for evenings out on tour)
• Comfortable walking shoes
• ‘Going out’ shoes
• Toiletry bag and contents
• Suntan lotion
• Insect repellent
• Travel Clock
• Plastic bags
• Washing powder
• Sewing kit
• Pens and writing materials
• Rechargeable phone card
• Power adapters
• Day bag
• Overnight bag
Label your suitcase inside and out with your name and your home address and perhaps attach
a sticker, ribbon, patch or other unique identifier to your luggage to make it easier to spot.
Carry a copy of your passport, visas, travel and other important documents as well as your
travellers cheque numbers (if you use them) with you in your luggage. You should also leave a
copy of all this information at home with someone trusted and contactable while you are away.
Don’t pack your travel documents and passport in your luggage, rather take it with you in your
Remember to bring more than enough of any medication you might need along with you and
carry prescriptions for any medications that you carry with you.