My husband and I play a game whenever we travel – “spot the Italian.” Even in the middle of a crowded airport, we can always recognize another Italian by their distinct style. Italians pride ourselves on being fashionable and on their own bella figura, or making a good impression so it’s no wonder that travelers often ask us what they should pack in order to “fit in.”
Beyond fashion, Italy is also a narrow peninsula with distinct weather patterns that will impact your wardrobe. With that in mind, here are a few packing tips to help you dress your best on your Italy vacation.
Stay Breezy in Summer
Summer in the north of Italy is very hot and humid, and the south is warmer all year round. Bring lightweight clothes in cotton or natural fibers such a linen to feel fresh throughout the day. Men can wear shorts, but many Italians prefer lightweight trousers. Sundresses are a popular, and breezy, option for women. You won’t see many Italians past high school age in denim shorts and flip flops, and make sure to bring dressier options for dinner. Don’t forget a bikini, sunglasses and sunblock if you’re headed to the beach!
Layer Up for Spring & Autumn
Travel in the shoulder season can be ideal, since prices are usually lower and popular destinations less crowded. The weather during these seasons can change day by day, so be sure to pack layers and versatile items. In spring, the temperature can range from the high 50s to low 80s depending on the city and time of day. Pants, a lightweight shirt and a jacket or sweater should carry you through the day. Rain showers are common in the early afternoon, so don’t forget to pack an umbrella.
Cover Up in Winter
Though we might imagine this Mediterranean country as the home of eternal sunshine, the winter can be cold in Italy. Northern Italy is cold in winter and even the more mild south can still get quite chilly. The weather can be windy but snow is usually reserved for the mountains. If you want to dress like an Italian, tour around with a puffy jacket, scarf and boots, but even gloves and a hat. Italians don’t shy away from the outdoors in the winter, but they do tend to dress for the occasion. Winter travelers can expect some sunshine in the afternoons to warm up an Italian winter day.
Accessorize Like an Italian
Comfort is key when traveling, especially in major cities where you’ll do a lot of walking. In summer, canvas shoes or sandals will work best. Italians only wear flip flops on the beach or at the pool, so you may stand out by wearing them in a city. Some restaurants will not allow flip flops, so bring a change of shoes for dinner. Boots or canvas shoes are good options for fall, winter and spring, and make sure they’re waterproof. If you want to take a page out of an Italian’s stylebook, you can also buy leather shoes during your trip, especially if you’re visiting Florence.
Italians have a love affair with pashmina scarves. In the colder months we wear cashmere or wool scarves, but we even have silk and cotton options for summer! Pashminas make a great souvenir as well, so look for them in local shops and markets.
Italian churches require visitors to cover their shoulders when entering. Avoid any entrance issues by carrying a scarf or sweater in your bag to cover up – even in summer – and be sure your hemline is low enough to be respectful.