What to Wear in Italy

milan_fashionOne of the questions I often get when people are asking me about their upcoming Italy trips is, “What should I wear in Italy?” Even if those people have no problems packing for a trip just about anywhere else, for some reason having plane tickets with “Milan” or “Rome” on them that freaks them out. There’s something about the idea of being surrounded by all those fashionable Italians that makes some people feel like they should step up their travel clothing game a bit. And I don’t blame them.

Yes, the Italians are – almost to a person – a fashionable lot. Even if they’re not all wearing Dolce & Gabbana or Armani, they dress well and carry their look (however strange you might think it is) confidently. And you don’t have to spend a fortune in designer duds either to feel like you fit in as a traveler in Italy.

To help guide you along with the “what to pack for Italy” question, here are a few posts I’ve written in the past about fashion in Italy:




whattowearOne additional thing worth mentioning is that sometimes what you wear will keep you from what you want to see. For instance, many churches and other religious buildings in Italy have strict dress codes which forbid exposed shoulders, midriffs, and knees. During the heat of summer, when you’re inclined to wear shorts and tank tops, that could be a problem. You can avoid an unwanted change in your itinerary by wearing long pants (or a long skirt, for the ladies) and also carrying a long-sleeved shirt, scarf, or shawl in your bag for those times when you want to go inside a church.

When it comes to fashion, however, the reality is that most people living out of a suitcase or a backpack for a couple weeks of vacation are going to have a hard time not standing out as members of the “not from around these parts” crowd, no matter what they wear. You could lug your whole shoe collection with you (or, better yet, invest in a completely new one in Italy), or pack for every possible fashion eventuality, but normal people don’t travel that way – nor should they.

You can bring home some of the Italian fashion sense, however, by picking up on the cues all around you – what color is hot? What shoe or purse style looks like it’s the “next big thing?” Are sunglasses getting bigger or smaller? Even if you’re not among the fashion-forward while you’re on your Italian vacation, you can definitely be the one in the know when you get back home.


>> For more tips on planning a trip to Italy, my comprehensive Italy visitor’s guide is full of great information that will help anyone make the most of their Italy vacation.

photo at top by Jessica Spiegel & may not be used without permission; photo of two men by le jeune etranger

14 thoughts on “What to Wear in Italy

  • fred

    I think that the best way to approach this problem is coming to Italy with an empty bag and go shopping here! There are also several Outlet you can consider for your italian shopping!

  • Tonya

    Think work-appropriate, smart-style business casual. For my trip in October, I stuck with brown basics and coordinating colors in fabrics that don’t wrinkle or need ironing. They roll up nicely in the carry-on, or fold them once and lay flat.

    Since I was only visiting each city for 3-4 days at a time, I kept it to the bare minimum.

    1. 4 pairs of slacks.
    2. 4 long sleeve blouses.
    3. 4 pair trouser socks / tanks / underclothes.
    4. One belt and one pair of good walking shoes (A requirement!!! for Rome.) I went with Mary Jane Sketchers.
    5. One sweater coat and a pair of gloves.

  • Lesley W.

    I have to tell you, I just bought Mary Jane Sketchers for my upcoming honeymoon the end of May and I wore them around the mall to try them out. I have three huge blisters on my feet from only 40 minutes of walking! So for anyone buying new shoes for their Italy trip, try them out first! I ended up going with a pair of Croc maryjanes. We’ll see how those pan out!

  • Pam M

    Does anyone have input on what to pack for Rome/Capri/ Positano (going all over amalfi coast exploring hiking etc,) a brief road trip after, and then back to Rome? September 10-29, 2011. Do I need sandles or shoes? Do I need hiking appropriate shoes, or can I get away with some black slip on athletic shoes with a soft sole, only? I have read its still hot or possibly rainy and cold? I have heard Amalfi coast is all about white and bright (but in September I would think not?) Rome is conservative and black clothes???

    • Jessica Post author

      The type of shoe you bring depends a great deal on the type of hiking you’ll be doing. If you’ll just be doing light hiking, then good walking shoes will be fine – no major hiking boots required. But sandals aren’t usually a good idea for even light hiking, as the surface is uneven.

      Weather in September can vary quite a bit, so your best bet is to keep an eye on the current forecasts right up until you leave so you know what’s happening then and can pack appropriately. The colors that are in fashion change seasonally, so it’s not necessarily easy to figure out what’s “in” before you get to Italy. You can usually do well with lots of neutrals, and if you want to spice up your wardrobe with something “in-season” when you get there you can buy a scarf or something at one of the markets.

      • Pam M

        Hi Jessica
        Thanks for your reply! (
        I will bring shoes appropriate for hiking and a separate pair for around town walking..I am just not sure about the pathways along the Amalfi coast. We plan to do hour or 2 long treks not all day kids of things. I am ordering a book with all the paths….. I prefer “a not so obviously hiking” shoe so that I can use it for even in a city for rainy days etc and it becomes a more multipurpose, but I do want to be prepared if the paths are slippery and steep. I was thinking of (nice) walking sandals for a second shoe for Rome and Amalfi area..I hate taking too much, but I hate to be unprepared! Definitely will check the weather right before going.
        Is it too late for white in late September in amalfi etc? Will I look too hot and cityish in black? Do I need to be pretty dressy casual? I probably am over thinking this..I appreciate your help

    • Jessica Post author

      You probably are over-thinking it a bit, but this is what we do before vacations, right? 🙂

      Black may be too hot, and personally I never travel in white because it shows dirt instantly. I’d stick with neutrals in the middle of the spectrum, but that’s me. The type of shoes I generally travel with that I’d consider good enough for light hiking are what I call “driving shoes” – those form-fitting lace-up shoes that often come in several colors and are sometimes leather, so that they can be worn with slacks or jeans and look dressier than white tennis shoes.

      • Pam M

        Hi Jessica,
        Thanks, good comments on the colors…….the shoes you mention are along the lines of what I wanted and planned to do, as long as I did not get the feedback that I needed hikers.
        Thanks for your help!

  • noor thadrozca

    is it okay to wear black leather boots in rome or in paris in september? thanks

    • Jessica Post author

      Sure, but chances are it’ll still be pretty warm in September – so wearing boots like that might be uncomfortable based on the weather.

  • Michael

    Hello all, I’m taking my father to Italy in August for his birthday. We will be staying with family for most of the trip, I’m single and would love to meat a nice Italian lady… Any advise ?

  • Old Geek

    We just returned from a Italian Tour and it was great! I promised myself upon my return I would dispel the notion that you should not dress in shorts, tee shirts, sneakers or for that matter jeans while visiting Italy, that could not be further from the truth!

    Shorts, sneakers, tee shirts were worn in abundance in Rome, Venice, Florence and you will not stick our like a sore thumb as a tourist if that is what you wear.

    If you decide to take the advice of some fashionistas or Ozzie and Harriet you will be less than comfortable. Yes visiting the Vatican shorts and sleeveless tops is unacceptable but that is it. The only time I saw anyone dressed to the nines (and old expression, was at a very expensive place we went for Dinner in Florence and we called in advance for the dress code. Other than that dinned at super places in Rome etc and most people wore shorts and nice shirts and that was it.

    Most of my long pants and dress shoes never made it out of my luggage.

    My strongest advice is to dress comfortable with smart casual clothes, nice shorts, shirts, and comfortable shoes (sneakers).

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