Italy Packing List

by Jessica on June 20, 2011

by | June 20th, 2011  

Sometimes trying to figure out what to pack for an Italy trip can seem like a daunting task, and if you’re a procrastinator (like me) it becomes more of a hassle when you’re trying to find out what to bring and it’s the night before your flight.

To help you avoid last-minute packing headaches, here are some tips on what to pack for an Italy trip.

First, a few caveats:

  • This isn’t a list that includes how many pairs of underwear to bring. I’m working on the assumption that you can figure out how many articles of clothing to bring for your trip.
  • There are season-specific lists (further down this page) that you’ll need to read in addition to this one. This article includes things to consider packing no matter when you go to Italy, but a summer packing list will be different than a winter packing list. Consult this along with these season-specific lists to get the full picture.
  • I strongly advocate packing light, and traveling carry-on only if at all possible. This means I’m probably leaving things off this list you might consider must-haves. Just because I use something everyday at home doesn’t mean it’s a must-have for a trip (I’m learning to embrace my hair’s wacky curls, for instance, and leave the flat iron at home). There are some resources to help you pack light at the end of this article.

With that out of the way, here are some of the things I think you should always including on an Italy packing list, no matter when you’re traveling or where you’re going in Italy. Remember to look at the season-specific list for more details, too, including certain questions about what clothing to bring.

>> Learn more about what to wear in Italy

Italy Packing List

  • Emergency information – Even when I have my travel information and emergency contacts in a file on my computer or my iPod, I still print out a couple copies just in case technology isn’t being my friend when I need the info. One copy goes in my purse, the other gets buried in my suitcase.
  • Passport photocopies – Make copies of the main page of your passport. Leave one at home with someone who’s an emergency contact for you, and tuck a couple more in a couple different corners of your bags. It’s easier to get a replacement passport if you have a copy to show your Embassy.
  • Prescription medications – Bring any prescription drugs you’re taking or may need, and leave them in their original bottles (with the prescription on them) if possible. Keep these in your carry-on bag – don’t check them.
  • Small supply of OTC medications – You can get pretty much any medication in Italy that you can get at your local drug store, but it’s likely to be more expensive. Also note that painkillers are kept behind the counters in Italian pharmacies, so you’ve got to ask for them.
  • Money belt – Keep your airline tickets, Rail Pass, extra cash, and credit cards you don’t plan to use that day in your money belt, and (this part is critical) keep your money belt under your clothing. I swear, the number of people I see wearing money belts outside their pants like fanny packs never ceases to amaze me. It’s meant to stay hidden, folks. Put things in zip-top plastic bags before you put them in the money belt (yes, you’ll sweat through the fabric), and don’t put anything in the belt that you’ll need that day. You shouldn’t need to dig into it in a store to get a credit card to pay your bill. A money belt with a couple pockets (find them on Amazon) is a great option.
  • Electric adapter/converter – The easiest way to deal with the different electrical system in Italy is not to bring anything electrical… But that’s not always possible. Luckily there are combination adapter/converter kits now that make bringing the necessary gear less of a space-hog. I like that I can snap the Italy plug onto an adapter that comes in many pieces (find them on Amazon) and then what I’m bringing is very small, but I also have an all-in-one adapter/converter kits (find them on Amazon) that’s good in lots of countries. (There’s one for higher-wattage electronics, too – also found on Amazon.)
  • Refillable water bottle – Staying hydrated when you’re on the move as a traveler is important, as is trying to keep your footprint in the places you visit as small as possible. Rather than buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle of water in Italy, bring your own reusable bottle (find them on Amazon) and refill it as you go. Lots of Italian cities have public drinking fountains where the water is cold and delicious, so it’s easy to fill up along the way. And there’s no rule against using your water bottle to carry wine, either, if you’re planning a picnic.
  • Zip-top plastic bags – In addition to the TSA-approved quart-sized bag that’s full of liquids, I always bring several extra zip-top baggies with me. You never know when they’ll come in handy, and they take up no room in a suitcase. Bring a few extra sizes – the gallon-sized bags can keep a wet swimsuit away from your dry clothes until you get to the next hotel room to let it hang dry, and the quart-sized bags are perfect for bringing the goodies you bought at the market on your hike.
  • Clothesline – I don’t do hard-core laundry in my hotel room sink, but I do wash underwear and socks regularly (using shampoo or hand soap). You can get travel clotheslines (find them on Amazon) – they also come in a kit with a sink stopper and packets of laundry soap (find them on Amazon) – but I’ve used a simple Chinese jumprope (find them on Amazon) for almost 20 years. It’s cheaper, and all you need to do is twist it between the two points where you’re securing it and you’ve got an instant clothesline.
  • Safety pins – I don’t usually bring even a travel-sized sewing kit with me, but I do bring a bunch of safety pins. They’re good in a pinch if you lose a button or a seam starts to go until you can ask someone at the hotel desk if they know where you can find a needle and thread, and I end up finding more uses for them as I travel, too. Splinter removal, anyone?
  • Cross-body bag – This is primarily for the ladies, but if you’re a guy who’s carrying around a messenger-style bag instead of a backpack this applies to you, too. Any bag that can be easily grabbed off your shoulder by a passing scooter or person running isn’t a good travel bag, as far as I’m concerned. I always wear a purse flat across my body when I’m in an unfamiliar place (and I prefer bags that have zip closures rather than snaps). There are lots of versions of a cross-body bag out there, from nice leather bags (find them on Amazon) to more utilitarian bags (find them on Amazon).
  • Purse hook – Don’t hang your bag over the back of your chair, which opens the door to having it get stolen, or sit uncomfortably with a bag on your feet or lap as you eat. I bring a purse hook (find them on Amazon) everywhere these days; many of them will hold the weight of a small backpack, so they’re great for travelers (and not just women).
  • iPod Touch – I love multi-tasking travel tools, and although I’m not a member of the i-Thing cult I do appreciate the many uses of my iPod Touch (find them on Amazon) when I’m traveling. It’s an alarm clock and a flashlight as well as a currency converter, phrase book, and entertainment device – and with an iPod, I’m never freaking out about whether I accidentally left the phone in roaming mode. Many smart phones can stand in as flashlights and alarm clocks, so check to see if yours will (just remember to turn the phone part off) – and if not, a mini-flashlight is a good thing to bring with you.
  • Corkscrew – Yes, a corkscrew. This is for those of you who (a) are absolutely checking a bag (it’s a no-no in your carry-on bag) and (b) plan to do lots of picnics with wine. I know people who don’t go to Italy without a corkscrew, or make it a point to buy one as soon as possible after arriving. If you’re going to be doing lots of picnicking, consider bringing a multitool like these from Gerber (find them on Amazon) or Leatherman (find them on Amazon) that have a corkscrew built in. (Again, do not try to bring this through airport security…)
  • Spare bags – You never know when a spare tote bag will come in handy on a trip – at the market, it means you aren’t accumulating extra bags (extra points for being more eco-friendly); at your hotel, it’s a handy way to carry your laundry to the local laundromat; and at the airport, it’s an emergency extra bag if you just can’t fit everything into your carry-on. I absolutely love Flip & Tumble bags (find them on Amazon) for their compactness and how easily they scrunch into themselves.


Seasonal Packing Lists for Italy

What Not to Bring to Italy

Again, this is the kind of list that will be very different for each person, depending on the kind of trip you’re taking and the sort of traveler you are – but there are a few things that most of us will never have any use for, and which (in some cases) could cause problems if you did bring them.

  • Valuable jewelry – Wearing expensive jewelry (watches in particular) is an invitation to theives, no matter what part of the world you’re in, and it’s just smarter to leave them at home. If you absolutely can’t travel without a spare set of diamond studs, don’t put them in your checked luggage, whatever you do.
  • Fancy clothes – Unless your itinerary includes state dinners, chances are good that you’ll be able to get by without a tuxedo or evening gown. If you’re planning to go to the theatre or out to lots of fancy dinners, then bring travel-friendly clothes that look nice (slacks with a jacket and a few different ties for the men, a packable little black dress and a few different scarves for the women) – travel-friendly duds mean you won’t have to be as fussy with them or worry about ironing, etc.
  • High heels – This sort of goes with “fancy clothes,” but it merits its own point because I know it’s tempting to think, “Oh, the Italian women look so glamorous in their high heels, I want to look like that!” The truth is Italian women are born with some gene that allows them to walk effortlessly in high heels on cobblestons without spraining an ankle. The rest of us don’t have this gene. Not only that, fancy shoes lead to sore feet – and sore feet lead to unhappy travelers. If you (like me) have a serious weakness for shoes, take advantage of the opportunity to buy yourself a gorgeous pair in Italy, but don’t plan on wearing them until you get home.


Tips for Traveling Carry-On Only to Italy

The idea of packing for a two-week trip to Italy in a bag you can fit in the overhead bin scares some people, but others pack for far longer than that in the same amount of space. It can be done, and you don’t have to wear the same thing for your entire trip, either.

Packing light means you’re schlepping around less stuff, which makes getting on and off trains easier, and it can also save you money. Checking one bag on international flights is still free in most cases, but there’s no telling whether airlines will start charging for that soon – and they already charge for overweight bags.

Here are some resources to help you learn to pack lighter:

photos, top to bottom, by: Ed Yourdon, Robert S. Donovan, nikkigomez, hypo.physe, cote


{ 17 comments }

Betty August 28, 2011 at 11:23 am
Corner

This site has turned out to be the most informative of all the sites I’ve visited for information for our upcoming Italy trip.

Corner

Jessica August 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm
Corner

Thank you so much, Betty, for your kind words! I’m glad the site has been helpful for you.

Corner

Karen G September 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm
Corner

I have to second what Betty said above. Lots of great information here. My ultimate goal (however futile) is to NOT look like a tourist in Italy. I know it will never happen. Like you say, I was not born with the right genes. Any tips on where to buy shoes in Firenze?

Corner

Jessica September 9, 2011 at 9:53 am
Corner

When I’ve been shoe shopping in Florence, it was along the mainly pedestrian Via Calzaiuoli near the Duomo – there seem to be an inordinate number of shoe stores there. Of course, this is also a very touristy area, so I can’t vouch for the prices being the best in the city. Oddly, despite the city’s reputation as a leather shopper’s dream, I’ve never seen shoes in any of the leather markets. Perhaps that’s just too much of a specialty to be a market item.

Corner

Susan Van Allen September 14, 2011 at 9:47 am
Corner

Excellent tips! I also recommend having a dress rehearsal before you go–if you lay all the outfit possibilites out on the bed, try them on and figure what day you are going to wear what, you discover how you can mix and match and how little you really need.

Corner

Jean Marie September 28, 2011 at 5:03 am
Corner

The packing list is great. Bring the spare bag. My husband and I ended up buying an extra bag a few days before we left for home. We also tried to pack light enough to carry everything on the plane even though we did check one bag. We bought some fragile souvenirs that we could not put in the checked bag. It all worked out well and everything made it home in one piece.

Most guidebooks I read, and on this site, about Italy always talk about the money belt. I have never used one only because I do not like having to pull it out in public should I need the cash at that time. My husband did not like the money belt either. I found a cross body bag from Travelon that has so many security features and was also a nice looking bag. It even has a purse hook attached to it. I carried both wallets in this purse, passports (when not locked up in the hotel safe) along with my camera, ipod and personal items. Well worth the money. I will probably buy another larger one so I can carry my additional lenses and flash. I suggest this only as an alternative to the money belt. It makes good sense to be aware and travel safe. Especially for men who are used to carrying their wallets in there pockets.

Corner

Jessica September 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Corner

The idea with the money belt is that you’re putting stuff in there that you won’t need to pull out during the day at all – passport, plane tickets, Eurail passes, excess cash and/or credit cards – so that you only have in your purse what you plan to use that day. It’s not comfortable when the weather’s warm, I’ll grant you that, but it’s far more secure than keeping everything in a purse or day bag.

Corner

Dan December 30, 2012 at 11:26 am
Corner

If you need to access the money belt, the easiest and safest way is to do it in a stall of a bathroom. Private, and usually a place to hang things (bags, a coat) while you do it. And no one will disturb you.

Corner

Maria April 12, 2012 at 8:24 am
Corner

Thanks for this nice tips you share to us. I like the money belt thingy that you can bring anywhere while strolling in different places. I will definitely keep in mind this tips that you mention in this post.

Corner

Heidi May 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm
Corner

First off, I keep coming back & reading new & rereading tips to prepare for an upcoming trip & appreciate your site! Couple of things I’d like to ask, how do you feel about hotel safes? I see you keep writing to carry your air tickets along with other things in a money belt….would it be safe to leave extra cash & tickets in a hotel safe for the day? Also, I’m hoping to have some beach time on Capri & in Viareggio & am conserned about leaving a bag on my beach chair with my things in it while I swim. Capri would be a day trip so I would definately be carrying money, cards, passport etc…that you can’t wear in the water….Any info on this?

Corner

Jessica May 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm
Corner

I’ve used hotel safes before, and that’s definitely a good option in hotels that have in-room safes. And that would be an especially good option if you’re going to the beach and don’t want to be carrying your passport and plane tickets, etc.!

Corner

alanc230 June 11, 2012 at 11:54 am
Corner

I don’t have any international travel coming up in the foreseeable future, but if I ever get the chance to visit Italy again, I’m going to come directly to this site to start planning.

Corner

Christine August 11, 2012 at 10:18 am
Corner

Is it possible to leave bags in train station lockers? Also, I am trying to figure out what to do with my luggage when making a day trip from Sorrento to Positano. I will be staying in Sorrento for one night, then daytripping to Positano the next day. I don’t intend to stay again in Sorrento, but to take the boat back up to Naples. I have to leave the next morning from Naples train station. Is it unlikely that the hotel I’m staying at in Sorrento (the night before the day trip) would store my bags for a fee?? is that unusual in Italy? Thanks

Corner

Brenda Keith August 23, 2012 at 5:20 am
Corner

Hi Jessica
Going to Sorrento for 2 nights, taking the train to Naples, is it worth doing a city tour of Naples and seeing Pompei before getting to Sorrento? Where can I store my bags? at the airport of Rome train station. Thanks

Corner

Brenda Keith August 23, 2012 at 5:24 am
Corner

Hi Jessica

What is the best way to get to Sorrento from Naples?

Thanks

Corner

mary September 26, 2012 at 7:10 am
Corner

I’m enjoying reading your tips, thank you. I have a packing light tip, pack only one colour scheme rather than outfits, then all tops and bottoms are interchangeable, all accessories match up and everything can be washed together. I did greece in green and coral, and Mexico in turquoise.

Corner

zora January 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm
Corner

Hi Enjoying all of the info very much My question is this – my family is going to spend 5 nights in Tuscany. We were going to spend 2 night in Florence and then the other 3 in Siena and take day trips from there to San G and Pisa and perhaps Cinque de Terre. Are we biting off too much with the last one? Is it easy to navigate these trips with the bus system? Or would you recommend spending all 5 night in Siena and travel to Florence by bus if it is indeed fairly easy? Our concern is lugging our bags more time than is necessary, if all can be accomplished from one location Also, would we not want to miss the excitement of Florence if we excited early each day? Thanks for any incite and advice.

Corner

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: