After you’ve bought your Italy airfare and sorted out an itinerary, the next stumbling block for many is what to pack for your trip. To help you sort that out, here are some suggestions for what to pack for a summer trip to Italy.
It’s not possible for me to create one packing list that will apply to every Italy traveler. There are simply too many variables – different kinds of people, different itineraries, etc. What I can do, however, is offer a few suggestions for things to bring that you might not have thought of – things I’ve found handy on my trips, or that I know frequent Italy travelers never go to Italy without.
What to Pack for Italy in Summer
Summer in Italy means sun, so the things you should pack that are specific to summer are sun-related. Even if you don’t plan to lie by a pool, you’ll need to be prepared for hot weather.
- Sunglasses – Can you buy cheap shades from a guy displaying his wares on a sheet spread on the sidewalks of most Italian cities? Yes. And if you get caught buying a designer knock-off, you could get stuck with a hefty fine. Unless you’re planning to buy a real designer pair of sunglasses in Italy, bring your own.
- Sun Hat – Many sights are outdoors (Roman Forum, Pompeii), some attractions require long waits outdoors (St. Mark’s in Venice, Vatican Museums), and just walking from place to place means you’re exposed to the often-brutal sun. There are great packable wide-brimmed hats that will help shield you from the sun and still look nice. Find them on Amazon.com
- Sunblock – Bringing sunscreen is important for the same reasons listed above regarding bringing a hat. Sunburns are no fun at home, and they’re less fun when you’re on vacation. Remember that if you’re traveling carry-on only, that means you’ll need to limit yourself to a 3oz bottle of sunblock and buy more in Italy if you run out. You’ll find sunblock at the farmacia. You can also avoid the liquid question by getting a solid sunscreen instead. Find it on Amazon.com
- Swimsuit – Whether you’ll be hanging out at the hotel pool or you’re visiting some of Italy’s beaches, a swimsuit is a must-have for summer trips to Italy. Luckily, they take up very little room in a bag. Of course, if you’re absolutely certain you won’t need a swimsuit, then skip it – but be aware that if you change your mind, buying a suit in an Italian beach town won’t be cheap.
- Reusable Water Bottle – Just as it’s important to protect yourself from the sun, it’s also important to stay hydrated. Rather than contributing to the purchase (and later discarding) of lots of plastic water bottles, why not bring your own refillable bottle? You can fill it after you go through security at the airport, and then keep refilling it as you walk through whatever Italian city you’re in. Many have public water fountains with water meant for drinking – it’s cold and fresh and delicious – making it easy to refill your bottle as you sightsee. Find them on Amazon.com
- Paper Fan – This is something I bring now to any warm place, especially if that place is also humid (which much of Italy is during the summer). These paper Chinese fans are cheap, fit easily in even a small purse and offer lovely relief from the stale hot air of an Italian train or bus. Find them on Amazon.com
- “Church Appropriate” Clothing – I’m not suggesting that you need your “Sunday best” for going to mass, but you do need to plan on covering up before going into many of Italy’s religious attractions. Some will have stricter attire rules than others, but it’s just respectful to be covered up whether there are guards at the door or not. “Church appropriate” means no exposed shoulders, knees, midriffs, or (for the ladies) cleavage. Bringing a light pashmina or shawl to wear over your shoulders will work, but remember to bring long pants or a longer skirt you can wear on any day you’re planning to visit a church. Find them on Amazon.com
What Not to Pack for Italy in Summer
- Shorts? – Shorts are part of the uniform of summer, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that fashion-conscious Italy hasn’t embraced the khaki short. I have seen more young people wearing shorts in recent years than I used to, but they’re long shorts – usually falling below the knee, especially for guys, and they’re not usually denim or khaki. They’re the same kind of fashionable, colorful trousers Italians usually wear in summer… They’re just not full-length.
- Flip-flops? – The other part of summer’s uniform these days are flip-flops, borrowed from the beach. Italians wear flip-flops, but only at the beach or gym or pool – they aren’t considered shoes to wear out in public generally. Sandals are thought of as perfectly acceptable summer footwear, just so long as they’re not the rubber/plastic sort.
- Baseball cap? – This is another bit of clothing that the Italians, for the most part, haven’t removed from its original purpose: for use in sports. I’ve seen some young men wearing (fashionable) baseball-style caps in more recent years, but I’ve not seen women of any age wearing them. Remember that any hat you do wear needs to be removed (out of respect) when you go into a church, too.
Okay, really? No shorts?
Does this mean you should absolutely not bring any of these things to Italy? No, it doesn’t – if you are most comfortable wearing denim shorts and flip-flops, then that’s worth thinking about. You just need to realize that wearing that “summer uniform” will make you stand out more as a tourist – and that could mean more potential for being a target for pickpockets or “tourist prices.” In addition, some churches will bar you from entering if you’re wearing shorts (even if they’re nice shorts).
Italians, on the whole, dress more formally – even in hot weather – than most people do when we’re on vacation, so the things you’ll see Italians wearing in the summer include lightweight trousers, shirts, and sundresses. Use your own judgment for the clothing you choose to bring, it’s just good to be aware what the Italians will be wearing.
But how can I make sure to bring what’s in fashion right now?
If you really want to be in fashion when you’re in Italy, the best thing you can do is plan to buy something when you get there that’s in the color everyone’s wearing right then. You can pick up a relatively cheap shirt, dress, scarf, or purse in one of the outdoor markets that pop up in every Italian town, or you can budget a bit more for something a bit nicer – either way, it’s a fun way to add to your wardrobe and have something to wear immediately and feel very “of the moment” during your trip.