All Articles What to wear in Italy: 8 key items to pack and foolproof outfits for every situation

What to wear in Italy: 8 key items to pack and foolproof outfits for every situation

italy colosseum
Image: Juliana Malta / Unsplash
Amelia Ang
By Amelia Ang28 Jul 2022 5 minutes read

When you’re visiting Italy, it’s important to pay attention to how you dress. La bella figura (the beautiful figure) is an Italian way of life, which means your attire is one of the first things people notice about you. To blend in with the locals, ensure you make a good, stylish first impression. After all, Italy is home to some of the finest fashion houses in the world, from Gucci to Prada.

Apart from style, practicality is also crucial; Italy has a highly diverse climate, and you’ll need to pack appropriately for each region you’re visiting. Coastal areas like Tuscany experience wild temperature fluctuations, while Sicily is fairly warm and dry year-round. Read on to find out what to pack for Italy.

1. Comfortable shoes for walking around

brown walking shoes
Image: Vidar Nordli / Unsplash

Known as sampietrini, Rome’s cobblestones are a major part of the ancient city’s heritage. First used in St. Peter’s Square, sampietrini became more widespread in the early 18th century. While these cobblestone streets may look charming, they are also notoriously tricky to navigate. As each century-old stone was hammered by hand, the surfaces are uneven and have been further damaged by decades of wear and tear. They can also get extremely slippery when wet.

To avoid getting injured, it’s best to wear your most practical walking shoes when exploring Rome. Although some of Rome’s busiest thoroughfares, like the Via Nazionale, have been laid over with smooth asphalt, cobblestones can still be found in historic areas like the Piazza Venezia, one of the best piazzas in the city.

2. Loose, light clothing to beat the summer heat

venice italy
Image: Nick Gordon / Unsplash

In general, the further south you go in Italy, the warmer it gets. While summers in Venice see an average temperature of 75°F, it can get as hot as 91°F in Florence.

To stay cool when visiting Italy during its warm, muggy summer months, pack loose and light clothes in materials like cotton, linen, and rayon. Linen is particularly popular with both men and women, as it tends to dry faster while still looking stylish. Airy sundresses, casual capris, and comfortable sandals will keep you cool; throw on your activewear while exploring the great outdoors.

Tip: Remember to bring a water bottle along to stay hydrated. Free drinking fountains can be found throughout Rome, so you can quench your thirst easily.

3. Layers to adapt to changes in temperature

italy street fashion
Image: Gabriella Clare Marino / Unsplash

Italy enjoys the best weather in spring and fall, when temperatures are more moderate. However, months like April and May see more unpredictable conditions, especially in northern Italy, and you’ll need to be prepared for a range of temperatures. For instance, while Milan’s average temperature is 57°F in April, it can get as cold as 36°F at night.

If you’re hoping to see the Last Supper in the day and hit a rooftop bar after dark, it’s essential to bring layers that can help you stay comfortable despite fluctuating temperatures. Pack a range of versatile clothes that can be mixed and matched, as well as sweaters, light jackets, and cardigans to throw on when it gets cold. A waterproof coat will also be useful, as the coastal cities tend to see more rain in the fall.

4. Appropriate attire to visit Italy’s world-famous churches

Image: Xancinha / Tripadvisor

Italy is the largest Catholic nation in Europe, and the country is filled with stunning churches and cathedrals dating back to the 4th century. If you’re planning to visit a religious site, it’s important to dress appropriately and respectfully. Most churches in Italy have strict dress codes, and you will be denied entry if your shoulders and knees are not covered up.

Visiting Italy in the summertime? Don’t worry, you can still do a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica in your tank top and shorts—all you need is a scarf or sarong to wrap around yourself. Some churches, like the Duomo, stock shawls in their gift shops for a small fee.

Tip: Travel light, as large backpacks aren’t allowed inside many churches.

5. Sunglasses and sun hats for maximum UV protection

As a classic Italian folk song intones, chist'è o paese do sole (this is the land of the sun). Italy sees an average of 164 sunny days a year, and the number gets higher in regions like Sicily, Sardinia, and Puglia. Whether you’re visiting Italy in summer or winter, sunglasses are a must.

Not only will sunglasses help to protect your eyes from UV rays, stylish frames are also an essential part of every Italian’s outfit, as seen in movies like The Italian Job and Divorce Italian Style. In fact, the Italian brand Persol is known for supplying Hollywood stars with iconic shades.

From floppy straw hats to fedoras, sun hats are a great way to prevent getting a sunburn on your face while serving as a statement piece. However, ensure you take your hat off when entering a church.

6. Swimwear for beach getaways

italy beach
Image: Will Truettner / Unsplash

Boasting a long Mediterranean coastline, Italy is one of the best countries to enjoy a beach vacation. From Capri’s Marina Piccola to Bandiera Blu (Blue Flag) beaches near Rome, sparkling waters and golden sands are par for the course in Italy. The Amalfi Coast is also home to thriving marine life and hidden grottoes, which you can admire on a snorkeling tour.

Before you check into a beach resort, don’t forget to pack your swimwear. You’ll see most people wearing bikinis and swimming trunks, although some places like Sorrento have banned people from walking around in “skimpy” swimwear, so be sure to bring along a beach cover up.

7. Suit up on your nights out

club milan
Image: Management / Tripadvisor

Italy is known for its buzzing nightlife, which you can experience whether you’re dancing the night away in a club in Testaccio in Rome or partying at a beach bar overlooking the Bay of Naples. In larger cities like Rome and Milan, it’s important to dress to impress, especially if you’re planning to visit the hottest nightclubs.

Men are expected to dress semi-formally in shirts and pants, and women are encouraged to go all out in their highest heels. Some venues like The Club Milan host themed events throughout the week, so it’s best to call ahead or check online to avoid making a fashion faux pas.

8. Snow gear to hit the slopes

skiing in italy
Image: Dario Morandotti / Unsplash

While most people know Italy for its coastal cities and ancient ruins, the country is actually a fairly mountainous region boasting some of the world’s best ski resorts. In northeastern Italy, the Dolomites are renowned for skiing in the winter months, with Cortina d’Ampezzo boasting 140 ski runs. The Italian Alps have over 3,000 miles of slopes, and La Villa’s Gran Risa is one of the most technically difficult slopes in all the Alps.

If you’re heading for a ski trip in Italy, waterproof snow gear is a must. Ski jackets, pants, goggles, and gloves are designed to protect your body from harsh winter conditions, and it’s also recommended to invest in your own pair of ski boots to ensure they fit well as you shred down the mountain sides.

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Amelia Ang
A tropical soul who cannot resist the magic of winter's first snowfall.