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Italy: What to Pack for Your Trip - Essentials for an Italian Adventure

Updated: 2 days ago

Once you’ve chosen your destinations in Italy and booked your hotels and tours, you will no doubt begin to stress about what to pack. A quick internet search will yield too much advice on Italian travel essentials, from the best shoes to buy or pickpocket-safe bags to strappy dresses covered in prints of lemons and sunflowers. If you dare ask for opinions in any of the Facebook travel groups about carry-on vs checked luggage, prepare to feel overwhelmed with other people's opinions.


Here's my foolproof formula for what to pack for a 10-day trip to Italy


  • Bring less than you think you should bring.

  • Only pack neutral-colored clothes so you can mix and match outfits.

  • Only bring two pairs of shoes. 


Fashionable Italy - A Cautionary Tale


italy travel what not to wear

You're imagining the old world – bustling Italian markets, ancient ruins, and cobblestone streets. It's easy to be swept away by the fantasy, each garment with the potential to transform you into the stylish star of the Italian movie that plays in your head. However, the most seasoned travelers will tell you this — only bring clothes you would also wear at home in simple colors that can be mixed and matched into several outfits.


In the quest for an Italian-inspired ensemble, many purchase what I can only describe as costumes. When you arrive in Italy and realize old-world Italy is also a modern country, you’ll feel a little silly swanning around Rome like you’re cosplaying Sophia Loren. The travel influencers you may follow on TikTok look gorgeous posed in front of the Trevi Fountain. Still, when you see them in Italy wearing strappy sandals, a lemon-printed sundress, and a full face of makeup, you’ll immediately realize just how produced these images are and how they look like extras from a movie set.


How to Pack Light for Italy


Though you don’t necessarily need to travel with a carry-on only, it’s still advisable to pack light. Small hotel rooms in Rome or Venice offer little room to spread out. Though train travel is relatively easy, getting on and off the train requires at least three narrow stairs to ascend from the platform to the train. You must also lift your bag over your head to fit it into the overhead compartments. There are narrow compartments near the train’s doorways for larger pieces, but they get filled up quickly, and you won’t be able to keep an eye on your luggage throughout the trip. 


Every piece of clothing that finds its way into your suitcase should be able to coordinate with at least three different outfits. 


Italy Capsule Wardrobe for Women


woman traveling in italy with white oxford shirt
A classic white shirt from AYR, perfect for multiple outfits

For a ten-day trip to Italy, you should pack:

  • Two pairs of cotton pants in neutral colors

  • Jeans, but not skinny jeans or ripped jeans

  • One dress

  • 5 t-shirts in neutral colors (if traveling in winter, substitute T-shirts for simple sweaters). You can get a variety of scoop necks and v necks for variety. Get them at Uniqlo, Unbound Merino, or AYR.

  • 1 blouse in a print or bright color

  • 1 blazer or cardigan

  • 1 cotton scarf

  • 1 pair of pajamas, cotton

  • Bras, panties, of course

  • 1 pair of simple white trainers

  • 1 pair of ballet flats or loafers

  • Sunglasses

  • 1 white or blue collared shirt

  • 3 tank tops in neutral colors


Italy Travel Necessities

Here are the core pieces I have invested in, which come with me on every trip:

  • This white shirt from AYR can be worn open with a dress or tank top underneath, buttoned and tucked in, or used as a beach cover-up.

  • This similar shirt from Frank & Eileen is pricey, but it's an excellent Italian denim you can wash and put in the dryer. It travels very well, and looks better with use.

  • This cotton blazer, also from Frank & Eileen, is expensive but easily among the best items of clothing I've ever purchased, both in terms of quality and versatility. I have it in black and will probably buy the white one this summer. It fits so well, and you can put it over a cotton dress to elevate the dress code for a night out or use it as a jacket for cool evenings.

  • This dress from Marine Layer can be squished into anything and still look good. It's fitted enough up top to look polished but light and breezy down below. For a pop of color, it can be dressed up with jewelry or a light scarf.

  • These pants, also from Marine Layer, are fantastic for summer travel. I'm not particularly eager to wear shorts unless I'm at the beach or the gym, and breathable fabrics that protect you from the sun actually keep you cooler. If you get these pants, buy the cotton ones, not the Tencel ones, which are synthetic and feel awful.

  • For shoes, I have gotten so much mileage out of these white trainers from Aldo. I also like Veja sneakers or cotton Supergas (classic Italian style), which I can wear without socks. Stanley Tucci wore Supergas in almost every episode of "Searching for Italy."

Stanley Tucci wearing Supergas sneakers
Stanley Tucci in Pompeii wearing classic Italian Superga sneakers

Other things I always have:

  • Bombas no-show socks. They are just so well made.

  • A toiletries bag with a hook to hang on the back of the bathroom door.

  • Miracle Balm from Jones Road is indeed a miracle. I travel with the Flushed shade, a tube of their black mascara, and lipstick.

  • A Tide pen that's always in my purse.

  • Soak for hand-washing undies in the sink.



Italian Weather Varies by Region - So Pack Prepared


what to pack for venice
A rainy evening in Salerno

For the fog-laden north, where cities like Milan and Venice breathe foggy and humid, clothing choices must include natural fibers that dry quickly, especially if you need to wash clothes in the sink.  As you journey southward to the sunnier coastal regions, be prepared for hot days but cooler nights, especially if you’re on the coast.

Italian Cultural Considerations when Packing

Enjoy Italian culture by respecting its dress codes, especially at sacred landmarks. Use a scarf or shawl to cover shoulders and knees, following the cultural norms of religious sites. While not every church may have someone present to enforce these rules, it is still respectful to do so for worshippers praying inside. 

You may also want to avoid obvious tourist attire like clothing with logos. The one exception would be a New York Yankees baseball hat, which is popular among Italians, particularly young people. 

A Checklist of Italy Packing Essentials 

Clothing and Footwear

Opt for a versatile ensemble featuring natural fabrics, allowing your skin to breathe amidst the diverse landscapes. Embrace neutral colors that not only exude sophistication but also provide the perfect canvas for mixing and matching. Finally, Italians reserve athleisure for gym sessions, so leave the workout gear behind and don’t wear leggings for walking around daily.

As you traverse ancient cobblestone streets and discover Italian hidden gems, ensure your footwear prioritizes comfort. Choose comfortable yet stylish shoes, like white trainers, suitable for urban exploration and countryside strolls. Don’t wear flip-flops, as Italians consider them house slippers or shoes to be worn on the beach or poolside only.

Tech and Gadgets

Adapters for your phone and laptop are necessary to ensure your devices remain charged. Save valuable suitcase space by skipping the hairdryer; most accommodations provide this amenity.  If you have Apple products, you only need a plug adapter, and the voltage automatically converts. The same is true for your phone; you will just need the wall plug adapter, which you can always purchase at the airport when you arrive if you forget to buy one ahead of time.

Health and Safety Items

Pack band-aids, cotton swabs, and things like Tylenol or Advil if you take those for ordinary headaches or muscle aches. Italy has an excellent healthcare system, so you should be confident if you need to seek medical attention. You will be asked to pay in cash for any treatments you receive, but you will find the price is a small fraction of what we pay in the United States. If you have more severe health concerns, purchase a higher level of trip insurance. If you have essential medications, bring copies of your prescriptions if you lose your pills and need them refilled.  


Luggage and Organizing Your Bag

Four-wheeled suitcases that roll will make your travels infinitely easier. The secret to successful packing and staying organized throughout your trip is packing cubes. They allow you to move from location to location without having to unpack completely, and they make it easy to see exactly what you have to work within your capsule wardrobe. Pack your toiletries in a bag that can unfold and hang by a hook on the back of the bathroom drawer. Especially in cities, hotel bathrooms can be tiny, and you won’t have room to spread out your things. 


Ensure your day bag has ample space for your passport, a phone charger, and sunglasses. You may want to bring cotton tote bags if you’d like to carry a sketchbook or do any grocery shopping during your trip. 

Common Packing Mistakes


italy men what not to pack

The biggest overpacking mistake for women is sundresses that require special undergarments or leave your thighs chafed. If you’re going to Rome, dress as you would for a trip to New York City. If you try to dress like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, you will look like you’re in costume. The biggest overpacking mistake for men is logo t-shirts, which will dominate your photos and make you stand out as a tourist. 

Conclusion 

As you prepare for your Italian adventure, remember that every item in your suitcase should serve a purpose. Embrace the minimalist approach, and let your focus be on creating unforgettable memories in the heart of Italy.

If you're ready to take the next step in planning your journey, Feast Travel is your go-to partner for crafting personalized tours of Italy.

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