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Ciao a tutti! That’s hello everyone in Italian.
I’m sure you are excited to be be heading to Italy and you should be! Italy is such a vibrant country full of history, culture, and of course delicious food.
There are a few things to know about packing for Italy. In this article we share our top packing tips and our ultimate Italy packing list so you are organized for your trip in 2019.
You will learn what you need to pack for your trip and perhaps more importantly, what you can leave behind.
Note – this is mainly a packing list for women, but applies to men too. I have also given some tips for packing if you are traveling with kids.
So here they are – our packing tips for Italy.
What's in this article
- 1 Top tips for packing for Italy
- 2 Italy packing list essentials
- 3 Items for your transit or flight to Italy
- 4 What to wear in Italy
- 5 Italy clothes packing list
- 6 Toiletries and make up
- 7 Medication
- 8 Technology items
- 9 Items for kids
- 10 What not to bring to Italy
Top tips for packing for Italy
You need to think about four major things to consider when packing for your trip to Italy
- the time of year you are visiting and the weather
- how much walking you will do
- how much luggage you want to take
- your style (this needs attention in Italy!)
The weather in Italy
Italy has four distinct seasons and temperatures vary by region. In the south and Sicily the temperatures are very hot in summer and they experience much milder winters.
As you would expect, in the north and alpine regions it is very cold in winter. You can even see snow in Venice!
Check the weather forecast a week before your trip to see what is in store. Here is a guide to the average conditions – do check the forecast for the different regions you are visiting.
Summer [June/July/August] – Italian summers are warm to very hot and humidity is high. Expect temperatures between 77°F and 86°F (25°C and 30°C)
Fall/Autumn [September/October/November] – temperatures in fall are ideal for sightseeing with generally warm sunny days and cooler nights. Top temperatures range between 65°F and 75°F (18°C and 24°C)
Winter [December/January/February] – Italy has cool to cold days and nights in winter with snow and sub zero temperatures in the Alpine regions. You will get some rainy days. High temperatures range between 50°F and 55°F (10°C and 13°C)
Spring – [March/April/May] – Spring in Italy is lovely Temperatures at this time of year average between 60°F and 75°F (16°C and 24°C). It is also the season when you are most likely to experience rain
It’s important to note that buildings are generally well heated so in the middle of winter it can be stiflingly hot when you are indoors. Air conditioning is a bit of a luxury in summer and not as common as you might expect.
The key to having a great trip to Italy is making sure you are prepared for the elements and to not overpack. I find that the best approach is to find pieces that layer and don’t add bulk.
More about seasonal dressing in the full packing list below.
Walking on cobbled streets
But, here’s the thing.
Visiting sights, walking the cobbled streets and climbing up and down stairs to get those incredible views means you need to be practical about clothing and footwear.
Style is important but you need to think about comfort too. No one wants to spend their well deserved trip with sore feet or cold hands feeling miserable.
In Italy, you need comfortable, sturdy and water resistant footwear for winter. As well as a hat, scarf and gloves.
Summertime calls for sandals you can walk miles in and light clothing you can layer.
Luggage: to check or not?
Personally, I prefer to check a bag.
This is because I like to be prepared and get annoyed if I need to chase around a new destination looking for things I have at home. That eats into my trip and vacation time.
I also like to shop and bring home some treasured souvenirs. There are so many wonderful things to buy in Italy that you cannot get at home. Gorgeous scarves, shoes and leather goods as well as specialty food items like cheese which can be vacuum sealed.
Trust me, the cheese souvenir is a very good idea.
Our top rated luggage for a trip to Italy
Our favourite luggage is a hard cover lightweight suitcase from Samsonite.
This luggage is stylish, durable and the four double-spinner wheels make it easy to move around.
I also like that it has a TSA security approved lock.
It also comes in a nested set which is great if, like me, you’re short on storage and like things that match.
Italian style – La Bella Figura
Bella Figura translates literally as the beautiful figure and it is a concept of great importance to Italians. It refers to presentation and how you show yourself to the world.
Italians are always wonderfully turned out in the best that they can afford. Clothes are ironed, hair and nails are groomed and outfits are accessorised. You can see bella figura every day but particularly on Sundays as Italians enjoy passegiata – their afternoon stroll.
One thing you will not see many Italians wearing, if any, are gym clothes or flip flops on the street. They are just not seen as refined.
It’s also important to note that shoulders and knees should be covered when entering churches – yes, that means the Vatican, San Marco in Venice and Santa Croce in Florence – all of them. For both men and women. That means no shorts, crop or spaghetti strap tops.
When you are in Italy, at the very least you should make some effort with your style. Yoga pants, crop tops and flip flops might be comfortable or in fashion where you are from but in Italy you will stand out a mile.
Men should wear collared shirts and jackets and belted pants. I have only ever seen Italian men wear shorts on the beach.
When in doubt, opt for smart casual outfits with a little tailoring. You can always add great sunglasses and a scarf for maximum impact.
Italy packing list essentials
These items are the ones you absolutely must pack for your trip to Italy.
✔︎ Passport – this varies depending on your nationality but it is good practice to have at least 6 months validity on your passport. I always save an image in a secure cloud service like Dropbox and carry a printed copy too
✔︎ Visa(s) – make sure you have read and understood the visa requirements for your nationality. Italy is part of the Schengen visa zone. 3 month (90 days) visitor visas are issued on arrival to nationals of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Nationals of China and India will need visas confirmed before arrival. Do check the visa requirements for your country of nationality before departing.
✔︎ Insurance – do not forget to organize insurance for your trip. It’s one of those things that you probably won’t use but is essential if something goes wrong on your travels.
✔︎ Tickets and documents – I like to keep as much travel information as I can online. I map out my itinerary and save copies of documents on Evernote. Because I can be a bit paranoid, I also save them on Dropbox and have a separate folder for the trip in my email account. Don’t forget copies of your medical prescriptions.
✔︎ Money: I like to size down my wallet when I travel so I only carry the essentials. I travel with a small amount of cash and a no overseas transaction fee credit card. I also have a back up credit card in case of emergencies.
✔︎ Portable wifi or International SIM: If you use a lot of data daily like I do, consider buying or renting a portable wifi device like this one from Skyroam – unlimited data for $US 9 per day for up to 5 devices. It can even charge your phone and is small and lightweight. 10% off Skyroam with our code: UNTOLDM– click here to check prices
Another option is to preorder an international SIM before you go. OneSIM offers savings of 85% or more on international roaming charges. Personally I find moving SIMs around to be a bit of a pain though.
✔︎ Italian phrase book: If you haven’t had time to learn or brush up on your Italian then make sure you take a phrasebook or download the Google translate app. People always appreciate it if you at least try to say key words like Buongiorno and Grazie – click for phrasebook
Pro tip – if you are worried about security get a wallet that includes RFID blocking
✔︎ Smartphone: travel is so much easier now we all have cameras and our documents in a palm sized package. I did love my iPhone, but having seen some of the photos they produce I recently invested in a Samsung Galaxy S9.
✔︎ Umbrella: don’t get caught out in a rain shower! Apart from frizzy hair I get so annoyed at having to pay ridiculously high prices for an emergency (and bound to break in 10 minutes) umbrella from the side of the road. I have this travel umbrella and it has never let me down.
Some people like those plastic rain ponchos but I do not.. because – bella figura!
✔︎ Crossbody bag: a medium sized crossbody bag is the perfect bag for travel. Choose wisely and they will fit your wallet, phone, camera and other essential items leaving your hands free to take photos but at the same time not weighing you down.
✔︎ Camera: don’t forget to capture those amazing travel moments. While phone cameras are getting better every day, I love my Olympus Pen mirrorless camera for getting those wow shots. As an added bonus it fits inside my crossbody bag.
✔︎ Packing cubes: these miracle items have been a revelation for me and our family. They make packing and unpacking a breeze. With packing cubes you can organise your items and have a colour for each person in your party.
Having tried a few brands I prefer these packing cubes for their strong and durable design and finish.
Items for your transit or flight to Italy
There’s a fine balance between having things you need to keep you comfortable, and not having too much stuff to manage. I like to fit everything I need into a tote that I can pop under the seat in front for easy access. That’s one advantage of short legs!
✔︎ Large tote: I carry a large tote onboard (like this JCrew one) and find it is the most practical way to carry all of my things. Unfortunately they don’t make it anymore with a zip closure because I love that feature. Try this one instead.
Inside the tote I have pouches for my tech items, toiletries and passports. Don’t forget you need a security approved clear bag for the toiletries in your carryon
✔︎ Headphones: the essential item to help you relax on your flight in my opinion. Block out the noise around you and relax with a movie or 3! We like these Bose noise cancelling headphones
✔︎ Scarf/pashmina: why are planes so cold? I don’t know but because I usually feel a little chilly on any flight I bring a light wool scarf or pashmina to keep me warm
✔︎ Pen(s): you will need them to fill in your arrivals card. I always keep a couple handy
✔︎ Hydration: for your skin – lip balm (this is the best) and your favourite moisturiser, and for your body – a collapsible water bottle – this will come in handy in Rome. Did you know they have fountains where you can fill up your bottle with drinking water all over the city?
✔︎ Health: I always carry hand sanitizer when I travel. Don’t forget your medication and travel/motion sickness and sleeping tablets if you need them
✔︎ Comfort: Make your traveling space as comfortable as possible with a travel pillow (this one is fantastic), eye mask and ear plugs
✔︎ Tech: Don’t rely on inflight entertainment systems. An iPad loaded with movies, tv series and reading material is the best way to get through the long flight.
What to wear in Italy
As I mentioned earlier, style is everything in Italy. If you don’t want to stand out in sea of stylish Italians make sure you pack items that look pulled together and a little refined.
There is no need to be a fashionista. Despite some of the incredible styles on show during Milan Fashion Week, Italians are generally conservative dressers and don’t like to stand out from the crowd. Everyone seems to have a navy blue puffer jacket for the cooler months as an example.
Aim for smart casual and you will be fine. Although it is always nice to look a little glamorous for dinner.. ladies, bring a dress!
Very casual attire such as tiny shorts, yoga pants, flip flops and ripped clothes are NOT recommended.
If you must wear sports shoes then leave the Nikes behind and go for something classic like Superga plimsolls.
What to wear in Rome and the big cities
Visiting the sights of Rome, Florence and Venice will involve some waiting time. Make sure you are suitably dressed for the weather and local culture whatever the season.
In the summer months the weather is hot and sunny so you need to stay cool but remember you cannot enter the magnificent churches unless your shoulders and knees are covered. So tank tops and tiny shorts are not advised.
At a pinch you could wear a scarf over your shoulders.
Italians dress more formally in the cities and you might feel uncomfortable in higher end restaurants and hotels if you are dressed very casually.
What to wear on the Amalfi Coast in summer
At the coastal resorts, the dress code is more relaxed but I still think it is stylish an dglamorous.
Think cool linens and straw hats, floaty maxi dresses, statement earrings and bejewelled sandals.
Tip – You can buy yourself a pair of these finely made shoes all along the coastline but the ones you find in the boutiques of Capri are the best. The shoemakers of Capri famous for their craftsmanship.
Italy dress code: Simple and stylish layers
Keep it simple and stylish – that’s your ‘what to wear in Italy’ mantra.
As well as these rules of 3
✔︎ Choose a 3 hued colour scheme and stick to it. I like to keep things neutral for my main pieces and add a bit of interest with accessories. Black, navy, light grey and white are my go to colours with pops of red, pink and/or light blue depending on my mood
✔︎ Only take 3 pairs of shoes. I know this is hard but shoes add weight. I like to take a pair of ankle boots in winter, sandals in summer, and ballet flats. Avoid heels if you can, but if you must wedges are a much better choice for walking on cobblestones.
✔︎ Bring 3 statement accessories you love to brighten up your outfits – a scarf, pair of earrings or a fun hat can make all the difference. For Italy you must also pack sunglasses
✔︎ Aim to use each item in at least 3 outfits
Italy clothes packing list
Over the years I have learnt the hard (overpacking) way that if you pack 4 pairs of pants, you will only wear two of them. I use a week long trip as a baseline for how many items to pack.
If I am traveling for longer then I will need to do some washing. If it’s a shorter trip I take some items out.
Here are the clothing items I recommend that you pack for your Italy trip. I have started from a basic capsule collection that can be adjusted depending on the season or special activities you have in mind.
I like to think of the activities I will be doing each day and build outfits from there.
Capsule wardrobe for Italy
✔︎ Underwear, bras (2), socks
✔︎ Pants/jeans: (2-3 pairs)
✔︎ Dresses/skirts (2-3 pairs)
✔︎ Ankle boots, flats
✔︎ Seasonal items
✔︎ Long sleeved shirts (2-3)
✔︎ Short sleeved shirts (2-3)
✔︎ Laundry bag / detergent
✔︎ Toiletries – see below
Clothes for winter
Winter calls for a warm wool coat. Temperatures are cool to cold and freezing in the northern Alpine regions.
You need lightweight warm layers that can take you from taking in the views and splendour of the Coliseum in Rome to museum hopping in Florence.
You could also swap a pair of ballet flats for long boots or a second pair of ankle boots.
✔︎ Scarf, gloves, hat
✔︎ Thermal underwear
Spring and Fall clothes for Italy
In spring and fall/autumn you need a lighter jacket – a classic trench coat is ideal. You might also like to take a bag in a lighter hue.
You won’t need your chunkiest scarf but a warm lightweight wool or silk scarf is a good idea.
You can buy beautiful scarves in Italy if you can wait until you get there. They are such a wonderful souvenir of your trip.
Summer clothes for Italy
If you are in Italy during the summer months, try to get to the seaside at least once.
Whether it is the glamor of Capri and the Amalfi Coast or the rustic beauty of the Cinque Terre and surrounds, the Italian coast is iconic and should not be missed.
No matter where you go, you will need a swimsuit, sandals (and a pedicure!), a hat and of course sunglasses.
✔︎ Swap ankle boots for sandals
✔︎ Add a jaunty summer hat and some sunglasses
✔︎ Pack a pretty summer dress
✔︎ Swap a pair of pants for tailored shorts
✔︎ Add a statement skirt
✔︎ Pack your swimsuit!
If you are planning to swim or lounge on the beach, a lightweight, quick dry towel is a useful item to pack.
Toiletries and make up
Try your hardest to find travel sized versions of your favourite products. I find shampoos and conditioners take up the most space so I like to use dry shampoo (this one is the best) to extend the time between washes. Some people swear by solid shampoo but I’m yet to try it.
One thing you must pack is a decent conditioner. When traveling your hair will need some extra care and attention. As the conditions are humid (especially in summer), I also found I need my straightener to keep my locks under control.
Be realistic about how much make up you need. You really can survive with only one or two eyeshadows. I like these cream eyeshadow sticks as they have a lovely finish and the shape means they are easy to pack.
I also avoid pressed powders and shadows due to the potential for mess.
Don’t forget to pack some laundry detergent sheets. We choose them instead of pods or powder because they are light, easy to pack and mess free.
✔︎ Eye pencil
✔︎ Makeup brushes
✔︎ Face cleanser
✔︎ Dry shampoo
✔︎ Hair styling products
✔︎ Hair straightener
✔︎ Hair brush / comb
✔︎ Hair bands
✔︎ Laundry detergent
✔︎ Toothpaste / floss
✔︎ Feminine hygiene products
✔︎ Nail file / scissors
✔︎ Razor / tweezers
Make sure you have enough medication for your trip plus some extra days in case you are hit with delays or other unforeseen circumstances.
Replacing medication abroad can be difficult, especially without your prescriptions. So bring copies of the scripts with you.
✔︎ First aid kit: you could try to make one yourself but this one is small, lightweight and has everything you could think of
✔︎ Pain relief: you know what works best for you, bring your favourite products from home for headaches, joint and muscle pain
✔︎ Contraception: always important
✔︎ iPad/laptop: I always travel with my MacBook Pro as I am often working but I’d prefer to go just with my iPad
✔︎ Camera accessories: don’t forget your battery charger and an extra battery. A tripod is useful too.
✔︎ Power pack: make sure your phone stays charged while you are out and about with a portable battery Note – make sure to take this in your carry on as they are often confiscated from checked bags.
✔︎ Power strip: keep all your devices powered up with this compact power strip – it even has usb ports
✔︎ Converter: so everything works as it should. If you plan to travel more frequently or are heading over to Europe, this power strip and adapter combination looks like a great buy
✔︎ Selfie stick/tripod: I’m a late convert to the selfie stick but I have to admit they are so handy for getting the perfect solo or group shot. Don’t buy a dodgy one from a street corner. You will be disappointed.
We recommend this one that will hold your phone and camera, has a tripod and wireless remote – click for more info on the ultimate selfie stick
Items for kids
Our kids (twin preschoolers) have done many long haul flights into Italy and around Europe. We have got this down to a fine art now so I’m happy to share this with you.
For the flight they have their awesome scooter luggage (read our full review here) which we pack with a change of clothes, some toys, a sticker book, 2 small light books, a water bottle (like this one) and some healthy snacks.
Their main entertainment is an iPad loaded with games, puzzles and favourite shows. I would not fly 24 hours (even 3) with kids without one.
Keep the toys to a minimum. After many travels with our kids we realised that they just did not play with most of them. And that means there is room for a few special souvenirs.
Kids can follow the main clothing advice but I would throw in a few extra pants, tops and underwear for whatever kids do that always makes them get so messy.
We also like our children to carry some of their things while we are sightseeing so a mini backpack is a good idea
✔︎ 2 x extra tops, pants and underwear
✔︎ mini back pack
✔︎ toys and books
✔︎ extra snacks for the plane
✔︎ water bottle
Obviously, if you are travelling with a baby you will need a whole host of things. Check out this list of items for flying with a baby.
What not to bring to Italy
I would not describe myself as a light traveller but over the years I have learnt to leave some things behind. These are items that I rarely use, are heavy or can be found easily at your destination.
✘ Full sized shampoo and conditioner – too heavy and take up lots of room
✘ Guidebooks – read them before you go and take notes or photos of key pages with your phone. Even better, download Lonely Planet’s Best of Italy as an ebook
✘ Valuable jewellery – a security risk and hassle if lost
✘ Hairdryer – most hotels/AirBnBs provide one and you can always finish off with your straightener
✘ Novels – again, too heavy – invest in a Kindle or download to your iPad or phone
✘ Kids toys – as above
So now I hope you know what to pack for Italy and you are ready for your trip. If you want to brush up on the culture and make sure you are mentally as well as physically prepared for your travels you might like to read our tips for Italy article.
Here are some of the most popular articles about travel in Italy
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