Italy Packing List – What To Pack For Italy in 2020
Italy Packing List And Guide
If you are a frequent reader of this food and drink travel blog, you’ve heard us say, we’ve been traveling to Italy together for almost two decades. That’s a lot of Italy travel expertise. Our rate of trips has even increased because we now live in Spain. Over the last 20 years, we’ve made some packing mistakes for sure. It’s from our mistakes (and packing wins) that we created our Ultimate Italy Packing List And Guide.
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What To Pack For Italy
In this blog post, we share our top tips on how to pack for a trip to Italy, whether your itinerary takes you to cities or villages. These tips will help anyone who is planning a two week trip to Italy, or something shorter, or even something longer.
Our tips cover the travel essentials that you need when visiting Europe as well as some specific tips on Italian fashion. My ultimate goal is to help you pack for your trip, and to have a worry-free and hassle-free Italian holiday.
After returning from our most recent trip to Italy, I am also updating this post based on some things that we learned during our two week trip.
What You Will Learn In This Italy Packing Tips Guide:
- What to pack for a trip to Italy during each season. Including recommendations for traveling to Italy in the summer.
- What to bring to Italy besides clothing. There’s more to traveling than clothes for travelers who want to be prepared.
- What should be on your travel abroad packing list (and what shouldn’t be). Times have changed and conventional wisdom is not always applicable to traveling today.
Italy Travel Essentials
For some travelers, they are concerned with finding the perfect Audrey Hepburn “American in Rome” style sunglasses and that’s all they need. There’s so much more to how to pack for Italy than that. In this ultimate packing list and guide I want to offer advice on a few different topics.
Sure, I will recommend what to pack and what to wear in Italy. But, more than that, I want to share our tips on packing for Europe, and in Italy in particular. I think in the end, we will share advice on topics you might not realize you need to consider. This is particularly important for people traveling to Italy or traveling to Europe for the first time.
Our Expertise On The Things To Pack for Italy
We’ve been traveling to Italy for almost 20 years and over that time our travel style has changed a lot. My memory of our first trip to Rome and and Venice is that we way, way over packed.
And, we couldn’t help but look like Americans right off the boat. We broke so many of our suggestions below. We’ve changed over the last two decades, but Italy has changed as well. Some of the conventional thoughts about Italian wardrobe have also changed.
The other thing I remember from that trip way back when is that we definitely overpacked, with over-sized luggage. It was impossible for me to lift my own suitcase on a train, up a staircase, or drag it across cobblestone streets.
I felt underdressed a lot and I remember getting blisters from inappropriate shoes. It was all just plain wrong. Back then I never bothered to seek advice on the best travel clothes for Italy and I would have had no idea on how to find an Europe packing checklist.
Now, we’ve been on so many trips to Italy that I wrote a book about Italian gastronomy. Now that we live in Europe I also feel that I’ve finally figured out the ins-and-outs.
We travel like a well-oiled machine, but I also know that travelers coming from long distances have different needs than us. We will cover all of that here. Most of our travel tips apply to what women should pack for Italy, but we also include some tips for men as well.
Italy Packing List – Top Things To Consider
There is no way to write a short travel blog post on packing for a trip to Europe. We make different recommendations for different travelers depending on some of the following circumstances.
- Think about the time of year of your visit. Italian winter fashion is totally different than summer fashion
- Whether you will travel carry on for will check your bag
- How much walking you will do during your trip
- What kind of activities are you planning? Is it an Italian city break or beach break? Are you hiking or skiing?
Travel Packing Checklist For Italy
Regardless of the season, there are some items that you should consider packing when traveling in Italy or in Europe, generally. Some of these recommendations may seem somewhat obvious to seasoned travelers.
But, I’ve been part of a Traveling to Italy Facebook Group for years now, and I am always surprised at the questions asked. Sometimes I forget that we are professional travelers and professional eaters and a lot of this comes naturally. Feel free to skim or to skip ahead on some of these topics if you are more familiar with what to pack for Europe.
Be sure to confirm your insurance needs before your trip. If you get sick during your travels to Italy, healthcare and pharmacy services are reasonably priced. It’s possible to pay out of pocket.
But if something goes seriously wrong, it’s important to have travel insurance. This is particularly important if you are driving in Italy in case you get into a serious accident, or if you are skiing or hiking.
We recommend World Nomads for travel insurance. They are one of the most reputable companies for managing all sorts of insurance for travelers. Get an instant quote here.Get a Quote from World Nomads Today For Italy Travel Insurance
Money Belt or Passport Belt
A lot of people put a money belt or passport belt on their list of what to pack for Italy. We have not traveled with one since our first trip to Italy in 2000.
First off, there is no reason to carry your passport with you during the day. Leave it at your hotel and have a copy or a photograph on your phone instead. That way it stays safe.
As for money, Eric doesn’t carry a big wallet when traveling. He keeps his money in his front pocket where it is most safe. If you follow my advice above about keeping money in various places and not carrying all your credit cards with you, you should be fine.
This is particularly true if you are used to traveling in big cities, like New York or Chicago. You just need to keep your wits about you.
All that said, if you would feel more secure using a money belt, we recommend this Stash Neck Wallet It includes an RFID blocker, which means that your credit cards are more secure. It also has room for a smart phone to keep it secure as well.
If you have prescription medication that you must travel with, try to bring it in the original bottle that shows your name and details. We’ve never been stopped, but you never know. This is better than bringing random pills in a pill organizer.
As for other basic medication, I always travel with ibuprofen, Alka Seltzer, and other just-in-case items. It is super easy to purchase anything you need at an Italian pharmacy if needed, but I would rather have the basics with me in case I am not feeling well at night or on a Sunday, when it is harder to find shops in Italy open.
Crossbody Bag Or Travel Purse
I usually travel with my carry-on travel suitcase, a travel day pack, and a travel purse. I have two that I rotate between depending on where we are going. I have a Desigual purse that fits securely under my arm and is large enough to hold my camera (in the photo above).
I also have a Desigual crossbody bag that is slim and fits within my suitcase, but is a secure option when sightseeing in big cities. And, it is a European company so I feel like I fit in a little more with the locals. I usually pack my travel purse in my suitcase and use my travel daypack as a carry-on bag.Check out this post on the Best Crossbody Travel Bags For Men and Women
A lot of people pack a travel umbrella, which can be a small but important addition to keep you dry in rainy weather. We like to take risks here. We each have a rain jacket and many of the hotels we stay at have umbrellas to loan out. But, this is definitely not common.
If traveling to Italy in the Spring or Fall it’s probably worth it to travel with an umbrella just in case. Check out this Windproof Travel Umbrella.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t forget your sunglasses. You can also buy them cheap in Italy as well, but they are a perfect way to spice up your Italy Instagram photos.
This is also a great accessory to spruce up an otherwise neutral travel wardrobe. Also, here, there is no need to bring super-fancy designer sunglasses that you might end up breaking or losing during your trip.
Filtered Water Bottle
We’ve never had problems drinking tap water in Italy from a health perspective, but just like in the US, it can taste a little strange. We try not to buy loads of plastic water bottles when traveling, although I recognize it will happen.
To reduce your use of plastic, I recommend bringing a Britta filtered water bottle so you can fill up your bottle from the tap in your hotel or apartment rental and carry it with you through the day.
Italian restaurants generally do not serve tap water. Instead you will end up ordering a bottle of still or sparkling water at the restaurants for about €2 depending on the size. It’s worth it. Stay hydrated, particularly when traveling in Italy in the summer.
Camera Or Smartphone
In the past we’ve carried some pretty hefty camera equipment with us when traveling in Italy. Sometimes, we still bring our Sony a6300 Mirrorless with a lens that takes amazing food photos. More often than not, I use my Samsung S9, which takes amazing photos and video, even at night. We also bring a simple “selfie” stick, which is more like a tripod, and a gimbal to take stabilized videos from my smartphone.
Extra Memory Cards
We uploads photos we take on our Smartphone to Dropbox daily and automatically. But, we also both have big memory cards in our Smartphones and on our camera.
Either upgrade the size of your memory card, or pick up an extra before leaving home. You don’t want to miss out on amazing Italy vacation photos because you’ve run out of space. This 125GB memory card will mean you will never run out of space for your photos.Check out this guide on the Best Cameras for Food Travel Photos
Italy Travel Pro Tip
When traveling with a digital camera, delete all old photos off of your memory card before leaving home. Then click “reformat” in your function settings. This will clear the memory completely on your memory card leaving it completely empty for new photos. If you don’t occasionally reformat your memory cards, they continue to hold a lot of old data, which takes up space.
Other Technology To Pack For Italy
In addition to a camera or smartphone there are a handful of tech items that you should add to your travel essentials list for Italy.
- iPad or Laptop or MacBook: We always travel with our Macbooks, but that’s because we work while traveling. There are some great laptops for travel, but if heading out on an actual vacation (jealous) an iPad or Kindle Fire might work well.
- Power Pack: We always travel with at least one portable battery to top up our smartphones during long days of sightseeing in Italy. We also carry our charging cords with us during the day because there are often cafes or restaurants where we can top-up along the way. We’ve had a few power packs from Anker that have worked well.
- Travel Adapter: A proper travel adapter will help you charge all of your devices while traveling. I recommend taking multiple converters on a trip. We generally carry at least four on each trip, two for our laptops and two for our phones, so we can charge most of our devices at one time. This is important when you have long days and might not have a ton of time to charge up back at the hotel. A Universal Adapter is the best value because it can be used in Europe, the UK, and Asia.
Weather In Italy
Italy has four distinct seasons just like much of Europe and the US. There is some variation in weather by region, with the Italian regions in the south facing warmer temperatures than those regions in the north. In almost all areas of Italy, July and August are hot and humid.
Air conditioning is not as common as it is in the US, particularly in restaurants and cafes. Don’t assume that hotels will have air conditioning, many do not. If they do have air con, it might not be to the American level. We recently visited a restaurant in Italy that had an air conditioner, behind a curtain, underneath an open window, so all the air escaped. It’s just not a priority in Italy.
Although winters in the south of Italy can be mild, in the north expect the possibility of rain and snow. There are some areas in Northern Italy where they ski. That’s how cold it gets.
When traveling to Italy in the spring or fall, check the weather report a week before your departure. There can be some surprises with surprisingly cold weather in April and surprisingly hot weather in September.
During these shoulder seasons it is best to pack to be prepared. This includes packing layers as well as possibly a rain jacket or travel umbrella. I will make more detailed suggestions about how to pack for the seasons.
Italian Attire – Function Over Fashion
More than many other countries, I think people concern themselves with asking what do people wear in Italy. To some extent, you should. Italians have a reputation for fashion.
But traveling in Italy is different from living in Italy. You need to fit everything in one suitcase and a carry-on bag. You need to worry about having enough clean clothing during your trip.
And, think about the lovely Italian cities and villages, filled with cobblestone streets, ancient stone staircases, and few elevators and escalators. With all of our recommendations there is practical balance of fashion versus function.
It’s all well and good to dress to the nines, but if you are not dressed comfortably, if you don’t have comfortable walking shoes, you will be miserable. That I can guarantee.
What to Wear in Italy Pro Tip
The literal translation of the Bella Figura is the beautiful figure, but it is understood as a reference to a person’s presentation. Italians generally seem to be dressed to the nines. But, think about function over fashion. Dress comfortably, but add a fashionable scarf or fun bag to dress up your outfit. That will be enough to be La Bella Figura.
Carry-On Versus Checked Baggage For Italy
Oh boy, I could spend thousands of words talking about this very issue. The most important thing when traveling in Europe is to pack as light as you can. During my first trip to Italy my bag was way too big and I had trouble moving it on my own.
Now, I only travel with a carry-on sized bag that I can carry, roll, and lift wherever I need to without any help. I sometimes check this bag because I am carrying toiletries that are too large, or because I buy too much wine when traveling. It happens.
All that said, I use this same carry-on sized bag whether I am traveling for a weekend or a month. I’ve used this bag for summer trips and winter trips and for business trips where I am packing a blazer. I just make it work. In this packing blog post, I will share some pro tips on how to travel with a smaller bag.
Another thing to consider when packing light is that although it might take some time, almost everything you need can be purchased in Italy. If you are on a short trip, you might not want to waste time shopping, but consider it an adventure. Shopping in a pharmacia or grocery store in Italy is one of the best ways to learn about the local culture!See our Favorite Carry-on Bag on Amazon
What Not To Wear In Italy
There are some traditional notions that travelers might read about what to wear in Italy. I’ve heard travel writers opine that there are no shorts, flip flops, sneakers, gym clothes, etc.
I think 20 years ago this might be have been the case (evidenced by my bright white Nike sneakers form this photo back in 2000). Current Italian everyday fashion is different than it once was. Here are my thoughts on each of these fashion items and whether they are worn as Italian clothing.
Wearing Shorts In Italy
For women, shorts are fine. Young Italian women tend to think the shorter the better. Slightly older Italian women will wear shorts, but they tend to be longer, reaching the top of the knee.
It is still more common to see skirts than shorts. It’s still not too common for men to wear shorts. Eric generally wears ¾ length shorts or what we refer to as “manpris” – men’s capri pants. You won’t stick out wearing shorts, but think about longer shorts or capri pants as an alternative in the summer.
Flip Flops In Italy
There is always a discussion about shoes to wear in Italy in the summer. Sandals are perfectly acceptable when traveling to Italy in the summer, but flip flops are still reserved for the beach. In the summer I travel with my Birkenstocks for walking during the day and a strappy sandal for the evenings.
Sneakers In Italy
Sneakers, or trainers, are probably now the most common shoe in Italy, particularly for the young. To seem really Italian, perhaps choose a European brand like Adidas, or a bright color. It’s common to see bright red sneakers, yellow, orange, etc. Sometimes I see Reebok high-top sneakers and I feel like I am back in middle school in the 1980s. True story.
Gym Clothes In Italy
I’ve seen this written a few times by travel writers. Obviously Italians exercise and if you go for a run while in Italy, feel free to bring running shorts or leggings. Also, there is a trend across Europe, from Italy to Ireland where men wear sweatpants in public.
I am not a fan, but it happens. I think here a rule would be for men to not wear a simple t-shirt and gym shorts for an afternoon of sight-seeing or wine tasting.
Dressing For Churches And Cathedrals In Italy
There is one exception to all of my exceptions above. There is still a bit of conservatism when it comes to what to wear in Italy if you plan to visit churches. This includes even some of the most popular tourism sites in the country, like the Vatican.
It’s generally assumed that shoulders and knees will be covered. I’ve heard of tourists getting away with shorts and tanks in churches in Italy, but I always err on the side of caution and respect for the local norms.
In the hot summer months, this can mean a woman wearing capri pants and a scarf over a tank top if needed. I am used to this from when we lived in Thailand. When traveling around Southeast Asia I always carried a scarf to throw over my shoulders or a sarong to wrap around my waist.
For men, it’s a little more difficult in hot weather and would require long pants or “manpris.” Avoid tank tops for men. Practically, at most smaller churches no one would deny you entry, but it is always better to be safe than sorry, and to be respectful of the local culture.
What To Not Add To Your Italy Travel Items Checklist
There are a handful of items that many travelers consider adding to their vacation packing list. But for a variety of reasons these should be on your list of what not to pack for a trip to Italy. This is mostly because things have changed considerably in Italy, and the world in general, over the past decade.
In today’s society, traveler’s checks are no longer needed. In fact, they can be a real pain to use because you need to go to a bank (when the banks are open) to exchange them. Follow our tips on how to access money in Italy, above.
Most Italian hotels will have a hairdryer, even if it is not of the best quality. Packing a hairdryer takes up space. It requires an adapter. A lot of times hotel bathrooms in Italy don’t have an outlet for an appliance like this.
Baseball Cap or Visor
As much as it is becoming more common to see Italians wearing sneakers and even shorts, a baseball cap, particularly one with a US team just screams American.
The one exception is that because of its marketing might, a NY Yankees cap is seen on the heads of teenagers around the world. If you want to protect your face from the sun, perhaps purchase this foldable sunhat for women or this packable hat for men and women.
When living in Bangkok I bought a fabulous pair of bright red heels. I wore them out a lot there, where we were taking taxis or an Uber to go out at night with friends. I’ve never worn them in Italy or while living in Spain.
First, we walk everywhere. Second, heels and cobblestones don’t mix. Sure, you want to accessorize fabulous outfits to wear in Italy, but remember our mantra from above – Function Over Fashion.
What To Wear In Italy In Summer – May, June, July, August
I am the first to admit that I am not a fashionista. How many times have I repeated my mantra about function over fashion? As I get older, though, I am starting to think about what I wear when traveling. It’s also easier to have a more options for clothing now that we are no longer nomadic.
Summer in Italy is the perfect time for strappy sandals and sundresses. In June, we visited Bologna, Trento, and Genoa, traveling for two weeks. Half way through we rented an apartment with a washing machine. Good thing because we sweat a lot. This is what was in my suitcase:
- One pair of strappy black sandals and one pair of Birkenstocks
- One denim, sleeveless dress (above), one flowy pair of pants (in photo above), one pair of shorts, one pair of capris, and one pair black linen pants
- Seven tops, a mixture of sleeveless and 3/4 length
- Bright colored scarf
- One denim jacket and one black sweater (that I never used)
I only wore my shorts on travel days because the trains are not uber-air conditioned and for a craft beer festival. I generally wore my dress and flowy pants at night. It was too warm to wear jeans.
When it comes to what men wear when traveling to Italy, Eric usually goes pretty simple and keeps it inline with what I bring. He brought one pair of capri pants, three pairs of lightweight and linen pants, and left the jeans at home. As for tops, he brought two long sleeved but casual dress shirts, a couple of t-shirts, and a couple of polo shirts. That’s it. It’s an easy packing list for the warm weather in Italy.
Other Italy Travel Tips
Passport Requirements For Italy
If you are traveling from within the European Union, a National Identification card is sufficient. For the rest of us, a passport is required. Be sure to have at least six months validity on your passport. For example, if your trip begins on January 1, be sure that your passport doesn’t expire until after July 1.
Years ago, we would always carry a photocopy of both of our passports in every piece of baggage we carried (in case some were stolen). Now, I recommend scanning a copy or taking a photo on your phone and keeping it in the “cloud.” This can mean keeping it in Dropbox, Google Drive, or even just emailing it to yourself so that you can access it if need be.
If you are American, be aware of the rules for Schengen. Essentially, because Italy is part of the Schengen Zone (which is different from the European Union) Americans (as well as Kiwis, Aussies, and Canadians) are allowed to travel in Italy for no more than 90 days within 180 days.
This is a complicated and comprehensive travel topic, but just be aware of the Schengen Visa rules for traveling in Spain and throughout Europe.
This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Italy, or anywhere in the world, particularly from Americans. I will speak to this from an American perspective. I recommend bringing one ATM card and two credit cards. Keep one credit card in your hotel safe, or hidden in a suitcase just in case your bag is stolen. Call your bank and you credit card companies before leaving to let them know where you are traveling and when so that they do not turn your credit card off for suspicious behavior.
Most important, check whether your credit cards charge Foreign Transaction Fees. Foreign Transaction Fees can be 2-3% of every purchase you make. Some cards have these and some don’t. Most of our Chase credit cards don’t charge the fee. The same goes for ATM cards. Just call to confirm so you are not surprised when you get home with random fees. Also, Visa and Master Card are almost universally accepted. American Express is often not accepted because they charge a lot more fees. Discover is really not accepted at all.
As for money, the easiest and best way to access cash when traveling in Italy is to use the local ATM machines to withdraw Euros. There is no need to convert USD to Euros at your bank before leaving home. There is no need to convert at the airport in the US or in Europe. Generally, the exchange rates and fees are way worse than simply withdrawing money at an ATM. While in Italy, look for ATMs from major bank brands like Unicredit and Intesa. Avoid ATMs that are located as part of a souvenir shop or convenience store. To limit fees, we often withdraw €300 or €500 at a time. Eric carries some, I carry some, I hide some in a bag in my hotel room, etc.
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Packing For Italy Top Tips
Traveling to Italy is an adventure, loaded with history and great food. The thing to remember is that no matter how much you plan for your trip and how much research you do, something might go wrong. Don’t stress over it. Even with all of our travel experience, we still mess up when packing – mostly this involves leaving something at home.
Just remember Italy is not Mars. Other than prescription medication, you can buy almost everything you need in Italy. If you’ve made it this far in the post, you’ve done more research than I ever did for our first trip. Feel free to pin this post to Pinterest to save it for your trip research. But, also don’t forget to just enjoy your holiday in Italy!