You’re going to walk the streets of Rome, lounge in a gondola in Venice, shop ‘til you drop in Milan, and tour the vineyards of Tuscany – and you need a new outfit for each one! Or so you think.
Packing more isn’t always better. With more and more airlines cracking down on weight limits, save yourself some space (and stress) by strategically picking clothing items that can be worn in several different outfits – especially shoes. Plus, you’ll be glad not to have more than one suitcase to drag down those cobbled streets and up the stairs at the metro on your way to the hostel.
You’re on your own for the basics – shirts, pants, socks. If you need it at home, you’ll need it on your trip and we trust you to dress yourself. But believe us when we say you really don’t need four pairs of sneakers, three pairs of sandals, two pairs of heels, and six bathing suits.
That being said, here’s what to pack for Italy, complete with all those things you didn’t think you’d need. High season, low season, beaches, museums, or mountaintops – we’ve got you covered.
Accessories for Italy
Sunglasses – So you can really get a good look and take it all in.
Scarf – Great in the summer for covering up at churches and practical in the winter for another easy layer, your scarf is going to be your most versatile accessory.
Hat – There’s always room for seasonally appropriate headwear in your suitcase. In the summer a hat can keep you from getting home and realising you’re squinting in every picture you took. In the winter it doubles as a fashion statement and a functional ear warmer. And on the off chance there actually isn’t room in your suitcase, just wear it on the plane and stow it under the seat when nap time comes.
Theft-proof purse/theft-proof bag/money belt – Perhaps not the most fashion forward accessory, it’s definitely worth toting around if it keeps you from loosing your cash in the train station or on the bus.
Chances are in winter you won’t have to worry too much about appropriate attire for churches, cathedrals, and the Vatican, but in the summer you should be sure to pack a few more conservative outfits that cover shoulders and knees. Tank tops, strapless shirts, miniskirts, and shorts are a no go. Instead, opt for loose fitting T-shirts, capris, or knee-length skirts.
Down jacket – Specifically a down jacket that is compactable. Don’t laugh. Even during summer night temperatures can drop pretty low depending on what part of Italy you’re visiting. A compactable down jacket is the perfect solution because it doesn’t take up much room in your luggage or daypack and doesn’t wrinkle.
Light sweater – If you’re not sold on the idea of a down jacket in July, at least pack a light sweater so we don’t have to say “I told you so.” Really, it’s hard to track down every reader and we don’t have that much free time.
Walking shoes – Leave the Vans and Converse at home and opt for a shoe with more cushion and support to protect your feet from the uneven streets of the historic parts of town. After a day of walking on cobble, your feet with thank you.
Flipflops – For beach days and downtime at the hostel.
Touch screen gloves – Because social hour doesn’t stop when you get cold. Browse, like, favorite, and navigate maps in comfort and style.
Waterproof boots – No one wants it to rain on their holiday parade, so by all means keep your fingers crossed that you’ll have blue skies. But in the case that you don’t, you’ll be glad you packed your waterproof boots so you aren’t trudging around with wet socks all day.
Waterproof jacket – You may also want to borrow that compactable down jacket from the summer list for the dry days, but down jackets really aren’t meant to get soaking wet. Pack a versatile waterproof jacket or a thick wool coat so you’re covered for any wet weather that comes your way.
Layers, layers, layers – This isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but dressing in layers can really save you. Sure, it’s annoying to have to take everything off just to put it back on a few minutes later, but when you’re sweating bullets in the metro while waiting for the train, you’ll be glad to have a few layers to peel off.
Adaptors – We’re not going to break our won’t-cover-the-absolute-basics rule and remind you that you should bring your phone charger, but we will say that you’ll likely need adaptors in order for those chargers to actually work. Pay special attention to the voltage, especially for items like flat irons or hair dryers if coming from the US or Canada as those often designed for lower voltage.
Portable charger – Even a cheap portable charger is going to be a lifesaver, but some chargers available online can fully charge an iPhone up to nine times. Imagine the stress you’ll save yourself when you don’t have to pop into a coffee shop to charge your phone several times a day – though please still do feel welcome to swing by the bar for an espresso as often as you need.
Phone camera lens – Available online starting around 15 USD (€13), these lenses clip onto your phone over the existing camera lens and have the power to turn amateur photographers into instant Insta stars (results may vary).
Cell phone stand – For those nights that you just need to recharge, a cell phone stand really comes in handy. Enjoy a movie in bed without your phone falling over every time the guy in the upper bunk needs to get just one more thing.
Headphones – To use when enjoying those movies at the hostel. Don’t be that guy.
Microfiber towel – Compact and convenient, a microfiber towel dries fast enough that it’s perfect for that last-night-at-the-hostel shower. It will also make a great beach towel or picnic blanket in a pinch.
Filtered water bottle – Staying hydrated in Italy is super important, especially during the hot summer months when dehydration can easily sneak up on you during a day of sightseeing and gelato eating. Rome is known for having public drinking fountains called “nasoni” (which literally means “big nose”) that run on a system dating back to the 1870s. The water is safe to drink as it’s the same water that runs to local homes and with a filtered water bottle you can save on the cost of disposable bottles and fill up for free.
First aid kit – No, we’re not going to nag you like Mom. All we’re going to say is the last thing you need is a blister on the day you have 20 km to cover.
Umbrella – Rain or shine, it’s got you covered.
If you’re on the fence about packing something, then don’t. In all likelihood, you won’t need it and if you do you can buy it on your trip and bring it home as a souvenir. But, while we’re at it, please do invest in some packing cubes beforehand.