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How to pack for your trip to Italy

packing italy tips

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Are you ready to start packing for Italy? Once you’ve finalized your itinerary and your bookings are set it’s a good idea to have a packing strategy for your trip. Italy is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth but there are a few things to know before packing your bags.

In this article we share our top packing tips, the must have items for your trip, what to wear in Italy and answer frequently asked questions that come up in our Italy Travel Planning community. Whether you’re going for a week or a month, these Italy packing tips will keep you focused on the essentials and what you can leave behind. You can then relax and go back to dreaming of your daily gelato when you get there!

Top packing tips for Italy

After traveling to Italy for over 20 years, we’ve learnt a few things the hard way about what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to your Italy packing list. Follow these tips for a stress free plan to getting organized for your departure.

1. Double check your travel documents

Passport

Make sure you have all your documents in order for your trip. Your passport must have 6 months validity from your arrival date in Italy so make sure you check that it’s not due to expire soon and take immediate action if you need a new one.

Visa

Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand qualify for a 90 day tourist visa on arrival. All other nationalities should check this Italian government website.

how to pack for italy

Covid status

Depending on your country of residence you may need to provide evidence of Covid vaccination, recovery and/or proof of a negative test within 48 hours of you trip departure. Make sure you have this information available or risk being refused boarding on your flight. For the latest requirements for your individual travel plans – check this Italian government site. You might also want to check the general protocols and restrictions for travel to Italy in 2021.

Travel Insurance

Now more than ever it is important to take out trip insurance. Apart from the costs of cancelation and theft, the most important reason to purchase trip insurance for Italy is to cover emergency health and repatriation costs should you have an accident or become ill. We use World Nomads Insurance which is great for travelers under 65 > click here to get a quote for your trip

To learn more about why you should insure your trip to Italy click here.

Other useful documents

  • If you are planning to drive in Italy, an International Driver’s Permit is a required document. You can organize one for around $20 – $30 through your local automobile association.
  • Copies of your prescriptions are useful in case you lose your luggage or it is delayed.
  • Students and people with disabilities can access discounts at museums and attractions in Italy. Make sure to bring the appropriate identification documents with you.

2. Keep your luggage lean

How much luggage you take to Italy is a personal choice but we recommend that you avoid taking large suitcases. This is for two reasons. Firstly, they are cumbersome if you need to walk any distance over cobblestones or bridges – very common in Italy and especially Venice. Secondly, if you are getting around by train or car there is limited space available for luggage. Car trunks or boots are smaller than what you are used to and train luggage racks are suitable for medium cases.

best medium sized bag for italy travel

Many people like to travel with carry-on luggage only. This is great if you are able to travel lightly and are not planning to purchase souvenirs or gifts. Personally, we travel with this medium sized luggage because we like to make a few considered purchases along the way. We use taxis to get to our accommodation, so walking with bags is not an issue.

READ: Our full guide for choosing luggage for your Italy trip

3. Check the weather for each destination that you are visiting 

Weather conditions in Italy can vary dramatically depending on the time of year and place you are visiting. In Spring and Fall, Rome can be mild and sunny, while the southern regions including the Amalfi Coast can be very warm and cities in the north like Venice and Milan can be quite cool. Make sure you check a service like Accuweather for the latest forecast and expected conditions before your trip and plan your outfits accordingly.

4. Choose your shoes wisely

Italy is a beautiful country of breathtaking landscapes and stunning towns and cities. Part of the charm is of course the cobbled streets, rolling hills and steep cliff faces. You’ll be doing a lot of walking on this uneven ground during your trip. Even accounting for the odd taxi we usually do around 20,000 steps a day! Make sure you take suitable flat footwear that will get you around with ease.

For some reason Italian women can glide effortlessly over cobbled streets in towering heels. But, we cannot stress enough, even a slight wedge means potentially rolling your ankle which would be a sorry thing to happen on your trip. These days there are many pretty and practical shoes. Leave the heels behind – you won’t be sorry.

thing to pack for italy - comfortable walking shoes

5. Leave space in your case

Whatever sized luggage you take, make sure there is room for purchases. Italy is home to many talented artisans, and you’re sure to pick up a special souvenir or two on your travels. Whether it’s a coveted leather jacket in Florence, beautifully made Tuscan products or a very special bottle of wine, you’ll want to make sure you can stow your new things carefully.  I even take a foldable duffel bag as a back up “just in case” I am tempted to buy more than I thought I would.

Must have items for your Italy trip

Clothing

  • Flat shoes – as mentioned above, comfortable flat shoes are critical items for your packing list. Check out brands like Allbirds, Bared and Vionic for shoes that will keep your comfortable over days of tramping on cobblestones
  • Scarf or pashmina – keeps you warm on the plane, an instant outfit improver and useful cover-up if you’re entering churches, Buy a beautiful silk scarf in Italy or stash this elegant pashmina in your carry-on
  • Cross body bag or day pack – keep your daily essentials close to hand with a crossbody bag or day pack suitable for travel. We use our normal crossbody but if you’d like a little more security, this Travelon bag is a useful purchase
  • Sunglasses – you’re going to Italy. Sunglasses are worn in every season. Buy a stylish pair in Italy or take your favorite shades.
  • Packing cubes – the travel packing game changer. Keeps your luggage organized and compact

Our favorite packing cubes

Security crossbody bag
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Technology and power

  • Personal wifi device – stay connected on your travels with your own wifi device. Local SIMs can be fiddly and your phone plan expensive and/or has slow connection speeds. We use the Skyroam wifi device to connect up to 10 devices at fast speeds. It also acts as a usb battery charger and is small and lightweight > learn more
  • Power strip with adaptor / convertor – if you’re traveling from the United States, your devices operate at a different voltage to those in Italy. Make sure you protect your equiment with a power adaptor. Buy a power strip with sockets and USB ports and you’ve got all your bases covered.
  • Spare battery / usb charger – there’s nothing worse than losing power when you want to take a photo or need to reference a map. These days, spare batteries are the size of a lipstick so you can tuck it into your bag or purse.
  • Spare memory cards – swap out your memory card every other day as a useful backup strategy and trust us, you cannot underestimate how many photos you’ll take in Italy

Power strip with adaptor

Lipstick sized battery charger

Laundry

  • Laundry sheets – the best way to do a quick wash when you’re traveling. No mess from powders or pods plus light as air
  • Stain remover wipes – useful for minor emergencies
  • Wrinkle release spray – you’d be surprised how few hotels and Airbnbs provide irons these days. This spray is a useful solution

Health and beauty

  • Collapsible water bottle – in Italy you can fill up for free at water fountains around most cities and towns
  • Insect repellent and sun screen – bring your favorite and strong repellent and sunscreen for skin protection
  • Washcloths – we know a lot of our American readers are surprized that hotels in Italy do not supply washcloths. If that’s important to you then you’ll need to bring your own
  • Pain relief/medication – bring a small supply of your favorite brands
  • Face masks – you are required to wear face masks indoors in Italy at this time so come prepared (latest restrictions)
  • Hand sanitizer – we’re all in the habit of this now but make sure you have your favorite brand in a travel sized bottle

Collapsible water bottle

Wine wings

Other

  • Umbrella – have a sturdy little umbrella in case of showers and avoid buying an expensive and poorly made one
  • Reusable shopping bag – plastic bags are not usually supplied in Italian grocery stores. Bring a small packable bag instead
  • Wine wings – the best way to bring your treasured wine purchase back in your checked luggage

What to wear in Italy

Many people ask what should I wear in Italy, and it’s a great question. There are a few considerations for building travel outfits suitable for your trip.

Destinations and weather

Check the weather forecast before you depart for each of the destinations you are planning to visit and adjust your packing accordingly. While it may be cool and crisp in Venice, the conditions in Rome are likely to be much warmer. The beachy vibes of Positano are less formal than fashion forward and Milan with cooler temperatures.

Fitting in as a tourist 

No one wants to stand out in a crowd for the wrong reasons. Italians are generally smart dressers with strong regard for their grooming and appearance. Clothing is generally more tailored than you might be familiar with at home. For example, leggings are not considered appropriate attire unless you are exercising.

That being said, you will probably look like a tourist and that’s ok. After all, most Italians won’t be walking around the sights taking photos. The best thing to do is make sure you are comfortable, neat and tidy.

Also remember to be respectful of local traditions. It is expected that you cover shoulders and knees when entering churches in Italy including St Peters and the Vatican. That applies to all members of your family. A lightweight scarf is a useful item to pack if you’re wearing clothing that may not cover these areas.

Materials

Choose lightweight clothing layers that are easy to wash, non-creasing and quick to dry – with bonus points for moisture wicking. Unless you have access to a hotel laundry you need to assume that you’ll need to air dry your clothes as most Italians (and therefore Airbnbs and apartments) do not own a clothes dryer. For this reason, while jeans are always a popular item to pack when traveling, they are heavy and take ages to dry out.

These pants from Athleta are made of a lightweight material that is crease resistant and also has a bit of stretch. We also like the the under garments from Uniqlo’s Heat Tech or Airism ranges.

How to plan your outfits for Italy

what to wear italy

If you spend some time planning out what to take to Italy from your closet, you’ll not waste time deciding what to wear each day on your vacation and instead be out enjoying the sites knowing that you look fabulous.

In a recent chat with our friend Corinna who wrote Glam Italia! How to Travel to Italy, we discussed several ways of planning outfits so you can be organized for your trip. Some of the strategies she mentioned included:

  • Planning outfits for each day and evening based on the destination and weather
  • Using each item at least 2/3 times
  • Choosing colors that suit the local terrain so you look great in photos. She never wears beige in Tuscany as it blends into the earthy tones of the scenery
  • Applying rules of 3 in a color palette so you don’t need to add extra complementary items

If you’re building a packing list for 2 weeks in Italy (or more) and are not concerned about repeating outfits, you can plan for a week making sure you have timed your washing for relevant stops in your itinerary.

What not to bring to Italy

Here are few items that it’s really not worth packing for your Italy trip. Eliminate them from your luggage and you’ll have more space for souvenirs.

Heeled shoes – we’ve mentioned this a few times now but it’s a point well worth making. Italian women have the incredible ability to walk on uneven ground in heels but most of us weren’t blessed with this talent. Invest in flat and comfortable shoes. There are many stylish options these days so there’s no need to worry that your outfit planning will suffer.

Full makeup kits and shampoo and conditioner – no need to bring your full beauty kit. Transfer small amounts of your favorite brands into smaller containers like these ones. Some people like to buy shampoo etc when they arrive but we don’t like this because you don’t know if it will work with your hair and it’s a terrible waste if you throw it away when you depart – not to mention terrible for the environment.

Luxury items including jewelry – unless you’re traveling with a private entourage, it’s best to leave your best jewelry and other expensive items at home. It’s amazing how many items get lost when you’re on the road. Instead bring costume jewelry that you won’t be devastated to lose.

Italy packing FAQ

Should I take only carry-on luggage?

There is a big trend towards traveling with only carry-on luggage and there many advantages to this approach. However, we travel with medium cases and it is just fine so long as you are prepared to take the odd taxi to and from your accommodation.

Can I wear leggings in Italy?

You can wear whatever you like however you may feel a little under-dressed. Italians generally save their leggings for exercising.

Can I wear sneakers in Italy?

Yes of course. Sneakers are usually one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes you own and are great for those thousands of steps over cobblestones each day. If you want to look “more Italian” choose a classic white shoe like these Italian made Superga sneakers.

Packing checklist for Italy

Packing for Italy is an important part of your trip planning but it can be overwhelming. To help you out we created this downloadable Italy Packing Checklist with sections for clothing, technology, documentation, health and beauty and more. We hope you find it useful and feel confident you’re ready to get on your flight to explore beautiful Italia!

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