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"Dress Code" for visiting churches

Many books mention that in order to be admitted to St. Peter's and other churches in Italy you must be dressed appropriately. We will be visiting Italy in July. Do arms have to be fully covered or can you wear a polo/golf shirt with short sleeves?

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks so much for the quick reply. I was not sure what "bare arms" specifically included. It will be challenging enough wearing long pants in July much less the thought of long sleeves too! Hope it's not too hot.

Posted by
31746 posts


To add to Kent's post, the "enforcers" are not always polite or nice when dealing with those that don't follow the dress code. I watched them "tear a strip" off a young lady that had removed the shawl off her shoulders after she was admitted to St. Peter's (she was wearing a sleeveless dress). It was surprisingly hot that day, even though it was late September. As you can imagine, she was almost in tears.

The dress code rules don't apply just to St. Peter's. During a visit to the Duomo in Siena, I noticed a group of college-age students being gently reprimanded by one of the "enforcers" there. One of the group was wearing a sleeveless shirt, and he was provided with a blue paper "tablecloth" so that his shoulders would be covered. Needless to say, his friends were merciless in teasing him!

The polo/golf shirt should be fine AFAIK, but be prepared to put up with the heat, as I'm sure July will be HOT!

Happy travels!

Posted by
22442 posts

It is simple -- covered shoulders, covered knees. And probably nothing in between should show either. Short sleeves work, shorts do not.

Posted by
411 posts

Do keep in mind that you are going into a church and need to show respect for that regardless of your faith or beliefs. The "enforcers" are just doing their jobs. The requirement for covered shoulers is clearly posted--- the woman apparently thought that she could simply use the shawl to get through the screening then remove the shawl. Maybe she was near tears realizing how terribly rude she'd been and she felt sorry--- hey I can dream LOL.

Posted by
22442 posts

Ken is absolutely correct. I have posted this story before but it worth repeating. We were entering the Duomo in Milan and passed a heated argument going on with the guard. There were two Am tourists in shorts who stated that they were men of God and demanded entrance. Both claimed to be Baptist ministers and from their accent I believe they were good Southern Baptists but it didn't earn them any favors that day.

Americans love their shorts in hot weather but there are other fabric that can be just as cool. I use a synthetic/cotton (20%) blend pants that is cool and comfortable and wears well.

Posted by
881 posts

FYI - Paul it's not just churches. I've run into dress codes at some museums, casinos (on the Mediterranean/Adriatic), and restaurants (especially at dinner hour). It's easiest to just try and dress a little more nicely than you may have otherwise. The enforcers are pretty adamant, and in my experience, the locals treat you a little better too. To quote one of my European friends, "I don't show up at your house in sweat pants." lol

Light materials help, and zip off legs can be a god-send... ;) (Do they still make those?)

Posted by
7737 posts

Very lightweight pants are the way to go. The zip off pants tend to be heavier in weight and the zippers are stiff, so I'm not crazy about them.

Posted by
11466 posts

There are lightweight linen pants too, our tour guide wore them everywhere last July-August , and yes, it was roasting hot in Rome. Zip off pants are also a great option, and women have it easiest of all, a sundress or skirt is cool and comfy, as long as it covers knees. Ps . In Italy I have seen men wear "manpris," shorts that are as long as ladys capris.

PS, I do think the girl was being a bit rude. The dress code is not just to get in the door, which she evidently thought. I mean, everyone is hot,, she is not suffering anymore then anyone else.
I am sure enforcers could have been nicer, but I bet they are sick of tourists who think the rules don't really apply to them.. trust me, many tourists seem to think they alone are special. ( as for those "men of God" shame on them, they should have respected the rules, frankly , I doubt whether they were real ministers as the Bible teaches one to respect rules, " give unto Caesar what is Caesars and unto God what is Gods) ,, if that church asks you to cover yourself,, you have no theological leg to stand on for not obeying rules as a Christian, regardless of if you are Catholic on not. As I said, I doubt they were ministers of any sort.

Posted by
255 posts

When we travel in Europe, we always dress more nicely than we would here at home. My husband HATES heat, but he pulls out the "office" clothing (nice collared shirts and khaki type pants) to take on European trips. That is why we generally travel in October. I know everyone doesn't have that luxury. Generally speaking, as long as the shirt has sleeves it should be good to go. We have never been turned away from anywhere when dressed like that and we have made about a dozen trips overseas. The rule also applies to women.

Posted by
85 posts

As for the Baptist ministers, I wonder if they get up to the pulpit on Sunday morning and give the sermon in shorts? Or would they appreciate their wives and children attending church in shorts? I agree, it's a respectful thing to be clothed modestly. Frankly, I enjoy seeing anyone in any place dressed modestly.