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Italy_Dressing to "fit in"

I've been packing for our Italy trip and want to fit in as much as possible. I like the idea of dresses or skirts, but my feet cannot walk all day in the shoes that go with them. We tend to tour long days when we travel. I am 70 years old and, though I look younger, my feet don't know it.

I know older Italian women usually wear dresses. While I like dresses, I usually wear pants because I need to wear sneaker type walking shoes or Teva sandals with socks and neither of those go with a dress. Most people think socks in sandals look terrible so I have been practicing trying to wear the sandals with sheer stockings. Maybe I can get away with them in a dress? I don't have dressy leather sandals that feel good for all day wear and there is no way I'm wearing anything with heels for all day walking.

For people who have spent a lot of time in Italy, what is your opinion? Is there a good compromise between style and comfort for feet? I hate sticking out like like I have a label that says "tourist".

Posted by
9447 posts

Older Italian women do not always wear dresses, and even if you did so, you style would no doubt be better than the frumpy skirts and low heels I see on "older" (like 80-y-o) Italian women. Italians so tend to wear clothes that flatter, that are not baggy. Wear jeans or slacks you are comfortable in with nice tops. I also like to use some of the stretchy, drapey pieces (dresses, skirts, pants) in jersey knit from Chicos and Travelsmith. They never wrinkle and take up little space. In summer I wear mid-calf length dresses with walking sandals from Ecco or Soft Walks.

You will still scream "tourist" because we carry ourselves differently, so I am told by Italian friends. I can put on Italian clothes and still look North American. Also your backpack or large traveling shoulder bag, map and guidebook will give you away. :-) I think if you dress tastefully and coordinated in a style that suits you, you will fit in better than the short-shorts, t-shirt wearing crowd.

Posted by
524 posts

I don't think you can get away with stockings in sandals. These are my "fancier" pair of sandals I am taking with dresses/skirts when I want to wear black:

https://www.thewalkingcompany.com/taos-party-black/33932

As you can see, they are on sale right now (darn it)! They are so unbelieveble comfortable (and cute). They have a nice pad in the back of the heel, good support and the leather doesn't cut or rub. I tried 25 pairs of sandals on, as many just bug my feet. It was a toss up between the ones I bought and these...but I ended up keeping the above, I don't remember why. But these were also really cute and comfy:

https://www.thewalkingcompany.com/abeo-b.i.o.-cheri-neutral-black/395129

Posted by
7736 posts

I think your feet should be your focus and you should wear whatever you need to to take care of them, otherwise it will have an impact on the rest of your trip. It worries me that you might plan to compromise by wearing stockings when it sounds like your feet might be more comfortable in socks.

Heed what Laurel says about most of us not being able to camouflage the fact that we are an American. The way we walk, the look on our faces, hair, shoes, everything is a dead give away. Plus the fact that you will be going to tourist sights and looking at your surroundings!

On my RS Best of Europe trip last year one of the gals had a terrible time with her feet. She had shoes that had been comfortable at home but were not comfortable for the long days of walking we had on that tour. She said having uncomfortable shoes and the resultant hurting feet compromised her trip.

Posted by
2235 posts

Hey Catherine, sounds to me like you will be in Italy as a tourist, yes? Why would you want to disguise yourself as something other than what you are? I think the best idea is to come across as a nice, friendly, comfortable, reasonably neat and clean tourist, not a tourist who is loud, disrespectful, sloppy, unclean or smelly! The most key thing is to be comfortable, and to be prepared to make sure your knees and shoulders are covered when going into churches. Among the most important things to pack, I think, are two pairs of footwear, one which allows you to walk extensively, without pain or blisters, the other to change into when you are relaxing and not walking much, like in your lodging, going out to dinner, or traveling between places by train, bus, car or plane. There is a whole page on this forum on "best walking shoes for travel", where many people will share their experiences. But, if you are already packing you are probably traveling soon, and it is not a good idea to travel with new shoes that are not yet broken in and not yet proven comfortable to you while walking extensively.

Posted by
11613 posts

I also wear pants because of shoe issues. I tried sheer stockings instead of socks, but the stockings made my feet slip in the shoes, so I went back to socks. I bought several pair from Calzedonia (stores everywhere), they are the thinnest and very comfortable for long walking days.

Posted by
5714 posts

I am your age and wear pants unless it is hot summer when I wear a skirt and sandals bare foot. I wear them for the same reason -- shoes. I have a pair of merrell mesh top clogs that are the most comfortable shoes ever made and I wear those with black socks and pants and never have a blister. For my fall trip to Russia where it supposedly rains a lot, I got a pair of black hiking shoes that are waterproof -- I don't expect to wear them much but because they are black, they are unobtrusive.

You will blend in fine in black or brown slacks, a jacket and a scarf and even if you had to wear neon yellow or white athletic shoes -- happy feet are job one when traveling. I also always have a pair of those jell blue heel cushion things because walking 10 miles on pavement sometimes kicks off platar fascitis for me and cushioning is the key to avoiding that. I use them in the hiking shoes.

Old women in Italy tend to wear housedressy looking dresses and sweaters -- it is not a good look. Stylish women of any age can be seen in well fitted slacks as well as skirts -- it is the beautifully styled hair, make up and well fitted clothing and accessories that make them stand out. But look around any crowded spot and more people than not will look as schlumpy as any similar crowd in the US or elsewhere.

And frankly, there is no person on earth more invisible than a 70 year old woman.

Posted by
2096 posts

Lots of good advice here, especially the part about thinking of your feet first and then dressing to suit the shoes. For my feet to be happy they need socks--Smartwool or Wrightsocks--and a sturdy boot or oxford--coincidentally, that's my usual casual footwear at home so I'm already set for travel. I walk many miles and usually over cobblestones much of the time on my trips and there's no way I'm taking a chance on unhappy feet.

Have you looked at Wolky? They have some extremely comfortable and stylish shoes and sandals, if you insist on sandals.

Posted by
11977 posts

No matter what you wear, Italians will still be able to tell you are a tourist. And they won't care what you wear or look like anyway. Just wear what is comfortable for you. My mother and several of my aunts wore slacks sometimes well into their late 70s and 80s.
The only thing you won't see too often among older Italian women is blue jeans, but nice pants/slacks work. If you travel now or September, I would advise against wearing jeans, because jeans aren't particularly cool when the weather is similar to Florida.
I also see a lot of tourists, including women, wearing shorts with comfortable walking shoes.

Posted by
5352 posts

On my trips (and at home) I wear Keen H2O sandals without socks -- clunky-looking but comfortable on long walks. Nobody threw me out of Italy for wearing the Keens with a skirt. As Janettravels44 noted, women our age are "invisible."

Posted by
4152 posts

Italians will know you're a tourist so I wouldn't worry about it. Wear what is comfortable for you. There is no sense in trying to "blend in" because you won't.

Donna

Posted by
11658 posts

Catherine, heed the "feet first" advice! That you have footwear that can hold up to everything from cobblestones to wet, deadly-slippery polished marble is the most important piece of dressing for Italy. The Italian do not care what you are wearing. They are are walkers, for sure, but there's a difference between going to work and running errands, and the type of all-day sightseeing you're going to be doing. Even Italian women wear very sensible shoes when having to be on their feet for lengthy periods.

I do bring two pairs of walking shoes (wear one; pack one) and switch them out as that seems to help keep my feet in shape. I also wear socks made of synthetic material to eliminate blisters (learned that as a hiker).

And no, you do not need a dress. I've never packed one but then, I rarely ever wear them at home so jeans, pants and capris are what I'm comfortable in. Bring what's tidy but familiar and comfortable for YOU (no fussy fabrics!!!) and you'll be fine!

Posted by
2525 posts

Surely all tourists obsess not ony about clothing and to "ft in" but also understand how to act politely, learn words and polite phrases, avoid being an obstacle (with or without baggage) in crowded areas and leave selfie sticks at home.

Posted by
7735 posts

Definitely think feet first. As for the rest of what you're wearing, just don't look like you're there to mow the lawn, as a certain famous travel guide likes to say. And you can bet your Birkenstocks that pickpockets are going to target the clueless tourist wearing the USA shirt and the NFL hat over the tourist who clearly is more savvy than that.

Have a great time.

Posted by
18 posts

Don't we wish. We lived in Germany and England, each for 4 years. We managed to pass for locals, but so many Americans just don't think.

Posted by
18 posts

I'm afraid I'll have to consider my feet first. A simple pair of flats will do for an evening. I guess I'll stick to my smart wool socks and walking shoes for most of the long walks. My clothing is pretty conservative at any rate, mostly slacks and modest blouses, so I don't have a concern about visiting churches. I never wear shorts in public, even at home.

Posted by
10295 posts

Depends somewhat on where in Italy you'll be: The locals in down-town areas of Milan dress differently than the locals in typical country locations--like most countries (but maybe a bit more so), the difference between big city and country.

Posted by
979 posts

Have you considered a sandal with a small cork heel? My podiatrist told me it is better for my foot to have a slight heel and NEVER EVER a flat shoe (ballet flats). I purchased these two shoes for my trip due to a recent bout of Planters Factitious that I don't want to flare up in Europe:
http://www.amazon.com/Aetrex-Womens-Lori-Quarter-Sandal/dp/B008OPPIU0/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440532784&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=aertex+lori

and
http://www.amazon.com/Orthaheel-Muir-Womens-Strap-Sandal/dp/B005959FZ2/ref=sr_1_46?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1440532845&sr=1-46&keywords=orthaheel

And an Insert will go in my one pair of closed toed shoe (I rip the insert out and replace with the Pinacle Power Sport insole).

All shoes will be worn with all outfits. It is fashionable to wear a Sketchers type closed toe shoe with skirts. Can I ask why you need to wear a foot covering with your sandals?? That just sounds so hot to me, I can't stand hot feet! I dress to be respectful but never to fit in. I also don't want to look like a frump when I am out and about. I do read lot's of trip reports and look at lots of trip pictures and lots of the woman have maxi-skirts or dresses on...I plan on taking one of each.

Posted by
792 posts

I guess my Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts, and white Reebok's are a little conspicuous ... ya think?

Posted by
18 posts

I need socks because I can't stand bare feet for more than 5 minutes. I am just not comfortable that way. Smartwool socks are so comfortable, winter or summer. I am not really a sandal person, but I can wear them if I have socks on. The links you sent are similar to the sandals I have. I also dug through the closet and found a leather pair of walking shoes I had never worn because they felt stiff, but I'm softening them up with oil and wearing them now. I will see if they can become comfy before we leave. If so, they can replace the sneakers. If not, I may have to wear the silver ones with pink flashes on them...LOL. Anyway, I've done a good job of packing RS style and have my case around 25 pounds. I don't want to make it heavy by taking too many shoes and I don't want to buy new ones that I can't really try out before the trip. We'll be gone a month, so I need to be comfortable.

Posted by
20686 posts

Jim
I think it is fine if you are comfortable wearing that then do it. I remember walking pass a similarly attired pair of good southern Baptist being denied entrance to the cathedral in Milan. They were protesting loudly that they were good Christian men who should be allowed inside. The guard was unmoved. Also like seeing people dressed in the same fashion in a group because I think they are a good distraction for pickpockets. I would feel safer if you were in the same area that I was.

Posted by
792 posts

Frank, it was tongue-in-cheek, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that in Italy at my age.

Posted by
151 posts

My wife just got a pair of these for our upcoming trip:
https://www.on-running.com/en-us/products/cloud-charcoal-rose-w
Not sure if that particular color, but she tried a friend's out and they weigh nearly nothing yet provide plenty of support. (I guess if a marathoner can do over 26 miles in them, they will work for 10-15 miles of walking.) And, because they are Swiss, she will surely seem like a "local." LOL

And as for me . . . hey, I have seen Italian men (including pop stars) wearing Hawaiian shirts! (Nonetheless, I'll have the requisite slacks and jacket too.)

Posted by
1099 posts

I personally don't care what I look like anymore, not here to impress anyone. I go for comfort. Cobblestone streets can be miserable, add in plantar fasciitis, oy! Wear comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes and enjoy yourself!

Posted by
792 posts

eh, I rip out the insoles and put in Doctor Scholls gels ..walking on clouds

Posted by
7676 posts

I don't know where you are going in Italy, but one thing to be aware of is in some smaller towns you might find turkish toilets at train stations and public bathrooms. When dealing with them, a skirt or dress would be much easier.

Posted by
18 posts

Andrea, you are so right. I've experienced those in the past and they are very difficult for ladies. We are going to Venice, Florence, Padua, Siena, Assisi and some smaller country towns and villages. I did see Rick's note that one bar in Venice has the squat toilet.

Posted by
1 posts

A pair of well made, low wedge sandals were my best friend on my trip to Italy this past July. I brought Tsubo "Olivette" wedges in navy and they were dressy enough for skirts and looked fine with jeans too. I had brought other shoes, such as a dressier, higher wedge for fancier evenings when I'd be traveling by car or taxi, as well as a low-profile sneaker. However I think these Tsubos got the most use for their versatility and comfort. The leather is so soft..no blisters!

It may reassure you to know that I saw plenty of similar type sandals on other travelers and locals as well. But personally I think you need to consider your own comfort far above the need to "blend" in or not look touristy.

I used to go out of my way to try and look like a local. But after 3 trips to Italy, not to mention many other European cities I've been to, I probably didn't succeed and...I'm over it. Here's why: If you're primarily concerned about being a target for thieves, other factors besides your footwear/clothing are going to give you away as a traveler anyway. Take safety precautions such as how you store your valuables, etc. If you simply don't want appear foreign...consider the thousands of other tourists that will also be in whatever major city you intend to visit, looking at the same attractions and walking in the same places you'll be at any given time. Then add the throngs of recent immigrants from all parts (Asia, Africa, etc)...also with non-local modes of dress...that are everywhere now. Why would anyone single you out? If you pack what you're proud to wear while in the US, just enjoy your time away... being yourself and being comfy!

Posted by
4 posts

I live in Munich, which is a melting pot: 25% of the population is from somewhere else (Italy, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Greece). Add in the Eritreans, Somalians, Saudis and other Arabs, and then there's the Asian and American tourists.
What do the locals wear? Trachten, for sure (dirndls and lederhosen). But so many wear Hollister t-shirts and sweatshirts. Oh, and shirts that say Camp David. That is how we know we are looking at Europeans these days -- quite funny, really...
My past experience says you cannot look Italian without really big glamorous sunglasses. I'll find out if that's still true in September, but I'm definitely taking mine, with skirts and walking shoes. And no European wears pantyhose in the summer.

Posted by
3 posts

Please go to a good shoe store and look at the NAOT shoes. The style that works best for me is a sort of Mary Jane. I can go miles and miles in them and they look better with dresses than tennis shoes;-) I reccommended them to a neighbor who just returned from 3 weeks in Europe. She said she left her tennis shoes behind a few days in so that she would have more suitcase space for other things. Spent 3 weeks in NAOT and came home happy. No, I do not work for them.

Posted by
18 posts

I appreciate everyone's suggestions. It is too late for me to try getting new shoes since we leave in a week. I would not take new shoes that I haven't had a chance to really try out before traveling. If we were traveling by car, I could have several pair in reserve in case one didn't work out, but I need to consider every ounce of weight for this trip. I will wear what I have and can begin looking at better shoes when we return. I have been softening and wearing a nice pair of dark leather shoes that I may wear in place of the sport shoes. They look much sleeker.

Posted by
34 posts

LuLu,

Thanks for the Taos sandals recommendation. I love these sandals. I had them overnight to me on the 25th of August when you posted. I have been wearing them since I got them. They are comfortable on my hard to fit feet, but I do have to remove my ankle bracelet since I got stabbed by it a few times. I like these so much I am gonna order another pair in black in case I trash these in Italy and also the pewter and white for Maui.

Thanks again,

Kathi

PS: Didn't have the white in my size ; (