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Places you can't wear shorts.

I know that shorts are not allowed in the Vatican, but what other major places are they not allowed? We are traveling to Rome, Florence and Venice. Trying to decide how to pack for our family.

Posted by
382 posts

Count on churches requiring knees and shoulders to be covered. At St. Marks in Venice last summer, there were lots of people standing in line wearing shorts and tank tops. When they got to the entrance they were given cover ups - including sarong style wraps to cover knees. But I wouldn’t count on these being available at all churches. I wore a skirt with Capri leggings to cover my knees. If it’s hot (it will be in summer!), just take off the leggings afterward. For men, I would wear pants and bring shorts to change into after. Keep in mind that no bags are allowed at St. Marks (including backpacks) so these have to be checked at a separate location nearby. Check your bag before getting in the entry line or skip-the-line-entry line.

Posted by
31137 posts

texan,

You likely won't be allowed with shorts or sleeveless tops in any Duomos / Churches in Italy. Some are more strict than other, especially the Vatican. This website provides some information - https://traveltips.usatoday.com/wear-vacation-italy-11426.html .

As an example, I was in the Duomo in Siena one afternoon when a group of university-aged students tried to enter. Several of the guys were wearing sleeveless T-shirts and they were refused entry. However the Duomo provided them with "paper tablecloths" with a hole in the centre for the head and with that they were allowed in. Given their unusual attire, those with the tablecloths were subject to much teasing from their classmates.

Posted by
3787 posts

This was in 2004, standing in line for St. Mark’s in Venice. Several people in shorts were wrapping their jackets around their legs in an attempt to cover their knees. Not sure how that worked for being able to walk and keep knees covered, and I’m not sure the church offered alternatives at the time. One of us kept our place in line while the other stashed our backpacks in the designated place on the far side of St. Mark’s square.

Lightweight nylon pants with zip-off legs allow for shorts when you need them, pants when you need them - check out REI for styles and colors.

Posted by
1669 posts

Thanks Roberto!

I’ve spent the last two weeks in France and London. Many American tourists stand out like a sore thumb in their slovenly dress. I know they are American from either hearing them (accent and volume), their ball caps or their pushyness.

If you wear shorts, please wear nice ones and remember no white socks and sandals!

Posted by
2382 posts

Yup, any church. The Pantheon in Rome is a church, FYI. Also would be against dress code or norms at fancy restaurants anytime or any upscale place for dinner.

Shorts are fine in museums (except Vatican Museum, because it's the Vatican), archaeological sights, walking around in cities, and basically anywhere that's not a church or a fancy restaurant.

Note that shoulders must be covered in churches, too. So no sleeveless tops - t-shirts with short sleeves are fine, not tank tops.
Being covered knees and shoulders is the only "dress code". You could wear a scarf sarong or a skirt fashioned out of your coat - if you want to wear shorts you can bring something to cover with when entering churches, even if it looks silly. I prefer sleeveless tops in the summer so always have a scarf for when I enter churches. Usually I wear a to-the-knee length dress, or a slightly longer skirt, or cropped flowy pants, easier than trying to cover up shorts.

Posted by
17630 posts

I think it's a shame not to be able to pop into any church that looks interesting, so I travel with at least one pair of super-lightweight full-length or cropped pants and lightweight tops with sleeves. It reduces my need for sun-tan lotion, too. Often the coolest place you can easily find in Italy in the summer is an old, thick-walled, church. You'll encounter many museums, shops and restaurants without air-conditioning.

Posted by
50 posts

Definitely all the churches. Just bring a cover-up like a scarf or a sarong that you can conveniently wrap around your waist to cover your legs when entering the churches. But if you want better-looking outfits for a photo, opt for a longer skirt or flowy pants instead.

Posted by
1833 posts

I don't know where Americans read these things, but out of churches there are no rules/laws against shorts.

I'm sure you can freely enter Saint Peter's Square (territory of the Vatican) in shorts and most probably you can also enter the Vatican Museums, with the relevant exception of the Sistine Chapel (it's actually Church).

You are visiting a country where there isn't a term to translate dress code, you can wear whatever you like as long as it's clean. I wear shorts from the 1st of May to the 15th of September and nobody could care less.

Notwithstanding what's written above, note that for business I must eat in fancy and starred restaurants. Idiot headwaiters sometimes give me the worst table near the toilet, but they just can't deny service because of the way one dresses. It would be neither legal nor socially acceptable.

Really, 9 Italians out of 10 wouldn't believe this is a real question, the 10th is Roberto.

Posted by
3858 posts

Not sure of your gender, but I wore capri pants everywhere. Men (or women) could also look at getting those zip off pants and just carry the bottom part with you and put them on if you are popping into a church.

Posted by
3348 posts

The official vatican website for tourists to the Vatican Museum (the entire museum) and St. Peter's clearly state there is a strictly enforced dress code of 'no shorts', no mini skirts, sleeveless or low cut clothing.
I couldn't find any published dress codes for other churches, but that is where Google fails. You either get 3rd party sites, or the church's site is for actual religious business - mass times, etc.
For young children, it is harder to determine. Most kids these days have knees showing, so that becomes a harder call.
The zip off trousers would be great for hubby, but if traveling with kids, they are going to have to embrace some other type of temporary cover up. Maybe keep them in short sleeves and explain the need for a 'skirt' out of Mom's scarf while in the building.
Personally, if there are dress codes, I tend to just assume that is required at all churches and pack with that in mind. It helps that I haven't worn mini skirts in a lot of years ;-)

Posted by
14 posts

Well we live in Houston and my teenagers are not interested in wearing pants the whole time we are in Italy because it will be hot which is the reason I'm asking. I have a scarf, so it really is for my kids. I think I'll just have them bring something to tie around their waist on days we are unsure. I knew we needed to wear pants the day we visit the Vatican and at St. Mark's in Venice, but I think those are the only 2 churches I've heard where they strictly enforce a dress code. We will not be visiting tons of churches every day. We also aren't fancy restaurant people.

Posted by
1833 posts

As a tourist, entering a Church in shorts because there isn't somebody enforcing the rule at the door is both un-polite and disrespectful,

Catholics believe God is physically behind the altar. If you want to enter their sacred places you should respect their rules, otherwise expect your teenagers to overspeed when there are no cops in sight or to drink alcohol where nobody check IDs.

Posted by
1575 posts

Hi texan,

Here is what is enforced:

In particular, The Vatican and St. Peters Basilica, has a strict dress code. They don't allow shorts or bare shoulders for men or women, and women cannot wear miniskirts or revealing shirts/tops. It is not negotiable. A normal T-shirt and Jeans are fine. Jogging pants are acceptable.

Also, another important thing to keep in mind if you aren't aware:

No big backpacks will be allowed. The Vatican/The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's have a security check. (But, you bypass Security at St. Peter's if you are in the Vatican/Sistine Chapel and go out that door to St. Peter's.) There are guards at the door eyeballing visitors.

Bags/backpacks about 14" in size were okay - I'd try to stick with that sizing. If it looks too big and bulky, you will have to check it. This will impede your going directly to St. Peter's because then, you'd have to make your way back to the check room, (unless someone knows of another way around it) waste time, and wait in line for St. Peter's and then must go through security. Keep it simple, no big bags/backpacks or large umbrellas if raining.

No food or drinks allowed. Although, the few times I went, it was okay to put your water bottle in your bag.

No cams, phones out or loud talking in The Sistine. It's considered a Sacred Place.

The Pantheon (Piazza della Rotonda), is an active Church as are many Italian churches. Dress appropriately. If a service is going on at the time of your visit, you won't be let in or have to wait in the Piazza. But, there are restaurants and cute shops around, if that is the case.

Adding: I know this is about The Vatican, but in case you are planning a visit to The Borghese, no bags allowed at all. You'll need to check them. Maybe wearing a money belt under clothes for your absolute valuables is worth a thought.

Posted by
3348 posts

Well, as teenagers, they are in the formative adult years. Unfortunately, that includes learning social conformance, so this can be one of those learning experiences. Consider some options and offer them. 'Wear pants, wear some scarf or cover up around your shorts, or wait outside'.....or time the church visits to be the day they will be in pants anyway.
It doesn't have to be a big issue, or ruin your holiday, but buy in may be all in how it is presented to them.

Posted by
5371 posts

Every church, whether they can afford to have bouncers or not, should be treated with respect. Even if there are no posted rules, its respectful to dress appropriately. Although you might be there to look at the art and architecture, there are likely people who are there to pray and use the church for its intended purpose. A good guest respects that. Its not about what you can get away with.

Posted by
2382 posts

Teenage boys often wear those super long athletic “shorts” that cover the knee. I find them hideous....but they would be ok in the churches since they go over the knee. Just another idea.

Posted by
3858 posts

I did notice a few churches we popped into had signs at the door regarding shoulders/knees being covered. Outside the Vatican, there were some enterprising folks selling paper cover ups - I imagine they still do this...

Posted by
1669 posts

Well we live in Houston and my teenagers are not interested in wearing pants the whole time we are in Italy because it will be hot which is the reason I'm asking

I went to Europe for the first time when I was 15. I took along a coat and tie to wear at dinner! It was in summer back when there was no air conditioning.

If they are teenagers this is a wonderful time to teach them what seems to be an antiquated concept - respect. Want to wear shorts? Fine. Stay out of places of worship out of respect. Want to see places of worship? Fine. Then dress appropriately out of respect.

Posted by
5371 posts

You know, those much-maligned zip off pants were made for this kind of situation.

Posted by
11845 posts

...and cemeteries.

I've yet to see an outdoor cemetery with a dress code and we've explored quite a number of them in Europe. I don't recall even seeing anyone around who would be checking attire, although there can be rules posted banning other behaviors. Churches and the occasional other religious property (e.g. Vatican Museums) are different, though; always best to do the respectful thing.

Posted by
231 posts

Plan on no shorts/bare knees, no baseball caps, and no bare shoulders in any church. Perhaps you can group church visits on certain days (maybe in the morning when it's cooler?) so everyone can dress appropriately for those days. We found that even small churches often had someone on site to, if needed, remind visitors to show respect through their attire and actions. What a great opportunity for your teens to get to visit Italy! They will get to see incredible sights, eat amazing food, and learn that different countries/cultures may have different rules of etiquette--not making any one better than the other, just different. Embrace those differences and enjoy your travels!

Posted by
83 posts

I was wondering this myself!

Like the OP I knew Vatican, Siena Duomo, but I would have missed the Pantheon.

So carrying a scarf and/or a elastic waist flowy skirt is a good idea...

Thanks for the question!

Posted by
4901 posts

If you wear shorts, please wear nice ones and remember no white socks and sandals!

Of course, Europeans tend to be more stylish, Black socks would be the way to go, mid-calf.

Posted by
141 posts

When visiting your church in Houston, can I wear shorts?

-Asking for a friend.

Posted by
3348 posts

"Honestly, do you go to a cemetery in shorts in your country? "
If on vacation, very possibly.....no one else is there and the dead don't care. I go to them as places of history and beauty. I read headstones and think about those who came before, and stick to rows rather than walking over plots (when they are low profile lawn cemeteries), and sometimes resurrect my Sunday School manners and say a prayer. I am still respectful. The clothes don't make the woman in this instance. Now, church or places or worship is another matter. I overdo the conservative clothing.
Sometimes, people on vacation forget there is an alternate purpose than being there to entertain us. So, we ask to hang out with locals, we wander churches when services are in session...and use flash photography, we are loud on buses, we take videos and photos with other people in them ignoring a person's right to privacy. Add the number of people brought up with no formal religion......or a different religion/faith/belief and you are going to get what you may consider ignorant, rude or 'silly' questions. Not every country or society treats everything the same way. As you don't chose to include your location in your profile, we don't know how far from a North American societal influence you have either....in which to gauge your responses.

Posted by
3284 posts

When I visit other people's churches I like to be respectful of that culture and good for the OP to do some research into appropriate attire for various venues. For us, I don't wear sleeveless because I burn easily. I do wear dresses. What has worked for my husband and I is that he wears pants with zip off legs and I carry a large scarf or capri leggings in my purse on days we might be popping into or planning a church visit.

Posted by
3387 posts

Born and grew up in San Antonio. No AC in any school I attended until I went to UT Austin. Live in Tucson now. I know hot. It's hard to believe, but sometimes covering up in a lightweight loose fabric is cooler than exposing flesh to the hot sun while walking around.

I was pleased to see the discussions about showing respect for the places of worship in Italy. I hope the many people I've seen standing in line wearing tank tops and shorts right in front of signs clearly showing that they cannot enter dressed that way are simply ignorant or oblivious.

But I suspect they think the rules can't be real or don't really apply to them. Just like those folks who can't accept that they can't take pictures and do it anyway.

In 2017 I was in Venice, just inside the entry at St. Mark's waiting for the start of a special English tour. I'd say that most of the young women coming through the exterior door were dressed totally inappropriately for visiting the church.

After waiting in line and passing multiple signs about what to and not to wear, including one right at the door, they seemed astonished that they'd have to wear at least one, but usually 2 paper cover-ups. The folks at St. Mark's had tons of cover-ups which they sold for €1 each.

But my favorite was the 40+ woman who came prepared, even though she tried to sneak by the cover-up seller. She was stopped, so she pulled out a large T-shirt and put it on. It was perfect for the top, but it hit mid-thigh, just about where her shorts stopped. So she had to buy a cover-up for the bottom. She seemed miffed. Oddly, the man with her must've gotten the memo and believed it because he was dressed respectfully.

If you wonder why some lines into churches move so slowly, it may be because people don't arrive at the door dressed the way they are supposed to dress and adjustments have to be made. At St. Mark's that day, the entryway was narrow, designed for walking through single file. Any glitch slowed it down.

I thought that the gatekeepers at the door did a great job of limiting the number of people they let in, and holding the line back when they let in someone who obviously was going to have issues.

Posted by
6059 posts

A male friend, traveling with us, wore shorts and was refused entry to several churches in Tuscany and Umbria.

Posted by
11845 posts

And have you seen people in shorts (in the cemeteries)?

Yes. Often.

Honestly, do you go to a cemetery in shorts in your country?

Yes. Not for a funeral/burial service, of course, but to do genealogical work, historical exploration, photographic studies of sculpture or just to walk without traffic. I've lived just across the street from cemeteries twice in my life and spent endless hours amongst the stones. Shoot, there was a long-ago period in my country where big cemeteries doubled as parks and people used the green spaces to escape the noise and congestion of the city; for picnics, recreation and relaxation. In some cities that practice is seeing a revival. We went to a summer concert event in a pioneer cemetery a year or so ago: they were raising money for a new fence.

LOL, if you've ever done any of the New Orleans cemeteries in the summer, you're going to be dressed for the heat! Shorts? Absolutely.

https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/in-the-garden-cemetery-the-revival-of-americas-first-urban-parks/

Posted by
31137 posts

"Several people in shorts were wrapping their jackets around their legs in an attempt to cover their knees. Not sure how that worked for being able to walk and keep knees covered"

If those people figured they were going to pull a fast one on the guards and remove the knee covering after they got inside, they'd better think again. I witnessed what the consequences of that can be on a visit to the Vatican one hot afternoon a few years ago. A young lady wearing a sleeveless top had prepared for the visit by packing a shawl in her purse. She put that on to enter and then removed it when she got inside. Within a few seconds one of the guards was literally screaming at her and exhibiting a very angry demeanor. The poor girl was mortified and almost in tears, but she got the message.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you all for the input. So I understand that shorts are really a no go in churches unless they cover the knee--like a capri pant. Appreciate the help.

Posted by
11845 posts

Have you seen people in shorts in European cemeteries(In which
countries) or only American ones?

Yes, if the day was very warm although I don't pack shorts for Europe myself. Rather fewer than more but not such an uncommon occurrence as to take specific note, as I would have in a church. Offhand, Cimitero delle Porte Sante in Florence comes to mind: was very warm the day we were up there.

Posted by
104 posts

Continued to be disappointed that tourists visiting other countries don't want to respect the guidelines, rules, and etiquette of the country they are visiting. The Catholic Church does not allow bare knees, bare shoulders or plunging necklines. If we want to visit their churches, we are expected to follow their rules. How hard is that?

Teenagers and 40 somethings alike can learn to be respectful of the varying cultures around the world. Dress appropriately or don't visit. Simple as that.

Posted by
31137 posts

Texas girl,

I completely agree with you about being respectful and following the dress code. Another thing that annoys me is visitors (usually the younger crowd) that insist on making a lot of noise or shoving each other around, generally not showing proper decorum for the places they're visiting.

Posted by
36 posts

As someone who lives in San Antonio, TX, I had to read your post. Actually, I have been monitoring the weather in Italy (Venice, Florence and Rome) and it has been unusually cool this spring. The weather forecast for the next several days is high 60s/low 70s in Rome, that's now in mid May. I think we will find Italy's weather tolerable compared to the heat and humidity we are used to in Texas, texanalfords!

I pretty much only wear shorts from April-October here in Texas, so I was nervous about the knee length thing too. I went to Sam Moon, which you have in Houston also, and bought me and my two daughters lightweight sarongs in case we needed them (I'm female). All three sarongs/scarves were under $8 each. Fortunately I found some capri pants that I think I will be happy with, so I think I might be able to wear just the capris and leave my shorts at home. I bought my husband some of the zip off to shorts pants from Academy, they're about $25.