What to wear

I am hearing rumors about what to wear and not to wear when we tour Italy. I know it will be hot the week we will be there (July 23-30) touring Rome and then Cinque Terre. I heard that I should not wear white pants, or shorts because that is the color of a "lady of the night". True? Sounds far fetched, but I need to know. My summer clothes center on white capris and shorts. Can you help?

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9302 posts

No one else will look at what you're wearing, except you and, perhaps, your travel partner.
So wear what you're comfortable in and with.
Except, note that some of the best known duomos/churches, the ones with dress code enforcers at the doors, won't let you in wearing shorts or with bare shoulders.

Posted by Linda
Shelby, North Caro, USA
295 posts

Just make sure shoulders and knees covered if you go to any of the churches. Wear whatever you want.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6717 posts

There must be a lot of Italian ladies of the night then, because lots of Italian women will be wearing white pants and shorts. As mentioned above some churches (esp. St.Peter's at the Vatican) require covered knees and shoulders. Everywhere else, anything goes.

Posted by Back2Italy
247 posts

I wore some white linen pants all over Italy in 2010 and no one gave me funny looks. They were so lightweight and breathable it was the perfect pair of pants for the hot weather (we traveled in Late May/early June). I highly recommend some light linen pants if you can find them. They wrinkle a bit, but are sooo comfortable! I was surprised how humid the weather was in Italy. The humidity made denim type materials very uncomfortable and hot.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13893 posts

It is amazing what myths get around.

That's a new one on me. What must they think of me? I just had a lovely holiday in Venice, as I do most years, and I, like most years wore white Nikes, white trousers and a light coloured shirt with a white brimmed hat for the sun.


BTW - I've been dressing like that in Venice for years. Nobody has ever raised an eyebrow. Of course, as a man, I suppose I'm mistaken for a "man of the night"? A pretty big one....

Wear what you want and don't worry.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
1348 posts

My take on this is -- white pants for travel ?? I would drop something on them by day 2. (At the outside! )

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6726 posts

I'm curious as to where you heard that ridiculous piece of advice.

Posted by nby5235
5 posts

Thank you all for your answers! You have put my mind at ease. I guess I should have considered the source. The woman who told me this was there 20 years ago! I should have known better than to trust that story!!!

Not to worry....for the vatican and the churches I have skirts and scarves to cover the shoulders.

Again...thank you all!!!

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9919 posts

Those rumors are unfounded (or out of date). However, I need pants that hide dirt, since I only bring a couple of pairs (often one black and one khaki).

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

I've got to agree with both Laura's. I like white pants as much as the next person, but they aren't particularly practical for travel. The first dirty bench you sit on or gelato you drip on yourself it's all over for that pair of pants, capris, skirt...

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7357 posts

I always envy women (and Nigel) in their crisp white clothing in the summer, but I find it impractical. The weight of the fabric is more important for me. Someday I will try the white pants again (in the past I have ended up looking like a Jackson Pollock canvas but worth less).

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1754 posts

I wore a white North Face jacket overseas in 2010. Before even getting out of Heathrow, I managed to get grease or something black on it. Luckily, it's very washable and the airbnb host we stayed with let me use his washing machine. But even after two weeks, the thing was getting pretty grubby. Make sure if you do wear white, take something that is easily washable and fast drying. For my trip in early Sept to Italy, I plan on sticking with a black and light grey capris/jeans combo with some lighter colour shirts. You may want to think about doing light greys or beige/linen colour - it hides the dirt so much better. But I do love how white looks - when it's clean.

Posted by Karen
508 posts

As others have said, I also don't take white pants on trips because of the dirt/stain issue. Depending on how you are traveling, it is something to think about. I have a pair of white capris I wear pretty often at home, but not on a trip. I usually only have 2-3 pants, and so I want to wear them usually more than once before washing them. That works better with darker pants!

Posted by Ron
Cesena, Italy
791 posts

That's funny. I can remember the ladies of the night (and day as they usually seemed to be out working then too) along SS16 going to Ravenna wearing all sorts of colors. Styles were pretty much the same as any working girl. Same with the ones around Camp Darby in Livorno.

Posted by Laurel
127 posts

I can see how a light color would be more comfortable in hotter weather; however, I tend to wear colors because they look better longer, especially in a busy city like Rome, which is quite dirty. I recently wore a light aqua color there, for instance. Most people advise to steer away from white because it shows stains, but if you are using it as your base 'color' and mixing it up with other colors, that sounds nice.

Posted by Cami
North Vancouver, BC, Canada
5 posts

No one else will look at what you're wearing, except you and, perhaps, your travel partner.

Not sure I believe that! I certainly got the once over from every museum employee in Italy and was pleased I was wearing nice shoes and not sneakers! I think the question is, ' do you care' what anyone else thinks of what you're wearing. And if you do care, then you will be happier wearing something appropriate to the country and culture. If you don't care, it doesn't matter, and you won't be asking for advice on a forum! :)

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
900 posts

Then again - some folks can wear white and not have a problem. Also - "Tide To Go" pens are your friends!

Posted by Lo
1682 posts

I've worn white on more than one trip and not had many issues with it. I plan to take white pants on my next trip.

Even in hot weather, I like to wear scarves, as long as they are of a light open-weave fabric that will absorb some sweat and be easy to wash. I can pull a scarf off and sit on it if needed. I can wear one while eating and it acts like a bib. My husband once said, "Aren't you afraid you will get something on that scarf?" My response is that it's lots easier to wash the scarf in the sink if I do than it is to wash my top or pants.

He hates to wear black because black shows lint and any light colored dirt. I'm not a fan of black for that same reason, but I do wear it. No matter where I am, the waitstaff person who brings me a black napkin if I have on black pants gets a big thank you from me.

Both colors show grease spots, just different kinds of grease.

I do pack at least one of the print tops that I lovingly call my "red sauce" tops. You could dump a whole bowl full of marinara on one of those and no one would notice.