Please sign in to post.

What to wear?

My husband and I are traveling to Italy in August. What do you recommend wearing. Of big concern to me is that I am not tiny - not huge, but not super skinny either. I'd like to look nice, but not frumpy and fit in as much as possible. I am blond and very fair skinned so that is of great concern as well. My husband is fair skinned and is concerned about the sun as well. Any thoughts and suggestions?

Posted by
7735 posts

It would be helpful if you include where you'll be going in Italy.

Posted by
4 posts

Michael, Thanks for reminding me - that would be helpful! We are going to a variety of places: Positano, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Varenna, Venice and a tiny bit of time in Rome

Posted by
1770 posts

Wear whatever you wear at home in August, are comfortable in and could stand to wear for several days at a time. It'll be hot, just like L.A. in August. You are not going to pass for a local and I wouldn't worry about it. My wife worried about clothes and did way to much shopping for the trip. She ended up wearing some loose fitting cotton pants (that were not frumpy) most of the time. She said she saw a lot of women wearing a pleated Capri type pant with ballet shoes. For shoes she wore her Toms most of the time.

Posted by
109 posts

I was there in May and my favorite were my lightweight capris. Basically, most jeans would be way too heavy and hot, I didn't take any. My friend wished she'd brought a baseball cap to shield her face from the sun and we used sunscreen also. As mentioned by someone else, you will not be mistaken for a local, so wear what you feel good in. We ended up using umbrellas when touring the Forum in Rome as the sun was so intense (this was May remember, although being from Washington we are not as used to sun as you are). Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
94 posts

My family and I will be bringing capris and a couple of dresses. Also there are places we are going to see that you need to cover your shoulders. I am 5'2 and pleasantly plump

Posted by
950 posts

I think dresses are cooler in the heat than capris, especially in summer heat. I vote for a hat also and sunglasses. Eileen Fisher makes some nice sleeveless dresses. Linen seperates help you stay cool- think tanks and loose pants with airy jackets.

Posted by
833 posts

I'm not saying that you should try to dress and fit in as a local, but want to say that it can definitely happen. I was mistaken for local several times during my trip, in large cities and small. And as far as blonde hair: not all Italians are tan and olive and dark! While I am tan and most of my relatives were lighter than me, they were a bit more olive. And especially when you are in northern Italy, there are many light, blonde Italians. To answer your question: do consider the heat. I wore jeans in May and sometimes in June, but it is quite hot. My favorite way to beat the heat was wearing dresses and skirts. Like others have noted, make sure you have a scarf or cardigan to cover your shoulders for churches (and your knees should be covered as well). I don't know what weight range you are in, but I wouldn't worry about your weight as far as appearance goes. That's nothing you can change, and there are some very plump Italians. I'm slender, but athletically built and wouldn't define myself as super skinny either. Wear whatever nice clothes that flatter your body type here, in Italy as well. And for the sun--sunscreen! And light-weight clothing that covers your arms/legs if you desire.

Posted by
1843 posts

First and foremost, COMFORTABLE, well broken-in shoes. If black, that's great, as that color will go with just about everything. A cool skirt (I take two...one above-knee black knit (does not show dirt) and one below-knee for Vatican, churches, etc. Get some Chico's-style knit tops (t-shirt-ish). They have some cotton ones w/ some spandex for just a bit of "give." Don't tuck them in. You wear them with a light in weight (so it won't be hot) long scarf tied in a knot, which dresses them up a bit, too. If one of your tops is black, and you also take a black knit skirt, put some fake pearls or a nice lightweight shawl (which can double as a scarf, too) with it at night, and you will look smashing. A wonderful big, crushable, packable hat (ideally with a chin strap that can be tucked up in the hat part when not needed). Chin strap is nice for when riding boat in Cinque Terre. A pair of light (in weight) slacks. And, if you are comfortable wearing shorts, a pair of hiking type shorts, if you plan to hike in the Cinque Terre. Also, if hiking a good pair of walking/hiking shoes...not boots, just sturdy with good arch support and good "grip" for rocks, etc. Key thing is to look presentable, but don't worry too much about clothes. Pack things that can be rolled and unrolled in your suitcase, that wash up and dry hanging quickly, and that you can mix/match and wear multiple times.

Posted by
1843 posts

P.S. I forgot to mention, with my hiking shorts in the Cinque Terre, I wore a long-sleeve high SFP (or is it SPF, I never can remember) shirt from REI. I'm also pale and really need to be cautious with sun. The shorts I wore were from the zip-off-the-legs sport pants. I ran a thin colorful scarf thru the belt loops for a cute look. And, it goes without saying, also some quality socks. For the Cinque Terre, I simply put the stuff that would have gone into a money belt into zip pockets, since it was hot in late August, and a money belt (as those who have worn them know) needs to "dry" every night. Cinque Terre is more relaxed, so shorts are great there. For dinner, if you go somewhere other than a pizza place, you'll want to freshen up a bit. When I'm in my skirts elsewhere, my shoes/socks combo usually stands out as a "look" I would not do at home. But, jeez, you'll be on vacation, so be comfortable and treat those feet well while you are walking and walking and walking to see, see, see, see. Use sun screen, too. We were in Italy in late August two years ago, and one night in Volterra, I was so glad I had a heavier-weight scarf to use as a shawl....it was surprisingly chilly that evening. Spouse always takes a sports coat, and I think he draped it around my shoulders walking back from dinner. So have that extra little something, in case you have that surprise chill one night, especially in the hills of Tuscany. But, just to clarify, the only reason spouse wore the sports coat that evening was BECAUSE it was chilly...normally nice shirt suffices for dinner.

Posted by
361 posts

Personal observation-stay away from cropped pants, ugh, they shout AMERICAN TOURIST!

Posted by
7735 posts

Looking like an American tourist is not a yes/no proposition, IMHO. It's a sliding scale. I try to avoid the give-aways that I can, but I don't compromise on certain things that definitely peg me as non-Italian (like wearing a hat in the sun). I like Rick's advice in one of his books: "Don't show up looking like you're there to mow the lawn." :-)

Posted by
515 posts

You and a lot of others will be tourists and there is nothing you can do to avoid looking like one. But so what? I see Italian tourists in my city every August. They stand out (as do all Euros) as tourists and I am happy to see them and eager to give them directions; and to thereby practice my woeful Italian language speaking skills. Assuming that you are in Rome, the weather will likely be sunny and hot (Pomona hot, not Santa Monica sort of hot) so a broad brimmed hat and lots of sun screen would be a good idea. I'm a USA guy so I know zero about fashion. The happiest American women I have met in Rome in August were wearing kind of billowy skirt things and running shoes. This also helps defeat the Vatican's fashion police. Prada did not have them arrested. If in Rome, dress like you would if were going to spend hours in the heat of an August day walking around Pomona, assuming that Pomona had great gelato.

Posted by
11743 posts

The temperature is likely to be the same as Los Angeles but the humidity is likely to be much higher. Wear things that are comfortable and cool in hot weather. Bring a cotton sweater for occasional cool nights, rare air conditioned places and churches when you need to cover your shoulders plus a very light rain shell, just in case.

Posted by
958 posts

I like Otariidae's analogy between Pomona hot and Santa Monica hot. We do know that is a big difference in heat! I try to travel in the fall to avoid this but if I was travelling in August, I would wear cotton sundresses or skirts. Don't forget the shrug or a wrap to cover your shoulders as needed!

Posted by
958 posts

I like Otariidae's analogy between Pomona hot and Santa Monica hot. We do know that is a big difference in heat! I try to travel in the fall to avoid this but if I was travelling in August, I would wear cotton sundresses or skirts. Don't forget the shrug or a wrap to cover your shoulders as needed!

Posted by
4 posts

There are so many awesome suggestions here! Thanks so much for the help everyone - this was just the type of advice and info I was looking for! Thanks again and Happy Travels!

Posted by
375 posts

You can find some nice packable hats on sites that sell travel clothing and accessories, such as Magellan's. I have a wide-brimmed one that looks kind of like a cross between linen and straw. It goes with everything, is lightweight and cool, and can be wadded up in a ball and still comes back looking brand new. It doesn't look dorky. At least, no one has been rude enough or brave enough to tell me it does. My husband has a lightweight brimmed "safari" type hat by Columbia that he prefers over the the baseball style because it gives more coverage. His DOES look a little dorky, but he doesn't care. He says a bad sunburn looks a lot worse. I don't find the posts that say "everyone will know you're a tourist, so don't bother trying to fit in" to be very helpful. Yes, it's true that everyone probably will know you're a tourist, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to look presentable and not call attention to yourself. It's not about trying to fool people into thinking you're something you're not; it's about not wanting to stick out in a negative way. For casual summer places, I like capris and cool cotton tops. Some women prefer skirts. I don't wear shorts much because I think human knees are only attractive on those under about 12, but that's a personal preference.

Posted by
1843 posts

Re: sun hats, as the previous poster mentioned, hubbies love the Columbia or Cabela's safari type hats. My spouse has 4-5 different ones. For summer travel, he loves the ones with a solid tippy top, but with netting that then comes down to meet the brim (hard to describe w/o a photo), but those type allow ventilation to keep him cooler....all come with chin straps....great for windy walks, convertible tours in Capri, or boat between villages in Cinque Terre. Hat top pushes down to lay flat in luggage. I have tried many hats, but before my last trip, found the packable, crushable Sloggers brand at a local garden center. You can order directly from their web site, too. I ordered one in a sage color (which they state is really a black/white combo) that was great for my travel, as it goes well with basic black shoes/skirt. They have since introduced a solid black, which I would probably prefer. Chin strap is great, but I wear it tucked up inside the "hat" part when not windy. Key thing for you and your hubby is to find hats that you don't mind wearing just about all day, and ones that can easily be folded to put under one's arm or tucked into a bag when inside buildings. In some places, I merely used strap around my neck to wear it on my back (if that makes sense) when inside places without a day bag, so my hands would be free. Also search for the post re: hats..a poster recommended one that survived being eaten by an elephant three times....that one would definitely survive packing :) Can't recall the brand right now.

Posted by
4 posts

Great advice on the hats! I had purchased one a few months ago but I think it will be a pain to carry when it is not on my head so these other options are really great. Thank you!

Posted by
27 posts

Where what you'd be comfortable wearing at home while out in public. So long as you look presentable, there are no issues. Frankly, I looked like a typical American tourist (jeans and Hawiian shirts) and had no difficulties. Be pleasant, polite, and enjoy yourself!

Posted by
375 posts

I think the hat that Margaret refers to is the Tilley brand. My husband had one of those, too, but he found it rather hot. They probably have other models that might be cooler. I guess they are rugged hats to survive being eaten by an elephant, but I have to say there is not a laundry good enough on this earth that would make me want to put that hat back on my head.

Posted by
1843 posts

D.D, yes, it was the Tilley brand that a previous poster mentioned re: the elephant. Thank you for letting us know your hubby found his hat to be hot. A cool head makes for a happy traveler :)

Posted by
11681 posts

The single most useful piece of clothing I took to Italy last summer, and again to Spain this past May, was a Sandra Ingrish shirt of lightweight crinkle cotton gauze. With elbow-length sleeves, it was modest enough for churches, and protected my arms and shoulders from the sun. I could wash it in the sink and it would dry in hours, looking like new. Unfortunately they don't make that shirt this year, but this one might be similar: http://www.sandraingrish.com/new-arrivals/3-4-slv-gingham-shirt-khaki Don't forget the sunscreen, as it is very expensive to buy in Europe. Neetrogena sells a SPF 55 one in 3-ounce tubes you can take in your carry-on (in the 3-1-1- bag, of course.)

Posted by
18 posts

Hi Kathryn, My husband and I just spent 8 glorious days between Rome and Sorrento. I too had many questions about what might make me stand out in the crowd and look like an obvious tourist. What I was most floored by was the ratio of tourists to local Romans...we (tourists) were everywhere and we come in all shapes and sizes as well as clothing options. My advice...wear whatever you wear at home and feel good about yourself in. My husband and I limited ourselves to one carry on each and I managed to pack 5 pairs of capris (two of which were denim and unlike others I have heard on this site, I didn't find them too hot at all...then again, I am from Tucson, AZ), 6 tops to mix and match and one summer dress. I don't feel that I stood out at all and felt confident the whole time. My main concern was the "shoe issue." In my opinion this is where the "tourist card" becomes obvious. Every post said wear comfy shoes and I did, but I chose comfy flip flop like leather sandals that I wear all the time when I go out in Tucson so that they would not produce blisters despite all the walking(and we walked a lot!). I wore Converse sneakers only on our Colosseum tour and when we visited Pompeii. Yes, the pavement and streets in Rome are different, but don't require constant wearing of tennis shoes.
If you didn't know it already, Rome is incredibly humid...this is what got to me more than the actual heat of the day (I come from a dry heat). My husband is also very fair, so sunscreen was a must and he didn't burn at all (I did in Pompeii only because I didn't think about it - ouch!). Also, I would recommend a small umbrella as it does rain quite often (I was astounded to hear that Rome actually gets more rainfall than London!). I hope you have an awesome time on your trip!

Posted by
204 posts

I have to laugh when people comment on how many tourist they fiind hanging around all the TOURIST SIGHTS. Amazing, isn't it? You would think they would spend all their time around in the neighborhoods like you do at home. Arn't Europeans quaint?

Posted by
10295 posts

Charles, we've missed you. Welcome back.

Posted by
1737 posts

I've always traveled with 1-2 pair of nice capri length pants, 1 skirt, and 1 pair of shorts (if we were planning on hiking anywhere - like the CT). For tops I shop at JCrew and most of my t-shirts are from there, with nice embellishments. I take a cotton sweater for night time and one scarf. My footwear is a pair of really comfortable 8 year old Chaco sandals with black straps that go from day to night. I also packed a pair of sporty Puma shoes. Traveling on the plane I wear my Lululemon yoga pants and my sweater, with a sports bra and t-shirt and the Puma shoes. I look very put together, but I'm also comfortable in my seat with nothing binding at my waist. Hats have been an issue. First trip over I took a straw hat that was "crushable" well, it crushed, and didn't look good. No more hats for me, but good sunglasses help. I have on occasion wished I had a good old baseball cap to shade my eyes when touring at Pompei and Vesuvio. OR makes a nice smaller style hat that I've since purchased and it goes with my on my hiking trips...but i've not worn it in the cities. I'm addressing the woman's point of view...i'll let the guys suggest for your husband.

Posted by
38 posts

Visited Italy in May. It was 95 degrees in Florence, unusually hot. All women, European and otherwise, wear capris. European men overwhelmingly wear capris as well. I took 2 pair of Merrill Mary Jane type of shoes which were comfortable and looked okay. I did not see women wearing shorts. If men wear shorts, they are the long carpenter shorts. Only take a skirt for comfort. Forget going out to a fancy restaurant. The food is great anywhere. Take a packable bag for purchases when you return. My friend takes old clothes and leaves them behind. You can buy a hat for 10 Euros in most hilltowns. I wore it onto the plane for lack of space.

Posted by
4356 posts

Ditto, ditto, and ditto to all the above. AND...if your thighs even kind-of rub together - and I'm betting they do ;-) - watch out wearing dresses!!! Just sayin'. If you must, then use BodyGlide or wear longer boxer- or bike short-style undies. Also, accept the fact that unless you're a better specimen than I am, you'll be a hot, sweaty mess - wear whatever will be comfortable in that situation. The sun will get you - burning skin and sweating. Always have water with you, and cover up as much as possible (clothing, sunblock, hat). And I'm sure it's been mentioned, but since I can't find it right now...be sure your knees and shoulders are covered if you intend on entering any churches! Keep a scarf in your daybag at all times if you'll be wearing a sleeveless shirt. Your husband's knees should be covered, as well.

Posted by
64 posts

Lots of great advice here; I especially agree with Maria; it's all about the shoes. I just returned from an 18 day trip to Italy and my primary concern was comfortable shoes. I love the idea of wearing a skirt, but I think the skirt/sneaker look is odd. (I guess it depends on your age.) Flip-flops were not an option for me, so I mostly wore lightweight cotton capris, and believe me, everyone was wearing them. I have a great pair of sleek black sneakers that don't scream American. I brought a hat but never wore it...just slathered on the sunscreen and carried a roll on stick for nose touch-ups. If you're carrying a camera, they'll know you're a tourist, but there's no reason you can't be a well-dressed tourist. My jean jacket (or a sweater) was indispensible for cool evenings. A scarf or necklace can dress up your look for dinner, and if you're not walking too far, change into ballet flats or a nice pair of sandals. Have a great time.