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What to wear it Italy--what I wish I knew

Hi fellow travelers,
For whoever might still be wondering what to wear when they go to Italy, here is my opinion...My husband and I just returned from Italy this week (we were in Venice, Florence, CT, Siena and Rome). I REALLY wished I would have brought 2 pairs of jeans. I read so much on this blog about what to wear and was told only the "younger" crowd where jeans, and Italians dress really nice, wear skirts and nice pants and on and on. Well, Italians do dress really nice, but it was just like I would find in New York City. Those going to work may be wearing suits or nicer outfits. Those going out an a special evening might be dressed really nice. However, 80% of the people, regardless of age, wore jeans. Jeans that were casual, but mostly designer, "trendy", cute jeans that you would find here in the US. I wish I would have brought a couple of mine with a fun, cute top to wear and would have fit right in. Don't get me wrong, I also loved wearing my fun black skirt and other things, but I really would have felt fashionable in a great pair of jeans and top!

Posted by
219 posts

I hope you bought a pair or 2 anyway, while you were over there to feel more comfortable inside and out.

Posted by
17 posts

No, actually I didn't buy any since I really didn't need any, but just thought I would share that YES Italians do wear nice jeans, despite what some have said on this blog. I was actually quite stylish and comfortable, inside and out!

Posted by
1776 posts

I don't know. I've been to Italy 5x and leave for my 6th trip in a week. I never taken jeans, and never felt uncomfortable in what I had on.

I do wear jeans at home, but for travel they just seem too hot, and if wet, take too long to dry.

I usually wear neat capri length pants in the summer when I travel, and have started to take a skirt (to the knee length) with a few cute t-shirt tops (solid colors)

When I head out next week, I'm taking some nice black Prana pants. They are a lightweight nylon that stretch. I'm sure I will be comfortable in them all day and look fashionable enough for me.

But Julie is right....wear what feels most comfortable for you when you travel. I'd rather have something that washes/dries quickly when I spill Gelato on the thigh!

Posted by
29 posts

Hi: We just returned from three weeks in Germany, Austria,and Czech Rep. and everything you said about what people wear in Italy was the same where we were. I brought one pair of black jeans and wore them almost every day and wished I would have brought the second pair I left at home! Jeans, boots, short jackets, and SCARVES were everywhere.

Posted by
2000 posts

I was in Paris, Cortona and Rome in late September. I took a nice pair of jeans, a nice pair of slacks to wear to a fancy lunch, capries for hanging out in Tuscany, and a skirt. I bought a few things there too. I always bring jeans and nice tops and jackets, (perhaps a scarf or 2) and I am not "young". This look works anywhere.

Posted by
15 posts

We just returned from Italy ourselves. While our normal casual clothes were fine for site seeing in chianti, Milan was entirely different. We should have just taken all BLACK. Black anything! Black everything!

Posted by
126 posts

As my grandmother always said, "What makes you think anyone is looking at you?. It is pretty much a true statement, however, I must admit I really stew about what I am going to take to wear. I always end up wearing my jeans more than anything, but perhaps that is because that is what I am comfortable wearing at home on the weekends. I find black capris another must, and if you are hiking, a pair of cargo type pants. Big cities call for slightly different attire than lets say Cinque Terre. Scarves are very popular in Europe, just buy inexpensively at the markets, an easy and fun treasure to take home.

Posted by
18 posts

Wear what you find comfortable but the thing is more about wearing what is appropriate. Don't wear flip flops and PJs to church and you'll be okay -)

Posted by
340 posts

Regarding scarves: we returned from Italy and France in mid-September and saw many women wearing scarves in both countries. They looked so attractive both casual and more dressy that I ended up buying 2 while I was there (sold many places at all prices). Most of the scarves I saw (and purchased) were like lightweight, long, narrow pashimas, about 20 x 60". They can be made of cashmere, silk, rayon, or a combination and are very soft and lightweight, solid color or patterned - not the traditional floaty silk scarves. The most common way I saw them worn was wrapped loosely around the neck a couple of times and softly tied, letting the fringe hang down just a few inches or tucking the fringe into the bulk of the scarf with a sort of studied nonchalance. This look went well with simple tops and jeans as well as suits. Some wore them draped over jacket shoulders or hanging loose and long around the neck. I also found that in cooler temperatures I could make mine do as a lightweight shawl.

Posted by
66 posts

I am also just back from Italy (Venice, Florence, Orvieto, Rome) and I didn't wear 1/2 of the clothes that I agonized over taking. I was so worried about looking like a tourist. Bottom Line: EVERYONE looks like a tourist in these big cities (because most of them are). Besides, you're going to be walking around with a map in one hand (trying to figure out where the heck you are on all those winding streets) and a camera in the other, so you may as well dress for comfort. What I wore:

1 pair jeans, black casual pants (with cargo pockets to hold all of your tickets, receipts, bus passes)
camisole-type tops (it was really HOT in Rome),light fabric long-sleeved shirts/tops to wear over camisoles or stuff in daypack when not needed.
1 light sweater,walking sandals and black NB running shoes. Drip dry socks and undies. "Daymaker" fanny pack with locking zippers.
What I didn't wear: skirt,fancy slacks,dressy tops,dressy sandals,capri pants (who has time to shave their legs?? ENJOY!

Posted by
808 posts

Okay, I'm hearing that scarves are currently big in Italy. Strange question maybe, but what patterns/colours/fabrics do you see most often? How are they tied most often? Around the neck, draped across the shoulders or waist?

I only know how to tie my uniform silk scarf in two fashions. If anyone can give me an idea of how they wear them I can google how to tie it properly. Sounds fun! Maybe I'll actually find a scarf that I "like" wearing!

Safe Skies,

Posted by
40 posts

If you don't normally wear scarves, I wouldn't worry about it. I went to Europe for three weeks in June/July (Germany, Italy--including Venice, Netherlands). I am not a scarf wearer and cannot imagine wearing one only to fit in. On my trip, I saw one woman wearing a scarf. The other locals were dressed in nicer clothes (no sloppy clothes); very neat and 'tailored'.

Posted by
28 posts

I would concur with your observations. I also took the wrong kinds of clothes given that we intended to spend most of our time in more casual and beach settings such as Portofino, 5-Terra, and Sorrento and did not intend to do churches or museums since that was done on a previous trip. A friend also lamented that he had left some really nice designer clothes at home which he would have loved to wear but was advised against taking them.

Posted by
800 posts

I stand by the "don't bring jeans to Italy" thing as long as this suggestion is for travelers going in the summer. We spent 2 1/2 weeks this June mostly in Sicily and southern Italy. It was 90-100 degrees on many of the days (over 100 in Rome while we were there). I would have found it miserable to be in Pompeii in a pair of jeans - I could barely tolerate it in my very lightweight clothing. I wore what I'd consider to be a cute but casual summer skirt and felt underdressed in Milan. Also felt a little out of place in Taormina and Ravello - they were both filled with honeymooners many of whom were wearing very designer looking "resort wear" and LOTS of white - white skirts, white dresses. I looked a little more dowdy. My teen son did wear his jeans almost every day - he likes the heat and so the weather didn't bother him. He also looked like all other teens, no matter what their nationality.

Of course, I wouldn't wear jeans in New York in the middle of the summer either!

Posted by
17 posts

I can't really speak as to "how" to wear the scarves because I don't have one, but I too noticed during my time in Italy in October that lots and lots of women were wearing scarves. I thought the were really fun, attractive and stylish. I even saw some women wearing them in CT with shorts and a short sleeve shirt. The scarves seemed to go casual and dressed up. I didn't notice any particular color or pattern in particular. It might be fun to just buy a couple when you are there and see what you like!

Happy travels.

Posted by
144 posts

I was in Italy last summer, and what I wore most were white bottoms and black tops--floaty white skirt, white capris, etc. They didn't get as dirty as I expected. Jeans are definitely too hot for summer in Italy, but I have worn them in fall and winter.

Check out the scarf and shawl stores in Italy--great selection at all prices, especially on the street tho probably lesser quality. They make great souvenirs.

Posted by
221 posts

hi everyone, I just got back from two weeks in Italy and it got cold while I was there. It seems nearly everyone men and women wear scarves. for me the most comfortable way and gives you lots of warmth is to take the two ends of the scarf together, wrap the doubled fabric behind your neck and in the loop that is formed hanging in front, push the doubled up fabric throuh and pull. it makes for a tidy looking and warm scarf. Pashimina scarves are sold by the street vendors everywhere, especiall Rome and what a deal, making great souveniers, I bought 3 to bring home for gifts for 20 euro.

Posted by
27 posts

I just returned from a 3-1/2 week trip to Europe and certainly agree with Julie. I wish I had taken jeans as well. We were there in August/September and the weather was quite nice (no humidity anywhere). Everyone wore jeans and they were quite stylish. I had a pair of jean capris but in the late afternoon the jeans would have been a better choice. Every place we visited (Paris, Florence, Lake Como, Nice, Amsterdam, Germany) jeans were common and stylish.

I would like to say I was very surprised that shorts were a rarity in Nice. Even strolling or biking along the beach, no shorts - everyone wore capris, dresses or jeans.

Posted by
24 posts

Just returned from our 1st trip to Italy and was a magnet to this helpline before I left. It's fun to read things after a return ! I was surprised at the number of Italians of all ages who wore jeans. I didn't take any because of the weight and drying factor. I think we have a tendency to get too "anx'ed" over our clothes that we take ( I did ! ). As Chere described....what I saw, as the weather began to turn cooler, was the long pashmina folded in half lengthwise and the ends shoved thru the loop. Since I left my coat on the plane, this worked well for me, as I had packed a long scarf, and it helped keep me warm. Of course, I just HAD to buy a cashmere poncho style pashmina at the market in Florence. :-). If it is cold...take jeans ! One can't hide that you are a tourist for sure !

Posted by
33 posts

I agree with the jeans comment. Women & men of all ages wear them--all types. I suggest lighter weight versions instead of the typical Levis. I took brown and black. Hubby had tan and black. Black because they're easier to dress up when needed. We had no problems!
Scarves---they are wearing the pashmina style everywhere -- every color you can imagine and any WAY you want to wear it - shawl/muffler whatever. Just look around at the other women on your first day and you'll get the idea very quickly. Milan is a bit dressier, but a dressier top/necklace/scarf will handle that. Think of black pants as you would a little black dress... versatile.

Posted by
2 posts

Also regarding scarves...I agree with the other posters that they are generally softer materials, and what is most different, much longer than the ones found here.I saw them tied generally the same way I noticed scarves were being tied here..fold in half, bring the loop to the front and tuck the other ends through and down. I first saw them in Paris, and did also notice them in Tuscany this spring. Brought back quite a few for gifts. At 8 euros for a long gorgeous scarf, they were a steal.