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Best of Rome in early May: what to wear , what not to wear for men and women?

First time to Rome! We will be visiting museums and churches. Suggestions on clothing choices (and what NOT to wear) for men and women. Also, we usually carry lightweight small backpacks when out and about but concerned about being allowed to carry backpacks in museums. Husband is thinking about a sling bag instead---thoughts?

Posted by
9682 posts

I'd be more worried about pickpockets and the backpacks so I want something where I can position the zippers in the front and cover it with my hand when I am moving thru a crowd or on public transport (especially the bus in Rome!).

I always travel with a waterproof layer no matter when or where.

I'm old and dumpy. I've worn capris in Rome and gotten looks from ladies who are my age but I don't tolerate heat well so need to wear what's comfortable. In general your knees (both men and women) need to be covered to go into many churches. I'm too old for tank top kind of gear but your shoulders need to be covered for churches as well. If you are wearing some kind of bare top, have a scarf/pareo you can throw around your shoulders.

On your feet wear whatever will be comfortable to walk 5+ miles. I've actually had a 12 mile day in Rome including up and down a million steps, lol so make sure they are broken in and comfortable.

Posted by
2737 posts

Knees and shoulders must be covered to enter all churches, not many.

Including those parishes who can't afford to pay for somebody to monitor the doors.

There isn't a different God in different Churches upset over different parts of the human body, the rule remains the same. It seems it is troubled by our knees and our shoulders, quite odd but those "attractions" are its houses after all.

You can't take any kind of bag inside the Borghese Gallery.

Posted by
9682 posts

Sorry, Dario, didn't mean to offend. As I was typing it I suddenly couldn't remember if it was "all" or not.

Posted by
106 posts

I ALWAYS wear comfy shoes, fashion thrown to the wind! I don't do the tank top thing either. Thinking about skirts and short sleeve shirts so I will make sure the skirt is at or below knee. Capri pants acceptable?

Posted by
1556 posts

As long as you follow the above for churches, wear what you want. You will see it all in Rome. Check the weather a week out for daily weather and pack accordingly. Take a small umbrella in case of rain and a light sweater or light weight jacket. I wear skirts only in warm weather.

Posted by
2737 posts

Edgefield, don't worry, they are not interested in how you cover knees and shoulders. Fashion doesn't matter, As long as knees and shoulders are covered you have reached (their) goal.

Posted by
1245 posts

Be careful if you wear sandals; marble steps are slippery. I wore low wedge espadrilles with rubber soles and canvas tennis shoes like Keds. Wear a stylish vest or a linen jacket to carry your nonvaluable stuff. Wallets with a wrist strap are trendy. Maybe carry your ID on your person. Don't wear a lightweight skirt that could blow up on a windy day. I wouldn't worry too much about what you wear to impress, because everyone you will meet in Rome will probably be another tourist! Bon Voyage!

Posted by
2580 posts

Pull up some Youtube videos where people strap a camera to their chest and just walk around Rome. You'll see it all, and then you can decide how YOU want to dress. Because it's really no one else's business. Spoiler alert - everyone seems to shop at the Gap, H&M and Zara.

I had a "manbag" recently in Paris, a smallish backpack. It was invaluable and I could keep it in front or on the side so I always knew what was up.

Posted by
21041 posts

I can't speak to Rome specifically, but there are definitely museums in Europe (and in the US) that do not allow backpacks at all or require that they be worn on the front of the body. There are also museums in Europe (I've found this most often in Germany and don't know about Rome) that require all bags and purses to be checked.

Posted by
1772 posts

You might run into an issue with the backpack at the Capitoline Museum, but they have a cloak room. It sounds like it’s up to security there to decide if it must be checked. It used to be mandatory at the Borghese as well, and they have a bag check.

Posted by
847 posts

The advice thus far is great.
In Italy, I generally dress up somewhat to blend in with the locals. In restaurants, I do notice that walk-ins of guests dressed too casually are mostly not accepted and vice versa. At least, this was my experience. I know that in America, looks are unimportant, but not in Italy.

Posted by
106 posts

Thanks Barkinpark, that was my thoughts. Dress one click up from American casual for evening meal. I am all about comfort (being almost 60 who do I need to impress ;) ), but I do not want to offend either!

Posted by
1599 posts

Take or buy allergy pills. Travel packs of Kleenex too. The chestnut trees will be blooming in early May and hay fever will be effect almost everyone.

As for clothes, i wear leggings and (mostly) long sleeves sunshirts or tunics. They are comfortable, hand wash well and pack light. Wear comfortable shoes. We walked 8 miles several days. Alpaca or cashmere cardigan sweater was handy too. And a broad brimmed hat for sun protection.

If outside, like the Colosseum, a backpack worked good but on indoor days, like the Vatican, a small crossbody purse was better. Outside days I carried my camera in the backpack; indoor days I used my phone’s camera. I fastened clips inside and out on both for security and to deter pick pockets.

Posted by
106 posts

Horsewoofie, I plan on Keen Newport H2 sandals. Not the prettiest but they fit my wide feet, let my dogs breathe and protect my toes. Sun shirts are a great idea and I have bought a packable Wallaroo hat for su.

Posted by
2737 posts

People, relax. There is no Italian translation for "dress code" (and privacy, but that's another story...), more refusing service because of the way people dress is forbidden. I have had lunch in starred restaurants wearing shorts, sandals and a Led Zeppelin hoodie.

You can't easily offend Romans. Romans have been dealing with oddly-dresses tourists since Alarico king of Visigoths knocked at the doors.

Posted by
847 posts

I do like taking the opportunity to dress up and feel beautiful, particularly in Europe. I reside in CA where nobody blinks if I wrap myself up in newspapers and walk into a restaurant.

Also, comfortable clothing does not mean ugly and hard to care for. I have found some cute, easy to launder/dry blouses and slacks that I bring for my for EU trips.

Posted by
106 posts

Too funny Barkinpark! Not quite that liberal here in NC. I am thinking 2 pairs of capris, a skirt, light tshirts, rain jacket, scarf and hat. KEENS for my 1 and only pair of shoes. Room for cool clothing I might find there.

Posted by
847 posts

For hot weather clothing, I suggest you take a look at the Airism line of Uniqlo. This cools better than silk and is easier to care for than linen. Not expensive at all. My husband has 20 pairs of Airism underwear and swears by them.

I know you are going in May, but pack layers in case of heat waves.

Posted by
859 posts

I love dressing up, whether it’s at home or traveling. I like dresses, so easy to pack. I wear a Maxi dress with short sleeves when I need to cover for churches. I’ll be taking walking sandals and sneakers if I need them.

Posted by
25 posts

We spent time in Rome in early May in 2015, 2016 and 2019. The weather for each of these trips was different so I really think you need to keep an eye on the forecast. In 2015, it was hot. I mostly wore tshirts and skirts with a slightly sturdier sandal than I might otherwise wear. The next year was cooler. I wore pants and a light jacket. In 2019, Rome set a record low a day before we arrived and it was downright chilly. If the weather looks at all changeable, think layers. And as others have mentioned, the cobblestones can get slippery and are otherwise a bit hard on your feet. Wear a shoe with a decent tread and some support. For summer, I like the Keen Whisper sandal.

As for bags, I always wear a crossbody bag and my husband carries a messenger bag.

Posted by
5849 posts

I can't disagree with much of the advice given, but for Rome, I can give some general impressions, maybe more for your husband/male companions.

May is a transition month, so light clothing may be needed, but a light jacket or wrap, particularly in the evening would be wise.

Durable shoes that cover your foot. As others mentioned, lots of cobbles, uneven surfaces, steps. Also, being a major urban area, you will encounter litter, muck, droppings, dirt; bad enough when dry, if you get rain, you will be glad you left the open toe sandals home.

As with most "travel light advice" take outfit pieces that mix and match, and go with your one pair (ideally) of shoes your wearing (OK, I admit in my old age, I take my comfortable walking shoes, and a light pair of slip on sketchers for the plane and short walks)

Rome, I tend to dress up a bit, my pants are light "golf" type slacks that can pass as casual or dress. I usually wear a button up shirt, short sleeve casual looking ones for warm days, but always have a long sleeve one that can pass as kind of a dress shirt for a nice restaurant. While there may be no official "dress code" for a nicer restaurant (and many middle of the road trattoria), decent dress is a nice sign of respect for the establishment. Shorts I leave at home, unless I have beach planned, or think I might be lounging around the hotel/apartment more.

As for a bag, I work hard not to need one at all, taking only phone, a credit card, and ~50 euro in cash. My weakness is my tablet, I like to have it for reading, brushing up on information about the city or a sight I downloaded, walking tours, etc. So I have switched to a sling type bag, this one: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Seoky+Rop/page/64C5C811-D5C7-457E-9F6E-EFF8FA129E98?ref_=ast_bln

It is light, my tablet fits in it, I can bring my charger pack, secure pocket for cdc card and passport, plus a little more. I find a smaller bag valuable to keep me from loading it up with stuff I "might" need, but never do.