You might say packing and Italy are my two great loves. I should include some hunky man in that list, but I can’t deny a perfectly packed suitcase bound for Italy. Beginning at 14 years old, I started a trend of frequenting Italy. I studied Italian in Sorrento for a month in summer. I would return just over a year later to study in Sicily for a semester in the fall and winter. Rather than going home, I jumped up to Florence to study for yet another semester in the country, spending late winter, spring and summer in the Renaissance city. After college graduation, I spent a few months in Italy yet again and then I returned last summer for three months, traveling from literally the top of the country to the very tip of Italy’s stiletto. Yes, I really do love Italy and packing for it always brings a certain thrill.
However after all of these trips of frequenting Italy in different seasons and different geographic locations, I have made some packing errors whether it be bringing too much or thinking I could wear sandals year round. Having learned from my mistakes, I hope Italy novices can in turn pack better with this list.
I have included items that work year round, with some adding and subtracting for different times of the year. While Italy is diverse, it is pretty similar from toe to heel throughout the different seasons. From a two-week excursion to the country to semesters spent studying abroad, this list should be sufficient.
3 Basic Tank Tops
3 Basic T-Shirts
3 Nicer Blouses — Italians dress up. If you want to fit in, don’t look like a slouch.
3 Dresses — One with sleeves to go into churches and for cooler months in Italy.
2 Pairs of Skinny Jeans
1 Heavy Jacket (Pea coat type) — For late fall, winter and early spring only.
1 Lightweight Jacket — For fall, spring and summer only.
6 Pairs of Socks — For late fall, winter and early spring only.
7 Pairs of Underwear — A week’s worth you can wash out easily.
2 Yoga Pants — For more active days hiking or to sleep in.
1 Swimsuit — The country is surrounded by the sea!
1 Scarf — Basic in color so that it will go throughout each season. You can also use this to cover up in churches.
3 Sweaters — For late fall, winter and early spring only.
1 Pair of Walking Shoes — Make sure you test these out before leaving. In Italy, you will walk everywhere.
1 Pair of Flats — Flats are prefect for summer, fall, some days in winter and spring in Italy.
1 Pair of Flat Boots — If there is one item I didn’t think I needed before setting off for Italy it was boots. You will use these more than you can imagine. It rains in Italy and the winters can be bitter cold. Flat boots are easy to walk in and they keep your feet warm.
1 Pair of Flip-Flops — For miscellaneous purposes but most importantly the beach!
Toiletries are ridiculously expensive in Italy, especially for the amount of product you get in little bottles. If you want to save some money, bring some of your favorites from home. Your load will lighten as you use more products throughout your trip.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Bar of Soap
Tiny Tide Packets — You can wash your whole wardrobe in the sink with these miracle packets.
Pumice Stone — More so than in any other country, I always feel like I walk more in Italy. Most Italian major cities are walker friendly, but your feet pay. Italians don’t keep their streets entirely clean. The only way to keep your feet completely clean, especially in summertime from the dirty Italian streets, is to pack a pumice stone. I tried searching for these in Italy and found the Italian equivalent, rocks.
Mosquito spray — The mosquitos are mean in Italy. Florence is hit hard in summer with mosquitoes due to its location along the Arno River. The same can be said for coastal locations like in Sicily.
Laptop — This varies based on the person but I couldn’t live without mine.
Camera – DSLR or point and shoot.
Internet Card — If you are staying for a while in Italy, consider purchasing an Internet card with a local phone company. I bought one for 60 euros and it lasted 3 months.
Luggage Lock — Petty theft is common in Italy. Keep your luggage locked up in your hotel room.
1 umbrella — Or you can buy one from those men who pop up on street corners whenever it rains in Italy.
Cell phone — Not just to communicate and use apps, a cell phone can be a great way to avoid heckling Italian men. I often would pretend to be on the phone walking down the street to avoid unwanted attention.
Wine Opener – Especially for the cost conscious traveler, you are going to want to pick up a cheap bottle of Italian wine at the supermarket on occasion. If you don’t have a wine opener this can be problematic for your evening. Pack one, for you never know if you might need it.
Depending on where you will be in Italy and what you will be doing, some of these items aren’t necessary. If you are traveling around Sicily in December, it will be cold and call for heavy coats and boots. If you are stationed in Rome or Florence for the summer, the heat will be engulfing. Sun dresses and breathable fabrics are the answer.
If you want to blend in, baseball caps and white sneakers are not the way to go. I prefer to blend in as much as possible in Italy for my bright red hair tends to mark me as a foreigner in the country. Dressing in short-shorts and tank tops in summer isn’t always the best option for Italian men will hassle you to the point of following you down the street, block after block. If you don’t want this kind of attention, dresses are a better option in summer along with those trusted skinny jeans. However, no matter what you pack for Italy, the attention will most likely come even if you are wearing a potato sack. On second thought, you may want to throw in some earplugs to drown out those catcalls.
Have you traveled to Italy? What do you recommend packing for the country?
Suzy Guese is a travel writer, born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She fell in love with travel at a young age on family road trips and vacations to Europe. Italy in particular has always had a special place in her traveling heart, so much so that she is always plotting a return. She has studied, traveled and eaten her way from the top of Italy’s boot to its pointy heel. Suzy writes about her travels on her website Suzy Guese, Traveling with a redhead temperament and on the One Travel blog.