How to Dress Like an Italian: Spring Edition

The perfect spring outfit in Italy: light jacket, bright pants, and big shades! From tk tk

The perfect spring outfit in Italy: light jacket, bright pants, and big shades! (Photo: Nicoletta Reggio of the Italian fashion blog Scent of Obsession).

Everyone’s heard about Italian fashion—which means some travelers worry about what to wear in Italy.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to dress exactly like an Italian, and no one will expect you to! The most important thing to keep in mind is to wear what makes you most comfortable. That’s not always (or even usually) what Italians will be wearing… and that’s perfectly okay.

That said, a lot of travelers do want to try to dress like the locals when they travel. They see it as a way to “blend in” a bit more (although, of course, keep in mind that you’ll still be given away by something, like your hand gestures or even makeup—before you even open your mouth!). Plus, we love the idea of cultural immersion while traveling. And since fashion is an important part of Italian culture, what could be a more fun kind of cultural immersion than dressing as the locals do?

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A great spring jacket on Scent of Obsession‘s Nicoletta Reggio

Need some tips to get started on how to dress like the Italians?

Here’s your checklist of items to look out for—and that you’ll see lots of Italians wearing—in the spring!

A light jacket, or trench coat, for women

When the air’s still slightly crisp, but there’s already been the cambio di stagione (change of seasons) rendering winter coats unnecessary, Italians don’t reach for a parka or a sweatshirt. They layer—and top those layers off with an elegant exterior. For stylish Italian women, that means a chic jacket or trench coat (like on Nicoletta Reggio, left and at top!).

How to dress like an Italian

Italian fashion, for men, often includes a well-tailored jacket—even a casual one! (Photo: bluumwezi on Flickr).

A well-tailored jacket, for men

Italian men prove that you don’t have to be going to work, or a fancy shindig, to pull off a jacket. Pair one with white or beige pants, or even jeans—and, of course, leather shoes—and you’re good to go to lunch… or a museum. Just don’t be surprised if you’re mistaken for an Italian while you’re there.

A great pair of sunglasses

Even if you don’t mind whether you dress like the locals do, you won’t want to forget these! The sun comes out in force in the spring, so protect those peepers with a pair of shades. Of course, Italians love their designer sunglasses—but any frame will help you blend in, as long as it’s not too tiny. And quirky’s okay, too. Just check out the amazing range of sunglasses worn by Eleonora Carisi, Italian fashion blogger and shop owner (and the sunglasses-wearer below), for inspiration!

Don't leave home without your sunglasses!

Don’t leave home without them!

What to wear in Italy

Red pants: a pretty common sight on the streets of Italy!

Pants in fun colors—like green, red, or pink (yes, for men, too!)

Italians tend to wear basic blue jeans a lot less often than their counterparts elsewhere. It’s not that women are always in dresses, and men in suits; it’s that when they do throw on trousers, they’re rarely basic jeans or khakis. Instead, pants come in a rainbow of colors. And yes, that’s true for women and men. So in honor of spring, embrace some color and throw a pair of bright trousers into your suitcase.

When it comes to fit, remember that in Europe, baggy has never been in—and again, that’s true for both sexes.

If you really want to blend in, then you can't forget those leather shoes! (Photo: Xelcise on Flickr)

If you really want to blend in, then you can’t forget those leather shoes! (Photo: Xelcise on Flickr)

Leather or suede shoes

Although the kind of shoe changes with the season, the basics don’t. Year-round, the stereotype is true: Italians, especially those out of university and older, tend to wear leather shoes. For women in the spring, that can mean heels or ballet flats.

Jewelry, for women

Italian women accessorize. So if you’re keen to be mistaken for one, remember the little details: in the past year, chunky bracelets and bib necklaces have been trendy, but so are delicate necklaces and drop earrings. Wear whatever jewelry you like… but if you want to look like an Italian, do wear something!

Scarves, for both genders

Again, when it comes to both fashion and comfort, spring in Italy is all about layering. Scarves are especially great for travelers: They can spice up an outfit that you’ve already worn three days in a row and can be thrown into a bag or purse to pull out when the sun sets and the weather gets chilly.

Plus, in Italy, scarves can be even more useful, since it’s disrespectful (and often downright forbidden) to go into a church without your shoulders covered. It’s unlikely you’ll be wearing sleeveless tops in the spring, but if you do, then you’ll definitely want to have a scarf with you so you don’t miss out on ducking into any churches.

And yes, scarves are “in” for both men and women. Nothing looks more European than a man in a scarf!

Italian spring style

This Italian woman has it all: cute coat, scarf, and big handbag (photo from street fashion blog Think Runway)

A chic handbag, for women—or a “man bag,” for men

The biggest giveaway of being a traveler is a bulky backpack (or a fanny pack!). Trade yours in for a handbag; a big one can hold just as much as a small backpack (we carry a DSLR camera with two lenses, a wallet, and a sunglasses case in ours). For safety, make sure that there’s a secure way to close it, preferably a zipper—while pickpocketing isn’t something you have to be anxious about all the time, it does happen in Italy’s major cities.

For men who really want to go local, they also have the option of a bag. Lots of Italians use messenger bags (what those in the States sometimes call a “man purse”!) or briefcases. It especially makes sense when you think about how hard it is to transport your stuff while, say, zooming around on a motorino. So if you’ve ever wanted to try one out, a trip to Italy is a good time—we promise, not a single local will bat an eyelash.

Want more Italian style inspiration? Stay up-to-date with our Pinterest page on Italian style!

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54 Responses to How to Dress Like an Italian: Spring Edition

  1. John March 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Nice looking fashions, certain to make one look like a tourist. I like the girl in the pink skirt but the guys in the background of that photo are more typical than the two in the jackets.

    • walksofitaly March 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      Hi John,
      That’s an interesting take—living here, we have to say we often see Italian men dressed like the ones in the photo, and women dressed similarly to the other photos, too! Of course, though, everyone is different, and Italian fashion even varies city to city, so there’s no one way, of course, to dress Italian. These were just some of our favorite trends. Glad you liked them!

  2. Jackie Basnight June 21, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Thank you for the lovely pictures of Italian street fashion. I love that you actually give advice in full details on what to wear. Looking forward to more…..

  3. Yellowchristi June 24, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I hope you update this for fall. I am going in October 2013 and was told by friends that Italians wear mostly black/grey/neutral colors. I’m glad to see the bright pants and skirt in the spring photos. Maybe fall will be back to black? Please keep me posted!

    • Walks of Italy June 24, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

      Hi there,
      We’re glad you like the post! Yes, we’ll do an update for fall. What your friend told you is right, although there are usually a couple of “in” colors every season (usually deeper/darker in the fall than in spring and summer, of course) that you’ll see a lot of, too. We’ll keep you updated! In the meantime, you might want to follow us on Pinterest or at least check out our Pinterest Italian style board, where we try to pin the latest trends going on. :-)

      • K February 2, 2014 at 2:54 am #

        Do italians do consignment with their clothing, or do they recycle it in any other thrifty way?? Or does Italy have any retail chains that offer fashion-trendy styles on a prudent budget?
        I’d love to pack light, and pick up some cool threads once I get there, but am uncertain if it’s as common as here in the US.

        grazie!

        • Walks of Italy February 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

          Hi there,
          Consignment isn’t as common as in the US, but there are plenty of places to pick up cheap threads, at least in the cities. Big markets like Porta Portese or Via Sannio in Rome have lots of stalls of cheap clothing, while vintage shops (although, since these are getting trendy, are getting more expensive) are another nice way to “recycle”. Otherwise, the cheaper retail chains tend, unfortunately, to be similar to those you’d find elsewhere, including H&M and so on.

          Happy shopping!

  4. Isabelle June 26, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    Thanks you for all the practical fashion advice. I will be in Salerno and visiting the Amalfi Coast including Capri mid to late September. Are summer clothing and colors still worn then or are fall colors more appropriate?

    • Walks of Italy June 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

      Hi Isabelle,
      Great question! In Italy, there’s something called the “cambio di stagione,” where everyone suddenly seems to get the memo at the same time to switch their wardrobe… often regardless of the weather! :-) But the fall switch doesn’t usually happen until mid-October, so in September, you’ll be fine with summery wear, which is especially good because it will still be very warm. Happy packing!

  5. stefania July 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I’m italian from milan, and I want to tell you that your article is right just in part. Fist the real faschions is in Milan and there is a big difference between the stile of the people from the south and the people from the north of Italy. Here in Milan the people don’t wear bright color ( we love black, grey, beige)maybe we use colors just for the accessorize but you will never see a “milanese” with a red jacket ( maybe a woman from the south). Second never wear sneakers and flip flop, for us it is the bigger mistake in term of stile, and remember in milan we like be fashion also if it mean wear uncomfortable shoes, and we never complain about that in public, it is not chic. But remember in Italy the fashion change a lot region by region, in the south the people are less slaves of fashion, and they use a lots colors and many thing that for us are just horrible.

  6. Patricia Durastanti July 22, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    I am traveling to Italy for two weeks in September. I would like packing info and the best shoes to bring. We are on a group tour, busy schedule. Thanks

    • Walks of Italy July 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Patricia,
      We’re happy to help! First, take a look at our blog post on how to pack for your trip to Italy, which should answer a lot of your questions. For shoes, comfort is the most important thing—you’ll probably spend a lot more time on your feet than you’re used to! Of course, if you want to dress “like an Italian,” women usually wear nice (and often heeled) leather sandals in the late summer months (and rarely sneakers)… but if you know that will give you blisters, don’t do it! Being comfortable is the most important thing. Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  7. Maria La Rocca August 3, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    I’ll be going to Salerno on 9th August and I’m 4 months pregnant. Do you know of any nice clothes shop in Salerno for pregnant women?

    • Walks of Italy August 7, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Maria,
      Hmm, that’s a good question! The only place we know that might have maternity clothing is the COIN department store on Via Vittorio Emanuele. Let us know if you find anything else, and enjoy your rip!

  8. Mia H. September 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Hi,

    My husband and I will be in Italy (Venice, Florence and Rome) October 14-20th before heading to Greece (Athens and Santorini) for a week. So whatever I pack will need to do double duty for both countries.

    I want to look chic and stylish and not like an American tourist. I lived in Paris for a year so I’m aware of how “not” to dress but this is my first time to Italy. Can you give me any tips for the fall season and any ideas for acceptable/comfortable walking shoes?

    • Walks of Italy September 5, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      Hi Mia,
      We’re happy to help! By late October, the “cambio di stagione” has happened, so unless it’s very warm weather (and sometimes even then!), most Italians will definitely be dressed for autumn. Expect to see lots of long, slim coats, scarves, and boots. Italians also tend to put a lot of thought into their details and accessories, so a good way to dress like a local is to pay attention to your shoes (which should always be in tip-top shape!), purse (something big and leather is always in, and has the added bonus of being great for travel), and jewelry (pile it on!). More specifically, this season, expect to see lots of leather ankle boots, prints (especially checks and plaid), and neutrals (along with some pops of color; forest green and deep teal are especially in). For shoes, we’d recommend either ballerina flats or leather boots. We hope that helps! You might also want to check out our Italian style page on Pinterest for more ideas. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Mia September 7, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

        Thank you so much! This definitely helps because I had it all wrong in my head. I was thinking it would still be a bit warm but it’s definitley not like the beach cities in California. We wear dresses and sandals until late October (sometimes even in November).

        Guess my sassy, leather boots are going to Italy! Thanks again!

  9. Gipsy Dharma October 11, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Lovely outfits! Liked the girl in the pink skirt too. Thanks for posting, love your blog as always.
    Gipsy.

  10. Patricia October 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I am a mature woman and will be travelling for a month in March 2014 throughout Italy. We will be staying in cities and rural areas. Will beautiful “riding boots” be appropriate this time of year? I am taking a beautiful short black trench as well…too “wintry”. Thanks!

    • Patricia October 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Sorry, I mean to end “too wintry”??? :)

    • Walks of Italy October 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Hi Patricia,
      We’re happy to help! It depends a bit of course on what the weather’s like. If it’s still a little crisp with variable weather, which it likely will be through March, then yes, riding boots and a black trench will be perfectly appropriate.
      Enjoy your trip!

  11. Brad October 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Help! I was in Italy a couple years ago and saw a beautiful winter outdoor sportcoat in a shop in Florence. I didn’t buy it at the time (now regret), and would love to figure out what that was. I’m thinking it was either Italian or Swiss.

    It’s a very stylish insulated sportcoat. Any idea what that is or the brand?

    • Walks of Italy October 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Hi Brad,
      Thanks for stopping by! Unfortunately there are far too many sports coats (and brands in Italy) for us to be able to help you with this! You’ll just have to come back to Italy and do some shopping and exploring yourself ;-)

  12. kim November 26, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    I am planning a trip to Rome in April 2014 and am looking for some fashion advice. I am a Florida girl so I will probably be chilly but do not want to dress in clothing that would appear to be winter clothing to Italians. I am wondering if Italians continue wearing boots, leggings, sweaters, etc this time of year and around Easter. Any suggestions would be great! Thank you.

    • Walks of Italy January 14, 2014 at 1:01 am #

      Hi Kim,
      At that time of year, expect lots of layering: light jackets and trenches, scarves, and a mix of boots and flats. Don’t come with your full-on winter coat and hats, but be aware that Italians tend to dress fairly modestly in general, but especially until it gets super hot, too!

      Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  13. Stephanie December 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    I was told by an Italian male that all or most Italian men wear white sneakers. I was just curious to why?.

  14. Kim February 9, 2014 at 3:11 am #

    We are traveling to Venice, Florence and Rome in mid March and need to know what you suggest to wear during the day while seeing the beautiful sights and in the evening going to nice dinners. Thank you for your help.

    • Walks of Italy February 22, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Hi Kim,
      Definitely go with layers, since the weather can be changeable at that time of year. Remember that little details — like a nice silk scarf, handbag, and jewelry — can do a lot to dress up an outfit for dinner. And stay away from sneakers.

      Enjoy your trip!

  15. Kris March 5, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Hello. great article. Thank you for the tips. I will be travelling to Italy for two weeks in the beginning of May 2014. we ;ll be starting along the Amalfi coast and ending up in Venice. Quite a ew climates to move through. Do you have any tips/hints on what to pack?
    Thank you for your help

    • Walks of Italy March 13, 2014 at 3:47 am #

      Thank you, Kris! While the weather is generally warm in May, we’d suggest packing lots of layers – from sweaters to tank tops – to be prepared as you travel. Buon viaggio and be sure to let us know about your experience!

  16. Gina March 23, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    Hello to your wonderful website!

    We just planned a trip to Venice and Positano for August. I am really concerned about what kinds of shoes to wear for sightseeing. I have lots of nice clothing and many pairs of shoes that are high heels and not suitable for sightseeing. I don’t wear sneakers outside of a gym, but I am trying to avoid the blister disaster of Florence one summer, where it was brutally hot and my Tod’s loafers became too tight in the heat.

    What would be suitable to walk in Venice? I was told to wear flats because like Florence, there are many cobblestones. I am assuming that at night, I can handle heels as we would not be walking quite so much. But I do want to look nice during the day with my dresses.

    Please help! Thank you!

    • Walks of Italy March 26, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

      Hi Gina, thank you for your compliments! Venice has very few cobblestones, so we would suggest wearing comfortable flats and sandals to walk around. Buon viaggio and let us know if you have any other questions!

  17. Tina March 27, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    Ciao, I will be taking my 8 year old son to Italy this summer. We will be in Venice, Salerno, Rome and Bologna. Any tips on clothing for myself and my son for the trip? Is it okay for him to wear Nikes? Also tips on safety, should I pack a nice handbag or leave it at home?

    • Walks of Italy March 27, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      Ciao Tina! We suggest bringing lightweight clothes as the summer can get very hot and you should also pack a light jacket or sweater for the cool evenings. If you would feel more comfortable to not wear expensive clothing, accessories and jewelry you can leave them at home, although you should not have any problems if you use your travel and street smarts while traveling (ex. not leaving your bag open on the subway). Nike sneakers are absolutely fine, and we recommend packing comfortable walking shoes. Do let us know if you have any other questions!

  18. Susan March 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    I am so glad I found your blog! I will be in Florence, Tuscan hill towns and Rome in a few weeks (the end of April until the middle of May). I am almost 60 (but blessed to look 40-ish!) and I want to be somewhat age appropriate. I have some not too skinny black jeans black capris and red cropped pants, a mid-calf reversible print/black skirt and a mix of long, short and sleeveless tops, and lots of scarves. Should I avoid sleeveless or tank tops (I know about inside churches). I will be layering but expect I may get warm enough to be down to that layer! And is it true what I read that as a size 10 I will have a difficulty finding this “huge” size in clothing?
    Many thanks for any advice, this will put my mind at ease! I don’t want so much to blend in (how could I will my red hair and pale freckle-face) – as to not STICK OUT! :)

    • Walks of Italy March 30, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

      Ciao Susan! It looks like your packing list is great, just be sure to add some light jackets and sweaters if you plan to wear sleeveless tops as some evenings may be cool or chilly. You should not have a problem finding the Italian equivalent of a size 10 as Florence and Rome have a wide selection of stores and most shops and boutiques carry up to a 12. Buon viaggio and let us know if you have any questions!

  19. Mens Deisgner Clothing April 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Italian Men’s fashion has such a huge sense of sophistication attached to it. It all looks effortless yet intricate at the same time! It seems as though it might be easier for men to blend in as sartorial fashion seems hugely popular everywhere, particularly here in the UK.- Richard

  20. Rita Shaheen April 27, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    My husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in Rome.We’ll be there late May to early June. Please offer suggestions on style or brand of shoes for walking, walking and more walking! Can we wear shorts when taking a bicycle tour? Thank you!

    • Walks of Italy April 28, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      Hi Rita, we suggest looking into sandals and flat shoes that are made for walking like Birkenstocks and Geox. Stylish sneakers work well for men, too. Shorts are acceptable for a bicycle tour around the city. Do let us know if you have any questions!

  21. Emily Lim April 29, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    We’ll be going to Italy(venice,Florence,Cinque Terre,Rome) on the end of May till the beginning week of June.I have been googling around to see what to wear and not to during this season.I’m a bit confuse since some suggested to wear shorts and summer dresses while some other websites suggested me to wear long denim pants and long sleeve shirts.I don’t know what exactly to wear during this time.

    • Walks of Italy April 29, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

      Ciao Emily! The weather tends to change during the spring from warm to cold – even one day to the next – so we suggest bringing lots of layers from sweaters to tank tops to be prepared for all types of climates. Buon viaggio and let us know if you have any questions!

  22. Anick May 3, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    Hi! Just loooooove your blog! Will be in Sardinia and Rome in july and was wondering how is the weather at night or on rainy days? Do i need closed shoes ( like a ballerina) or sandals will do it?

    And about ballerina: are the pointy toes or rounded toes in style?

    • Walks of Italy May 4, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

      Ciao! July will be hot in Italy, especially in Sardinia and Rome. We would suggest bring comfortable sandals for walking around during the day and closed shoes if you prefer for the evenings. Ballerina flats are a classic in Italy – both pointed and round toe. Let us know if you have any questions :)

  23. Katimae May 11, 2014 at 5:12 am #

    I will be studying abroad in florence for 6 weeks this summer (from may 17-june 27) and i am wondering if dressy tank tops are appropriate? also, should i wear more dresses and skirts, or capris? thank you for your help and this site is amazing!

    • Walks of Italy May 15, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      Ciao! Dressy tank tops are appropriate, but we suggest traveling with a sweater or shawl in case you want to visit museums and churches that prohibit uncovered shoulders. You’ll also want to pack some layers because the temperature may change depending on the day and evenings tend to be cool. Both capris and dresses work – whatever you prefer! Enjoy your study abroad experience :)

  24. wvuflu May 12, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    I love reading your blog! I’ll be in Florence/Milan in early July for a tradeshow and to visit. I know it’s going to be hot, but what clothes and shoes would be appropriate for the summer months? Would a peep toe shoe be ok with a dress? I need to have shoes that will work for both work and sightseeing. Grazie

    • Walks of Italy May 13, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Thank you! Peep toe shoes will absolutely be appropriate, and many Italians even wear dressy sandals for work occasions. Temperatures can be quite high in the summer so be sure to wear comfortable clothing. Let us know if you have any questions!

  25. Isabelle May 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    I will be in Rome for 3 weeks in the fall. Are there shops that sell Italian leather shoes at reasonable prices (under 200€)? I am not looking for designer brands but I do want good quality leather.

    • Walks of Italy May 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

      Ciao Isabelle! We’d suggest Solodue (Via del Pellegrino, 48) and Borini (Via dei Pettinari 86) for great made in Italy leather shoes. Do let us know if you have any questions!

  26. Grace June 19, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Hi,

    Thanks for such a well written and informative description of Italian Style, beautifully illustrated with good photos to sum it all up.

    I’m going to be in Venice next week (June 22nd) for 10 days and have my wardrobe planned – I have my own unique, vintage late 50s early 60s style, so while I want to look chic, I also don’t want to loose my image. I’m packing a few 50s style circle skirts (Navy with white polka dots and red with white flowers) to wear with a simple cream cropped t-shirt, several dresses, inc a turquoise tea-dress with leopard print, a blue and white vintage 60s polkadot shift dress, a cream/black/coral stripe dress with a wide boat neck, a strapless black/white/red geometric patterned dress and a short-sleeved b/w silk dress with a blue ‘band’ around the hem. All my dresses are below the knee and I’m taking a couple of neutral coloured cardis (black and beige) and a dusky pink shawl to cover my shoulders in church. Shoes, I plan on taking ballet flats, and peeptoe sandals (to show my red painted nails) and one pair of wedge heel snakeskin shoes for dinner etc

    I’ve selected a few classic pieces of jewellery to take with me (pearl earrings etc) and will do 50s make-up (winged eyeliner and nude lips for the day, red at night)

    Will this still appear chic to the Italians or would they deem it ‘vulgar’? Italian dressing always seems to elegant and simple, whereas my look always contains a lot of elements/colour/pattern etc. I don’t wish to ‘blend in’ merely not stand out as completely unstylish or cheap! Your help would be much appreciated!

    • Walks of Italy June 23, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Hi Grace! Italians love to show off their unique style with different colors and patterns, and we think your wardrobe will be great for Venice. Buon viaggio!

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