Everyone’s heard about Italian fashion—which means some travelers worry about what to pack for their trip to 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?
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. With any luck, you’ll be strolling through the ultra-chic Brera neighborhood on our Milan in a Day tour in style!
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!).
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!
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.
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. To get those amazing leather shoes at more affordable prices, try one of Italy’s major outlet malls.
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!
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!