Packing for a Vatican Visit: Dress Code Do’s & Dont’s

January 23, 2023

If you’re traveling to the Italian capital, it’s very likely a trip to the Vatican is high on your agenda!

And why wouldn’t it be? Acting as a modern-day gateway into centuries worth of incredible history, the building is an example of awe-inspiring architecture and plays host to a collection of art guaranteed to take your breath away.

But if you want to enjoy the renowned space in all its splendour, you will be required to adhere to certain rules and regulations.

When in Rome: How to dress for a visit to the Vatican

Think Rome; think the Vatican. Think the Vatican; think dress code.

Like any religious site around the world, the Vatican asks its visitors to respect its system of rules, and included in these rules is a specific dress code.

“Entry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens is permitted only to appropriately dressed visitors,” reads the Vatican’s official statement.

Prior to your visit to the Vatican, it is highly recommended you consider this point, and – most importantly – whether or not you’re willing to accept the stipulations and act accordingly.

Word to the wise; by choosing to ignore it you run the risk of being turned away

Summer dresses are a-okay – just make sure they cover your knees!

What does ‘appropriately dressed’ actually mean?

The Vatican makes reference to ‘appropriately dressed visitors’, but what does this mean exactly?

Understanding the term goes a long way towards avoiding potential embarrassment or possible disappointment, so let’s take a closer look at the sartorial do’s and dont’s when visiting the Vatican.

The Vatican decrees that “low cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, miniskirts and hats are not allowed“, but as some of this is open to interpretation depending on your perspective, it’s worth examining the rules in a little more detail!

So, let’s navigate this one step at a time.

A shirt dress, plimsolls and crossbody bag will get you anywhere in Rome in style – and comfort!

4 commonly asked questions about the Vatican dress code

1. Can I wear a t-shirt, tank top or turtleneck?

Tank tops, vest tops, spaghetti-strap tops, sleeveless blouses and any cleavage-revealing garments are absolutely out of the question when visiting the Vatican.

So, what are your options during Rome’s warmer months?

In the summer, you should opt for shirts, T-shirts, sleeved blouses which cover your shoulders, and sheer blouses that keep you cool while remaining covered – but just be sure you’re dressed modestly underneath any translucent materials!

Unsurprisingly, winter time poses fewer challenges as you’re naturally more inclined to cover up, but it’s important to ensure your outfit choice remains ‘appropriate’, regardless of the season.

Think low-key, lean into demure, err on the side of caution and remember; if you reckon it’s too risky, then it almost certainly is!

Read more: The Best Things to Do in the Vatican for Kids

A long shirt over jeans is always a good look. Full fringed leather jacket, optional.

2. Can I wear shorts, skirts or slacks in the Vatican?

There are very few of us who would choose to wear restrictive clothing while visiting Rome during the summer, so it’s hardly surprising that many balk at the notion they would be denied entry into the Vatican if dressed in shorts or a short skirt.

But before you panic and cancel your visit, it’s worth remembering that there are ways to stay cool, remain appropriate and keep on everyone’s good side!

If you’re concerned you’ll get it wrong when considering the contents of your suitcase, both men and women should opt for lightweight trousers, preferably made of linen or cotton.

Jeans fit the dress code, but there’s a good chance it will be much too hot to wear them, so with that in mind, it’s worth considering the do’s and dont’s when it comes to shorts and skirts.

If you decide to wear a skirt, mini skirts are a no-no, so opt for a longer style and remain cool by choosing cotton or linen fabrics.

And if all else fails and the contents of your suitcase is posing problems, you can pick up a skirt or pair of trousers cheaply around Ottaviano Street, which is located just around the corner from the Vatican.

Pssst! If you want an all-encompassing experience during your vacation to Rome, take our comprehensive tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica!

3. What shoes should I wear for a tour of the Vatican?

The Vatican website doesn’t actually make reference to footwear, but that doesn’t mean you get free rein when it comes to anything and everything beneath the ankle!

Like every other aspect of your wardrobe decision-making ahead of your visit to the Vatican, err on the side of caution and choose a pair of shoes which won’t draw unwanted attention.

Think flat, think comfortable, and think low-key. And avoid any footwear which could be considered loud or garish.

Pro-tip: In the summer, men and women should opt for sandals or flats, as opposed to flip-flops.

A colourful light shirt and slacks is an ideal outfit for the Vatican.

4. Can I wear a hat?

In summer, many of us tend to wear baseball caps and sun hats to protect us from the sun’s rays, while in winter we opt for woollen hats and ear muffs to keep out the chill.

In the Vatican, you can be expected to remove any type of hat before gaining entry to the religious site. Just like displaying too much skin is considered disrespectful, wearing a hat indoors is deemed equally bad manners.

While we’re on the subject of accessories, it’s definitely worth considering other items we tend to carry on vacation which may pose a problem when visiting the Vatican.

According to the official website, visitors are required to leave all luggage, suitcases, rucksacks, and any packages or containers considered unsuitable by staff on account of their size or nature in the cloakroom before entering the exhibition spaces.

Most umbrellas, sticks (apart from those used for walking), tripods and stands for photography, and video cameras must also be left in the cloakroom.

Read more: The Biggest Mistakes When Visiting the Vatican – And How To Avoid Them

Top tip!

It’s worth putting a light scarf or long-sleeved cover-all in your bag ahead of your visit to the Vatican.

Not only will it come in handy if you think you’re in need of a little extra cover, but it will be a welcome addition if you tend to feel the chill in vast buildings like the Vatican!

And there you have it folks; the easiest ways to navigate the Vatican’s dress code!

by Niamh McClelland

View more by Niamh ›

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