If you’re embarking on an Italian adventure soon chances are you’ve started to think about what you’re going to wear while you’re there— and if you haven’t this is your sign to start thinking about it.
Fashion is part of the Italian culture— so whether you’re sipping espresso in a bustling Roman café, exploring the arts in Florence, lounging by the turquoise waters of the Amalfi Coast, or hiking the snowy Alps, it should be done in style and specifically Italian style.
After four years of living in Italy during which I went to one of the country’s most prominent fashion schools and co-founded a responsible fashion company in Italy, I’ve got you covered with what to wear in Italy.
This guide covers everything from the basic packing checklist down to the exact outfits I’d recommend wearing— all from conscious fashion brands of course.
What to Wear in Italy:
Italy is world-renowned for its fashion, and this isn’t left only to fashion week. On a daily basis, Italians get dressed with style.
Here are some key characteristics of Italian fashion:
Effortlessly Chic: Italians are known for their ability to look effortlessly chic. This is achieved by mastering the art of “sprezzatura,” which can be loosely translated as “studied carelessness.” It’s about looking elegant while appearing nonchalant about it.
Quality over Quantity: Italians tend to prioritize quality over quantity. They prefer investing in a few high-quality items rather than having a wardrobe full of cheaper, less well-made clothing— something we can all learn to adopt.
Smart Casual: Even when they’re dressing casually, Italians lean towards smart casual. It’s common to see Italians wearing neat, well-tailored jeans paired with a crisp button-up shirt or a well-fitted blazer, even for informal outings.
Neutral and Earthy Tones: While Italians certainly don’t shy away from bold colors and patterns (hello Versace), the general palette leans towards neutral and earthy tones, such as blacks, whites, beiges, olives, and navy blues.
Accessories: Accessories are a key component of Italian style. Italians often accessorize their outfits with sunglasses, scarves, statement jewelry, and high-quality leather goods, such as handbags and shoes.
Trend-conscious: Italians are known for being fashion-forward and trend-conscious. However, they manage to incorporate trends into their style without becoming slaves to them.
Modest Elegance: Modesty and elegance go hand in hand in Italian style. Excessive show of skin is generally avoided, especially in smaller towns and villages— if you don’t follow this, prepare for some looks and maybe an odd comment here and there from the local “Nonne” (grandmothers)
Attention to Detail: Italians pay great attention to the details of their outfits, such as the perfect fit, the right combination of colors and patterns, and ensuring their shoes match their bags.
Style in Italy varies by region, with Milan being the fashion capital known for its high-fashion glamour, Rome and Florence embodying classic Italian elegance, and coastal regions like the Amalfi Coast displaying a more relaxed, Mediterranean style.
What to Wear Sightseeing in Italy
Before I even get into this list there’s one thing you absolutely must know: the most important thing to wear when sightseeing is comfortable shoes.
Don’t even bother packing shoes that aren’t comfortable, they won’t make it out of the suitcase— and if they do they will only bring regret.
If you didn’t know Uber isn’t a thing in Italy, so you won’t be able to call one to come get you when your feet hurt.
Now that’s cleared up, let’s get into the list:
Cute Sun Dresses (Summer months)
Hat if you’re going to be in the sun a lot
Wide leg Pants
Casual yet cute Top
Trendy casual outfits
Secure purse (ideally cross-body or bum bag, zip closure)
Sightseeing Outfit Ideas for Italy (Spring/Summer):
Fall/Winter Sightseeing Outfit Ideas for Italy
What to Wear in Italy on Travel Days
With endless iconic cities to see in Italy, chances are that you’re not spending your whole Italian holiday in only one place. Typically that means you’ll be taking the train or flying (although I would suggest taking the train over a flight for the sustainability aspect along with the beautiful scenery you get to see along the way).
Regardless of the mode of transport, you’ll want to be dressed comfortably, but yet still refined because even on travel days Italians don’t slack on their style— so leave your Lululemon’s behind and step it up a notch with some elevated loungewear or a comfy dress.
Outfit Ideas for Travel Days:
What to Wear For a Beach Day in Italy
From the coasts of Silicy to the whitewashed beach towns of Puglia, there’s no shortage of options for a beach day in Italy— now while you might think this gives you a break from fashion, think again.
In Italy, the beach is a place to see and be seen, so naturally the style “rules” apply to the beach. There are some rules of thumb to follow when in a beach town. Firstly, you’ll want to pack a coverup to throw on if you’re going to the beach bar or anywhere in town, only wearing a swimsuit is a no-no.
In general swimsuit bottoms in Europe are more on the cheeky-side than what we’re accustomed to in the United States, so don’t be afraid to show a little bum, but you can 100% your normal swimsuit as well. Men typically wear speedos (yes the stereotype is true) or short board shorts that hit a few inches above the knee.
The Italian Sun is HOT so you’ll want to wear breathable fabrics and be sure to pack a hat because having a burnt scalp is not an ideal way to spend your Italian Holiday.
Outfit Ideas for Beach Day’s In Italy:
What to Wear in Italy at Night
Italians definitely step it up in the evening— they’re not shy to bring a bit of glamour to dinner and drinks. It’s common for women to wear heels, yes even on the cobblestones. However, I’d recommend steering clear of any heels that you’re not 100% comfortable walking in because it’s not fun to spend the night looking down at your feet, you’ll miss the beauty of the city around you.
The rule of thumb for the evenings in Italy is when in doubt wear black. You can’t go wrong with a black top and tailored pants or dark denim. A cute smocked dress if you’re feeling feminine or a slinky slip dress if you’re going for a sexier look.
What Not to Wear in Italy: The No-no’s
Like not drinking cappuccinos in the afternoon there are certain rules in the Italian fashion world that shouldn’t be broken.
Workout-wear: When I told my Italian friends that in the united states, it’s pretty normal to wear your workout clothes anywhere and everywhere (including out to a casual dinner) their mouths dropped. They couldn’t imagine donning a pair of Lululemon’s outside of the gym— so if you want to blend in with the locals be sure to leave the workout clothes for working out.
Short-shorts (specifically jean shorts): Short-shorts have their time and place in Italy, like the beach or going out clubbing, but for a day wandering the streets and popping in and out of churches wearing itty bitty jean shorts is a no-no.
Flip Flops: In Italy, flip flops are reserved for the beach. This could be in the name of fashion, but it’s also practical because the uneven cobblestone and flip-flops don’t make a good match.