Dressing for Italy: Tips for Tourists

^ top: Ross & Enrico – dressed for a wedding, I admit

Foreign travelers to Italy sometimes ask how to to dress so as not to look out of place among the fashionable Italians. This question is hard to answer; much depends on your sex, age, and personal style.

It’s easiest to start with some fashion don’ts:

  • No track suits, sweat suits, or the like, and no baggy sweatshirts. Well, really, no baggy anything.
  • No fanny packs.
  • No daypacks or backpacks, unless you’re in your 20s or younger.
  • No clunky white sports shoes. Younger Italians do wear sports shoes, even when not doing sports, but these are usually sleek and stylish models (including some brands very familiar to Americans), and are never dirty or scuffed or worn down.
  • No t-shirts, especially not with big pictures or slogans on them, again, unless you’re under 30.
  • No shorts, especially not for men.

Now some do’s:

  • In general, Italians dress more formally than Americans. Blue jeans are fine, as long as they are well-fitting, clean, and in good condition (or any damage is intentional and fashionable) – Levis are very trendy and even expensive in Italy.
  • Men, always wear collared shirts (polos are okay).
  • Wear dark or subdued colors, except in summer. Even then, Italians wear white or pastels, not the bright purples and blues that many Americans like.
  • As a tourist you’ll be walking a lot, so I do recommend very comfortable shoes, even though this seems never to be a consideration for Italians, at least not for women, who routinely walk all over town with things on their feet that I couldn’t even stand up in.
  • Designer labels are always a plus.

Of course, how you dress is always entirely up to you, and no one is going to jeer at you even if you commit every single one of the fashion “sins” listed above. The question I’m responding to came from people who wanted to know how to fit in, and that’s what I’ve done my best to answer, with some expert advice from my Milan-raised, extremely stylish, teenage daughter. (I admit I cheated – in the photo above, my daughter and husband are dressed for a wedding!)

5 thoughts on “Dressing for Italy: Tips for Tourists

  1. Maureen

    We have been invited to a good friend’s evening wedding in Frascatti at the end of July. Any suggestions as to how we should dress? Thanks!

  2. Andrew

    haha well your daughter is una ragazza molto bella 🙂

    and im going to italy today! thanks for the tips, however, my companion will not follow these tips

  3. william

    My wife and I will be going to Rome in a few weeks and I just happen to come upon your site describing the dos and donts of what to wear over there. Most of the tips I have no problem with since I almost never shorts except to go to Disney World or the like. I also would never wear a fanny pack as they look, well, just plain stupid. I do not understand the problem with t-shirts. I do not have any with pictures on them, but I have several earth-tone t-shirts such as black, grey, dark blue, etc. I am 39 years old though I look younger and I do not see why this would be a problem over there. Also, why not have a daypack? What is the problem with that? What if you buy souveniers or need a place to put an umbrella or light sweater or whatever else? Designer lables may be a plus if you are wealthy, but I am not. People are going to know you are a tourist anyway so I don’t understand your logic.

  4. Deirdre Straughan Post author

    Shrug. It’s up to you. The tips were intended for people who say they “don’t want to look like tourists”. As your correctly point out, you will to some extent look like a tourist no matter what you do, and if you don’t care about fitting in at all (for myself, I usually don’t), then you can of course dress exactly as you please! One practical reason not to wear shorts is that you won’t be allowed in churches if you do.

  5. William

    Just returned from Rome and I can offer my own advice on how to dress over there.

    Jeans: Everywhere and on every single age group. Mostly dark blue, but many light blues were noticed. Black jeans were not prevalent. Jeans were noticed more than docker-type pants which were almost non-existent.

    Shorts: Mostly on elementary school kids, but adults (non-tourists) did have them on.

    T-shirts: Everywehere and on every age group up to senior citizens. T-shirts were noticed far far than any other type of shirt over there including graphic tees.

    Shoes: Mostly brown and a few black, but the so-called taboo white was noticed on many locals as well as sky blue, green, red, yellow, and just about every color in the rainbow. I even saw at least a few locals wearing the socks with sandals over there.

    Dark or subdued colors? hmm, don’t think so. If anything, the locals were wearing bright colors for the most part.

    Scarves: mostly on the women and very rarely on the men.

    Backpacks: Everywhere on locals. Yes, the shoulder bad or messenger bag was more prevalent, but many many backpacks were observed again in every age group.

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