We are so excited for our upcoming trip to Italy. Although I lived in Italy when we graduated from college, it’s been almost 20 (!) years since I’ve been back.
When packing for a trip to Italy, there are two essential things to keep in mind:
1. La bella figura - this means “the beautiful figure” but it doesn’t apply just to the body, it’s how one presents oneself, from hair to clothing to shoes to attitude. Italians appreciate beauty – whether it’s in a painting, a handbag, or a bowl of pasta, they like to look at beautiful things – and not just things, but people. And that means you, American tourist descending upon their medieval village. Do yourself a favor. Leave the baseball caps and tennis shoes at home. Take the idea of la bella figura to heart and take time to pack clothing and accessories that will not only travel well but will look polished and sophisticated.
This does not mean that you have to sacrifice comfort, but bring clothing that is on the dressier side: instead of jeans, bring a pair of black capris, substitute a skirt for shorts. Pack a pair of your most comfortable ballet flats instead of flip-flops. Then, while enjoying your afternoon gelato while strolling along the Arno, you’ll feel like a real Italian.
2. The Italian Grandmother I mean this both figuratively and literally.
Figuratively – Italy is still very old-fashioned in many ways. You don’t see women (even young women) in short shorts, mini-skirts or skimpy tops. For men, think about how you would dress if you were going to escort your grandmother to Sunday brunch at her favorite restaurant. No cargo shorts or untucked shirts. And certainly no tank tops. The overriding principle is to dress modestly and respectfully. Most churches, and several museums (the Vatican Museum in particular) will not allow women to enter if their shoulders are bare or their skirt is too short. Women should always keep a lightweight scarf in their bag, to throw over their shoulders if the need arises.
Literally – the big-bosomed, black-sweatered, opinionated Italian grandmother is alive and well in Italy. And if you try to dis her church or her village by looking like a bum, she will not hesitate to shake her finger in your face while chewing you out, making you feel like you are a naughty toddler.
So, let’s get down to specifics.
We are only bringing carry-on bags (I know the very idea of that terrifies you). Our trip will last only for 11 days and we plan to cover a lot of territory, so we’re travelling light.
-Packing smart is essential. But, I want to look good, right (see above)?
-Italy is hot in the summer, especially southern Italy. Lightweight clothing is key.
-I won’t pack anything unless it matches at least two other pieces of clothing, i.e. every top has to go with at least two bottoms and vice-versa.
With that in mind, here is my packing plan:
1. Four dresses – two sleeveless shift dresses, a maxi dress and our Julia Farr Collection Eastern Market Dress -
Won’t this look fabulous while I’m strolling through San Lorezo Market in Florence?
2. Four Skirts - our Julia Farr Collection M Street skirt,
because it goes with everything and I can dress it up at night. A maxi skirt that I’ll wear on the plane ride over there (easy care and will keep me warm on the chilly plane), and two other midi-length skirts in fun patterns.
3. One pair of Joe’s Jeans – in hot pink, so they don’t look like jeans, more like trousers. And, I’ll take my chances with the Italian grandmothers and throw in one pair of tailored shorts.
4. Four tailored, cotton tops to pair with my skirts. I’ll also bring our Prospect Linen blouse
-it’s perfect because it covers my arms (so maybe the grandmothers will let me get away with wearing it with shorts), but, since it’s linen, it’ll keep me cool on those hot Roman days.
And, I can’t leave home without my Sequoia sleeveless top – my essential travel piece.
5. A lightweight scarf that will fit easily into my handbag.
6. Speaking of handbags, I’m packing one of my old, neutral cross body bags in hopes that I can ditch it over there and come home with a fabulous, new Italian handbag!
7. For shoes, I’ll bring one nice pair of ballet flats, two pairs of sandals and a pair of wedge heels. All of them are comfortable to walk in.
A packing tip: I always pack my shoes in a nice, fabric shoe bag like this one
It keeps things tidy and keeps the ancient European soil from spreading all over your suitcase.
8. We will be spending time at the beach, so I’ll pack a bikini and my favorite Trina Turk cover-up, which could pass for a dress.
9. I only bring costume jewelry with me when I travel – and only a few pieces – two pairs of earrings, a couple of necklaces and bracelets. For some reason, I love to wear lots of bangles when I travel. I’m not sure if it’s because bangles seem so footloose and fancy free – perfect for a vacation – or because I feel the need to make a lot of noise, so I don’t get lost from my travel companions (much like wearing a cowbell).
For the plane, I’ll wear the maxi skirt with a loose t-shirt and my favorite silk/cotton wrap in cream to keep me cozy while I try to catch some zzzzzs.
And, guess what – it all fits in my carry-on.
Of course, I’ll also pack a duffel bag that can expand to carry home all the great treasures I’m sure I’ll find in la bella Italia. I promise to bring some goodies for you!