woman in Rome getting photo taken
Photo: @dabobabo via Twenty20

Travel in Style: What to Pack for Rome

Packing for Rome for the first time felt like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube after someone peeled off all the color-coded stickers. Once there, however, I learned that putting together a blend-in and look-great Italian wardrobe doesn’t have to be complicated. By choosing elements wisely and learning some Italian style tips, any traveler can do as the Romans do—look great and be comfortable while exploring the city.

What to Pack for Rome

Wondering what to wear in Rome? Here are packing tips for a comfortable and stylish Roman holiday.

Yes, It’s Okay to Pack Your Jeans

You may have heard that wearing jeans in Europe is equivalent to wearing a bright, neon sign that says “tourist.” However, for many, jeans are a staple of their on-the-go wardrobe. To those people, I have great news: you can add jeans to your list of things to wear in Rome! I promise it will be okay.

When choosing travel-friendly jeans, it’s best to avoid acid or light wash, and keep them rip-free. When you’re deciding what to pack for Rome, stick with darker washes or even solid black denim. Pair these with a dressier travel shoe, a sleek top, and a scarf and you’ll be ready to hit the town. If you’re still nervous about blending in, try swapping out your usual jeans for a pair of linen or cotton trousers.

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Layers, Layers, Layers

Packing layers is a great way to guarantee that you’re ready for whatever weather your trip throws at you. When you’re packing for Rome, I recommend adding one or two light cardigans (as well as a heavier sweater if you’re traveling in the colder months). Keeping an extra layer handy can also save the day when visiting landmarks around the city, as some of the more religious sites have a required modest dress code that includes covered shoulders or arms.

Basic (But High Quality) T-Shirts

Never underestimate the value of a high-quality T-shirt. A simple top will look effortless when french-tucked into a pair of pants or dark wash jeans. For a bit of off-duty professional flare, throw in a loose button-up with short or rolled sleeves. The goal here is versatility, so when you’re packing for Rome, remember that simple patterns or solid colors are best when it comes to mixing and matching. 

Dress It Up

Dresses and skirts can be a perfect thing to wear in Rome. Dresses and skirts (with pockets, preferably) are a great alternative to shorts during the steamy summer months, and look nice year-round. Keep in mind that in Rome, you’re not going to see the same hemlines or necklines you see in the States. Opt for a longer skirt (think just above or at the knee) and avoid strapless or spaghetti strap necklines to fit in with the local fashion. 

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A Leather Jacket

It may not be the easiest thing to pack, but a leather jacket is a true superhero of travel fashion. It looks chic,  elevates any outfit, and guarantees you’re ready at a moment’s notice hop on the back of a Vespa and cruise down to the Spanish Steps.

If you’re visiting Rome in late winter or early spring, opt for a leather jacket with a thick inner-lining. That way you keep your fashionable edge while keeping the frostbite at bay. For milder weather, opt for a fitted leather jacket (or vegan leather version) you can toss on with any outfit.

Remember that even though Rome has mild winters (ranging from 45°F to 60°F), the evenings can still hover around freezing, so you may want to consider a proper coat if you’re planning a winter getaway.

Three Pairs of Shoes

Shoes are notorious for eating up valuable baggage real estate, but if there is one thing you’ll be doing in Rome, it’s walking. Aptly called the City of Seven Hills, exploring will keep you on your feet as you hike through its winding gardens and hidden piazzas, so you want to pack the right shoes for Rome. I found myself reaching for the same three pairs of shoes again and again.

For daily wear, I opted for a pair of classic and always on-trend Chelsea boots that were comfortable for walking but still stylish. Coming in second were my trusty hiking sneakers, my companions as I trekked beneath the Baths of Caracalla and across the Roman Forum. Finally, I found myself constantly needing a nice pair of dress shoes. These could be a pair of stylish loafers, sporty heels, or even a pair of sandals if you’re trying to beat the summer heat; but whether you’re hitting the town in Old Trastevere or sitting down for dinner outside Vatican City, Rome always offers an occasion to dress up.

Accessories: Necklaces, Scarves, and a Sunhat

Accessories are where your outfit can really shine without giving up too much packing space. Even if you’re an accessories minimalist like me, there are three essentials you’ll want to have when you’re packing for Rome:

  • Necklaces: Bring two or three necklaces of varying lengths to mix and match for a new look every day. Super economical packers can go for a multi-strand necklace that creates a similar effect.
  • Scarves: Scarves are a must for any season. A warm scarf in winter will protect against the chill or a light, while an airy scarf in summer can tie together any outfit. 
  • Sunhat: A great sunhat lives at the intersection of functionality and fashion. And a sunhat is vital if you plan on visiting any of the beaches that are just a short train ride away from the city.

Deciding what to pack for Rome is part of the fun and anticipation of exploring Italy. Buon Viaggio!

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Carol McPherson
Carol McPherson is a freelance video, podcast, and multimedia producer with a passion for storytelling and travel. Her work can be seen, heard, and read across multiple platforms including SmarterTravel, the Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center, Spotify, and more. Follow her on instagram @cj_mcpherson or on Vimeo (Carol McPherson) for updates on her latest projects and travel adventures.