Packing for Italy and not sure where to start? Let me help.
I’ve traveled all over Italy in every season—alone, with my family, as part of a tour group, and while doing research for some of the guidebooks I have written. During these trips, I have taken notes on what worked and what didn’t, from the accessories I used the most to the clothing and shoes I wish I had or hadn’t brought with me.
I have traveled in Italy as a backpacker, as a solo woman, and as a mom, so I also have an understanding of what is and what isn’t essential to pack for an Italy vacation.
My packing list for Italy can help you pack the right things no matter if you’re packing for a trip in the summer or the winter, for the city or for the sea.
In addition to helping you prepare your suitcase(s) with the basics, this guide will give you some tips on how to dress so you won’t look like a tourist. Blending in with the locals will help you feel good about your limited travel wardrobe. But it can also help you avoid being a target for petty crimes like pickpocketing.
I will also give you advice on what to put in your carry-on bag so that you have what you need while in transit and when you get to your destination.
Let’s get started!
Before You Pack for Italy: Questions and Considerations
You are probably no stranger to packing for a vacation, so you know to ask yourself these questions before you start packing:
- How many days you will travel
- What time of year you are visiting Italy and what is the weather
- How much luggage you want to take (or allowed to bring without incurring an extra fee)
- How much walking you expect to do or what activities you plan to participate in
- How much shopping (for clothing, souvenirs, etc.) you plan to do
Answers to these questions should help you decide what else to pack in addition to my suggestions below.
Nobody likes packing. The first agonizing decision is what not to pack. The best advice is probably still this maxim: Lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then, take half the clothes and twice the money.Susan Heller Anderson, NYT, 1987
What to Pack for Italy
Use the following checklists before packing for any trip.
Best Luggage to Take
Surely, you have your favorite go-to luggage for traveling. But if you are looking for something new, here are a few bags I recommend:
- Suitcase. I’m a recent convert to hard-sided suitcases since they tend to last longer. Most airlines allow you at least one suitcase of 50 lbs. (around 24kg) or less for free. But check your airline for allowances and weight limits.
- Carry-on bag. I like a sturdy backpack since it can carry a lot and can be used during the day for sightseeing. But another good choice is a sleek, lightweight shoulder bag or duffel that can double as a purse.
- Crossbody bag. Stylish and practical, a crossbody bag is ideal for keeping your small things—wallet, hotel key, phone—close to you.
- Canvas tote bag. Pack in your luggage. A tote bag can come in handy as an overflow bag during city sightseeing or at the beach.
What to Pack in Your Carry-on Luggage
Passport. Your passport should be valid for at least six months from the last day of your travels. So, if it isn’t, you will need to renew it ASAP.
Visa. If you require a visa to enter Italy, make sure that you have one or have applied for one and that it is up-to-date. Americans do not need a visa to travel to Italy if they are staying for 90 days or less.
Money. Cash is still king in many places in Italy. But you should wait until you get there to withdraw euros with your bank card at the ATM, rather than using a cash exchange at the airport or in the tourist areas. You should also bring a credit card (or two) for larger purchases and also so you will have a backup in case you lose your ATM card. Payment with smartphone apps like Paypal or Apple Pay is sometimes available, but not widely used outside of big cities. (Note: Venmo is not available outside the U.S.)
A change of underwear. Hey, I know it sounds crazy! But ever since I had a long, unexpected layover many years ago, I always pack an extra change of underwear in my carry-on. It doesn’t weigh much but it takes a weight off my mind.
Here are some other items I suggest you pack in your carry-on
- Headphones. I love me a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones, but I prefer to travel light and use wired Apple EarPods.
- Sleep mask. I got a cheap silk sleep mask in a swag bag a long time ago and I love how it blocks out light and helps me sleep on the plane. Yeah, I’m one of those people that can sleep on a plane. 🙂
- Socks, if you’re not wearing sneakers on the flight
- Shawl, pashmina, or long-sleeve shirt. Airlines rarely give out blankets anymore, especially in the wake of COVID. So if you tend to get cold on the plane, pack a shawl or travel sweater to keep you warm. Make sure it’s something you like to wear anyhow so you can use it during your trip, too. Covering your shoulders is also important if you plan to visit any churches, so a pashmina is more than just a fun accessory.
- iPad. In-flight entertainment is pretty darn good these days. But I like to have my iPad for reading, games, and in case I get a good writing idea during the flight. I always take my iPad with me at the very least. But, since I’m usually writing a lot, even while on vacation, I will also take my lightweight MacBook.
- Camera. If your smartphone camera is not enough for you and you want to bring a DSLR camera, pack it in your carry-on, NOT in your luggage, to keep it from getting broken or stolen.
- Phone charging cord. Pack your phone charging cord in your carry-on so you can charge your phone during your flight using the USB or plugs in the seatback.
- International adapter. You will want at least one power adapter for Italy during your trip to charge your devices. I like to have an adapter handy for when I land, but you may need to use it in-flight or at a layover airport. Make sure you understand how to use power adapters in Europe.
- Moisturizing hand sanitizer. Planes are dirty and the air is dry. Ward off the germs and keep your hands supple with hand sanitizer with added moisturizer.
What to Pack for Italy: Basic Packing List for One Week
Start with this simple packing list and then add other things according to season, activity, and/or duration of your trip.
- 3 tank tops. Great as an extra layer or for sleeping in.
- 3 basic t-shirts. Dress them up or down. I usually like to go with one black, one white, and then the third one in a fun color or pattern like stripes.
- 3 blouses. Lightweight, washable blouses can be dressed up or down for visits to churches or going out to dinner or drinks.
- 2 pairs of jeans. Two pairs of blue denim jeans—or one pair of blue jeans and one pair of black jeans—is my advice to you.
- 1 pair of black or neutral pants. I will usually pack black pants for dressy occasions but a pair of black jeans will often do.
- 1 lightweight jacket. A denim jacket or cloth jacket works well for cool days/nights in spring, summer, or fall. I also LOVE the Uniqlo lightweight down jacket for fall/winter. It folds up to practically nothing but keeps you warm.
- 7 pairs of underwear. Feel free to pack fewer and wash them out in the hotel sink. But I personally hate how stiff underwear laundered this way can feel.
- 2 pairs of yoga or workout pants. I love my Adidas zippered pocket track pants because they can do double-duty as daywear or pajamas. Lightweight hiking pants are also good. (Pants with zippered pockets for great for the plane, too!)
- 2 sweaters. One cardigan and one pullover. Packing a few sweaters is a good idea for every season—even in summer when nights can get chilly and especially if you’re by the beach or in the mountains.
- 2 pairs of shoes. One pair of sneakers and one pair of nicer shoes, such as a sturdy sandal for warmer weather and a loafer or flat boot for colder weather. See my guide on the best shoes to pack for Italy.
- 1 great pair of sunglasses. The sun in Italy is bright year-round. While I suggest a pair of black designer sunglasses for every day, I prefer a pair of thin, lightweight aviator glasses for the beach or hiking.
- Water bottle. For easier packing, consider a collapsible water bottle.
What to Pack for Italy: Spring
If you are traveling in March, April, or May, see the basic packing list then consider adding the following items. Keep in mind that northern Italy can remain cold in March and April, while central and southern Italy starts showing signs of spring by early March (and even in late February).
- 1 raincoat or water-resistant jacket.
- 1-2 scarves.
- Travel umbrella. A lot of hotels and b&bs will have umbrellas that you can borrow. But an umbrella can always be useful during the rainiest season of the year.
What to Pack for Italy: Summer
If you are traveling in June, July, August, or early September, see the basic packing list then consider adding the following items. Keep in mind that northern Italy will be cooler in early June and September, while central and southern Italy is usually hot in early June (even in late May) and may remain so throughout September.
- 1-2 sundresses or skirts. A sundress that doubles as a swim cover-up is useful if you’re spending any time at the beach or by the pool.
- 1-2 pairs of shorts. Pack these if you will be going hiking or the beach. Keep in mind you should still bring a pair of pants or a below-the-knee skirt if you will be visiting churches.
- 1-2 swimsuits. I personally like to pack at least 2 swimsuits so I can wear one while the other one is drying from the previous swim.
- Flip-flops and/or water shoes. Don’t plan a beach vacation in Italy without flip-flops. But you may also want to consider water shoes if you’re going to a rocky beach or a beach with cliffs and cliff-jumping. For flip-flops, I like Havaianas for their durability. Teva water sandals are also good a choice, for men or women, because you can wear them to the beach or for short hikes.
- Sunscreen. You can find sunscreen for sale at beach stalls, supermarkets, and general stores like Casa & Co. But it’s hard to find sun protection that is higher than SPF 30.
- Hat. A baseball cap or floppy sun hat that you can wear to the beach or while hiking.
- Waterproof phone pouch and/or waterproof camera. If you plan on boating or swimming in grottoes, you will want to protect your phone. A lot of travelers bring GoPro cameras for underwater captures.
- Beach bag. It’s always useful to have an extra bag, even a canvas tote. A mesh bag purpose-built for the beach is even better if you are going to spend a lot of your time on the sand. I am a big fan of this SoHo mesh beach bag, which can carry a ton but takes up little room in your luggage. It’s also great to have around should you need an overflow bag for souvenirs.
- Beach towel. Most hotels frown upon you using their bath towels for the beach. Pack your own towel to avoid this faux pas. A quick-drying Turkish beach towel folds up thinly in a suitcase. Or, do what I like to do, and tuck a regular, unfolded beach towel around the items inside your suitcase.
See also these extra things to pack if you’re traveling in August.
What to Pack for Italy: Fall
If you’re traveling in late September, October, November, or December, see the basic packing list then consider adding the following items. Keep in mind that southern Italy may still be hot through early October, while northern Italy starts getting chilly by early fall.
- Warm hat. Northern Italy can get cold starting in late October.
- Scarf. Always a good idea for mid-to-late fall.
- Extra layers. A long-sleeve shirt or button-up shirt layered with a tank or t-shirt is ideal for colder mornings and evenings.
- Travel umbrella. Fall is the rainiest season after spring. Expect rainy days if you are traveling in November or December.
- Boots. Fall and winter are the time to throw a pair of boots in your suitcase. The best choice has a rubber sole, good for rain-slicked cobblestones. If you’re heading to Venice in November or December, you may want to consider bringing a pair of rubber boots in case of flooding from the acqua alta.
Packing tip: If you’re packing boots, stuff your socks, scarves, and other small items inside the boots to create room in your suitcase.
What to Pack for Italy: Winter
If you are traveling in December, January, or February, see the basic packing list then consider adding the following items. Keep in mind that northern Italy can already be quite frigid in early December, while southern Italy starts showing signs of spring in late February.
- Winter coat. Italy, as far south as Sicily, can get very cold in winter. So, bring your winter coat. A black down or puffy coat is ideal for most activities and will help you blend in to the locals and stay warm. I recommend still packing the lightweight Uniqlo coat (as I mentioned in the basic packing list) because you can wear it as an extra shell under your coat or on unexpectedly warm winter days.
- Extra layers, warm hat, scarf, boots. See details under fall, above.
- Gloves. When it’s freezing outside, you’ll be thankful for a warm pair of gloves. A pair of touchscreen gloves are the best for when you need to check your phone.
Toiletries to Pack for Italy
It’s best to pack these items before you go. But if you forget anything, you can always visit a farmacia while in Italy.
- Pain relief medicine. Whether you prefer ibuprofen or acetomenaphine, you may need pain relief for a headache or aching muscles during your trip.
- Constipation medicine. Traveler’s constipation happens to nearly everyone at one time or another. Bring constipation relief to keep you regular between all the heavy meals.
- Diarrhea medicine. On the other hand, if you don’t get constipated while traveling, you may have diarrhea. Save yourself the embarrassment and bring some diarrhea relief tablets.
- Medicine for motion or sea sickness. If you are prone to motion sickness, you may experience it in Italy as you hop from boats and ferries and trains. Bring some non-drowsy Dramamine and/or sea bands to alleviate the problem.
What NOT to Pack for Italy
It’s very easy to overpack for Italy. But there are some things you definitely do not need. Here are a few of them:
- Valuables. To avoid being a target for pickpockets, leave your fancy jewelry at home.
- Full-sized toiletries. Full bottles of shampoo and conditioner will weigh down your luggage. Bring travel-sized toiletries or bring half-used toiletries that you can finish while on vacation, thereby freeing up more room on the way home!
- Hairdryer and heat-styling appliances. Almost every hotel provides a hairdryer. But also, if you are an American traveling to Italy, you will want to leave your 110-volt appliances behind unless you have a power converter. An adapter is not enough.
Whether you are sightseeing in the city or hiking in the countryside, you’re going to be outside and walking around much more than usual. So, the most important items to pack are good shoes and proper outerwear and/or accessories for the season.
Pack smart and have fun!