Packing for a summer or winter trip to most of Italy is pretty straightforward, but those tricky shoulder seasons of spring and fall can throw your suitcase for a loop. Days often swing wildly from warm and sunny to chilly and wet, so you’ll have to plan for a variety of weather conditions while still staying under that dreaded baggage weight limit. Though it’s tough to predict the weather and pack accordingly, here are a few guidelines to help you put together your packing list for a trip to Italy in the fall months of September, October, and November.
Italians are famously style-conscious and the concept of the “bella figura” (in short, the importance of making a good impression) is fundamental in Italian culture. Most Italians only wear clothing that is spotless, well-tailored, and crisply ironed.
When packing for Italy in any season, put your most casual clothes in the reject pile and instead opt for what we would call smart casual…especially if you don’t want your outfit to scream “tourist!” at one hundred paces. Yoga pants and slogan t-shirts should stay home, while more tailored, less “schlumpy” pieces make the cut. A good rule of thumb is Mother’s Day brunch: if you would wear it to take mom out to brunch, it’s probably a good choice.
Also keep in mind that Italians as a rule dress by the calendar, not by the thermometer. When mid-September rolls around, most Italians switch out their summer wardrobe for their fall stock, even if temperatures are still scorching in much of Italy. If you’re visiting in September, opt for long sleeves and pants in lighter fabrics and closed shoes rather than the more tempting shorts and sandals.
As the months roll forward, you’ll find the weather more unpredictable and dressing in layers becomes a must to adapt to swings in temperatures and sudden rain showers. Mix and match pieces in coordinating colors to stay comfortable no matter what Mother Nature throws at you. Keep in mind that the mild daytime temps plummet after sunset, so always have a jacket or sweater handy if you’ll be out after nightfall.
There is no social stigma at all in Italy about wearing the same outfit for two or three days in a row. Most Italians divide their wardrobe: the more casual and comfortable clothing is only for home while the best and most presentable pieces instead make up their “public” wardrobe. It is commonplace to see an Italian wear the same outfit for a number of consecutive days, since they have probably only worn those specific items for a few hours during each day while out and changed into leisurewear once in the privacy of their home.
That’s great news for travelers trying to keep the weight of their suitcase in check while also packing for a number of different weather conditions. You can focus on just a few versatile items to wear for the length of your trip and fit right in…with a quick laundry stop halfway through your travels to restock your clean intimates and freshen up the rest of your clothes.
Tops: As the weather turns crisp and cool towards the end of fall, join Italians in their love of stylish knits and bundle up in a soft sweater in a sophisticated neutral color, worn alone or under a blazer for an extra layer. Unstructured turtle and cowl-necks in everything from cotton jersey to chic cashmere offer seasonal comfort without the heavy weight of bulkier knits.
Bottoms: Longer draped sweaters and coats are both timeless and ideal for camouflaging any gelato and pasta belly you may have picked up during your trip to Italy. This look can be paired with slim-cut cigarette pants or even flowing palazzo pants, with a neutral knit top and an interesting print scarf to add some color and a bit more warmth if the wind picks up.
Shoes: Ankle boots, both flat and heeled, are a great fall choice for footwear: both chic and comfortable. Classic loafers are also a great look with tailored or wide-cut pants and a long sweater or jacket. Otherwise, immaculately clean designer sneakers have become more common footwear for adults than just a few years ago.
Accessories: In fall, a single day often tosses both sun and rain your way. Bring a larger tote to hold your sunglasses, as well as a compact umbrella. Tuck in an extra coordinating scarf or wrap in case the mercury plummets during the day (or after sunset).
Tops: Italian men love knits, so channel your inner beatnik and pack well-cut knit turtlenecks in anything from cotton jersey to fisherman wool for a stylish yet comfortable look. If knits aren’t your bag, a classically tailored oxford shirt under an unstructured blazer is also a winner for any occasion in Italy.
Bottoms: Italian men wear everything from slim-cut jeans to unstructured chinos, but no matter what you choose, make sure your trousers are spotless and ironed. Shorts on men are generally considered very casual and largely disappear from the streets come September 1st, so opt for lighter cotton or linen pants if visiting in the early fall when temperatures are still soaring.
Shoes: Classic laced and slip-on loafers are both timeless and good for taking on Italy’s cobblestone streets. Sneakers are acceptable, but only if immaculately clean and well cared for…those worn-in basketball shoes should be left at home.
Accessories: If you’ve always wanted to try out a hat, now’s your chance. Classic fedoras are a stylish way to fend off a fall rainstorm or chilly wind with Italian panache. Italian men also don’t shy away from scarves, so toss one around your neck for a little “sprezzatura” flair.
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