What to pack for an Italian getaway

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Dressing tips for a travel wardrobe befitting “la dolce vita”

When I visited Italy for the first time, I was astounded by the aesthetics. Forget fashion—even the pizzas were well dressed! So it’s not surprising that in a country synonymous with style, wardrobe is a way of life, weaving its way into society long before Italian designers such as Versace, Armani, and Dolce & Gabbana rose to fashion fame. 

Taking a cue from these runway regulars and the country’s time-honored art of tailoring, Italians focus on quality over quantity. Practically, this means buying fewer investment-piece garments. Instead of shopping for five shirts, three pairs of pants, and a purse over the course of a year, they take a less-is-more approach, carefully selecting one custom-made shirt and one designer pant that they’ll wear for the next 10 years. The next year, a suit they’ll wear for 15 years. And the next year, a purse or a briefcase they’ll tote for 20 years.  

What I love about this philosophy is its simplicity and stark contrast to our North American penchant for “more is more.” Plus, having fewer highly edited outfits means it takes less time to dress!

I employed this less-is-more technique on a summer 2015 trip to Rome. The last day my efforts were rewarded: In a moment of en-vogue victory, a few Romans thought I was a local.

So, here are my packing pointers for a travel wardrobe befitting la dolce vita.

Map your wardrobe

Once you figure out where you’re going in Italy, and in what season, map your travel wardrobe. For example, I went to Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Capri during summer, so my suitcase was filled with nautical stripes for the coast and flowy silhouettes to stay cool (and stylish) in the Eternal City’s musty heat.

 

Amalfi Coast

Pack with passion 

Italians are passionate people—from fashion to football—so channel this all-or-nothing attitude in your travel attire. Don’t reserve your perfect-fit tailored pants or red-soled shoes for a once-a-year occasion; bring them to Rome where Italians dress as if they’re runway ready every day. Furthermore, edit and re-edit your suitcase contents before you leave so you’re only tempted to bring your Sunday best.

Be a shoe-in

Don’t flash your tourist card sporting a pair of I’ve-just-gone-for-a-jog sneakers thinking “they’re practical for sightseeing.” Repeat after me: Runners and flip-flops are a no go (and you won’t see any Italians grabbing an espresso con panna looking like they’ve just gone to the gym). Italian-made shoes are iconic for a reason: They’ve managed the near-impossible task of fusing comfort and style. So think like a local and pack for a well-heeled journey.

Viewfinder Tip: Save space in your suitcase (and your budget) to buy one timeless, high-quality item while you’re visiting Italy.

Dolce-ify your wardrobe

Never fear, practical packers! Dolce-ifying your wardrobe does not mean you have to fill a Louis Vuitton trunk, ship it overseas, and dress like Donatella during Milan Fashion Week.

Instead, take cues from the catwalk and add one piece of glitter to your getup. Choose an I-might-be-famous hat and sunglasses combo, a pair of statement shoes, or an unexpected bracelet. I followed these rules and was mistaken for an Italian actress on several occasions!

 

Italy essentials

Strut

Finally, whatever fine-tuned attire you choose to include in your travel wardrobe, strut your stuff. All of the head-turning Italians I spotted had one thing in common (in addition to a fashion-forward ensemble): confidence, which is always in style. 

What are your tried-and-true Europe packing tips?

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Trip Styler

Trish Friesen chose an unlikely profession given her fear of flying and propensity toward car, air, boat, train, and chairlift sickness. Thanks to Gravol, Sea-Bands, and cruise ship stabilizers, the reluctant—yet enthusiastic—jetsetter packs her bag once every two weeks to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef or to sample the latest libation in Portland. Trish unpacks her suitcase in Vancouver, Canada, Eh! where she’s the editor-in-chief of TripStyler.com, a travel lifestyle website for aspiring jetsetters. Find her moonlighting on Expedia, Fodor's, Jetsetter, and as a travel expert on TV while circumventing the globe with her entourage: a MacBook Air, an Olympus camera, and the biggest carry-on she can fit on the plane.

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