Europe, Travel, Travel Tips

When In Europe… What to Wear?

For a more detailed and updated European packing guide, please skip this post and read my popular post What to Wear in Europe this Summer.

Can anybody answer this question for me?  We leave for Italy in eleven days and are stumped on what to pack.  Packing for the beach is easy.  I got that down.  Throw in some swim trunks, t-shirts, shorts, a few polos, and maybe even a pair of slacks.  Done.  But Europe, especially Italy, is different with its pretentiousness towards clothes.  I have done plenty of research in guidebooks, blogs, and online forums.  Advice really runs the gamut leaving us even more stymied.

Blend In At All Costs –Stick to a strict no sneakers, no shorts, and no jeans rule.  After all, you don’t want to stand out as an American tourist.  Instead, dress like a European with high fashion in mind.  USA Today suggests dark trousers and a sport coat.  Really?  But I’m travelling and I’m an American!  I don’t think I can hide that even if I am a quarter Italian.  I still have a fair complexion.  Plus, I’ll be walking and overheating and want to be comfortable.  Black slacks with leather dress shoes and a sweater tied around my neck does not sound comfortable.

Blending In European Style

Me doing my best to blend in in Europe. Is the juggling too much?

Practical Works Best – Flip the coin and you have Steve Ricks (or is it Rick Steves?).  His episodes on European travel skills are quite valuable.  I admit to watching them numerous times.  But his tips on packing and dressing with practicality seem a bit extreme to me.  According to Rick, one carryon and one day bag should be enough for two weeks or two months.  He either doesn’t sweat, doesn’t mind being that guy who nobody stands too close to in line, or doesn’t mind doing laundry.  That’s not me.  I do sweat and I don’t like doing laundry when I’m home so I’ll be damned if I’m doing it on vacation.  Plus, I don’t want to look like a hillbilly again like we did last year at the opera in Vienna.

I understand packing light, but I don’t buy the no regular size suit case argument.  Last year we managed with a suitcase, a carryon, and a day bag for eleven days and four destinations in Bavaria.  We didn’t have enough clothes and lugging the regular size suitcase was not as difficult as Steve makes it sound.  And yes, we did take the Eurorail.

Packing Rick Steves

Packing Rick Steves Style – Light and Mobile

Dress How You Are – Many contributors to Fodor’s forum argue against blending in and tell you to look around at everyone else.  Anything goes while travelling.  Remember, you are on vacation so be comfortable.  Sneakers?  If you’re doing a lot of walking, wear them!  Shorts?  If it’s hot, why not!  Jeans?  From faded and ripped to designer, make your own fashion statement!  Besides, do you think Europeans worry about what to wear and blending in when travelling to the United States?  I doubt it.  I personally lean more towards this camp.  At the same time, I don’t want to be a target for pickpockets.

Vienna Opera

Two American hillbillies at the opera in Vienna

Help us pack for Italy!  We are going the last two weeks in May and our Itinerary includes three days in Venice, seven on a culinary tour of Tuscany, and four in Rome.  How should we pack to be comfortable, practical, and yet still blend in?

UPDATE – There is a lot to read and absorb in the comments section.  Below is a summary to help save you time.

Also, be sure to check out my Travel Resources page for more on travel tools and gear that I find helpful after eight years of near constant travel.


  • Buy a Money Belt to keep your money and passports away from pickpockets.
  • Avoid using traditional backpacks as they are easily stolen
  • Men should wear a secure “man bag” like one from Pacsafe


  • Throw in a lightweight jacket for cool evenings
  • Loose linen clothes are ideal because the materials breathes
  • Chose a bowling style shoe over white sneakers
  • Long pants are preferred over shorts
  • Chose darker colors over pastels
  • No white socks!  Don’t even think about it!
  • Pack easy dry clothes incase in rains like Adventure Pants from REI or Champion C-9 from Target
  • Pack light clothes that you can layer

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