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dress like the natives
do's and don'ts to pack

by Laura Pazzaglia
(return to Travel)

There is no Italian dress code but there is a cultural perception of casual attire does exist. Where Americans primarily think in terms of "quantity" and "value" Italians are more motivated by "quality" and "durability." This cultural disparity extends through every level of our cultures from food to -- the most visible -- clothing. An Italian will save money for six months to purchase something from Versace or Gucci while an American will spend the same amount of money making several trips to Target.

Also, Italians pay special attention to the details and will look at you in horror if a thread is hanging off one of your buttons, your hem is coming apart, or your clothing is wrinkled. Take a 360 in front of a full-length mirror before walking out the door.

The Overall Look
Keeping these cultural differences in mind, Italy's "casual" is more closely related to what an American might wear to work on a "casual Friday" than what they wear on the weekend. Agatha, moderator for the Travel Forum, says that "Italians are elegant. The ladies always wear make up, have their hair done in the latest fashion and always have on earrings!"

Claudia adds that "Italians sacrifice comfort for style and elegance. Wear neutral colors like navy, beige, white. Do not dress like a teenager or a schoolteacher with dresses resembling jumpsuits, or shorts and tiny tees. No cute hearts and apples on your sweater or vest. Think minimalism when assembling outfits, and do not think it's a 'Roman Holiday' by wearing ridiculous scarves on your head or hoop hearings." Agatha adds "ladies do not wear shorts. Long sleeveless dresses, slacks, nice tops are all acceptable". Most of Agathas' Italian girl friends wear skirts and blouses, and they wear nice shoes, usually with a small heel. And, "They would not be caught dead in running shoes, or in shorts! Never ever!!!"

The Bottom of It
And, speaking of shoes, when a friend informed Agatha that she must wear her running shoes in Italy to walk on the cobble stoned streets. Agatha aptly replied that, "Italians walk on the same stones every day of their lives and they don't wear those ugly white running shoes! Nor do they wear those equally ugly socks". Other shoe faux-pax include wearing flip-flops, rubber shoes and wearing socks or pantyhose with sandals - if you're going to be cold wear closed shoes. Remember, you're traveling to the shoe-capital of the world, so the message you send to Italians will start at your feet!

Do's and Don'ts Of Dressing
In addition to shoes, there are many other things that you should keep in mind before packing your bags. Most of these suggestions are optional - the overall goal of this list is distinguishing what is "classy" from what is not.




Show-off Tattoo�s or Piercing

Cover-up and disassemble any unusual markings and hardware from your body.

This type of self adoration is seen as disrespectful in church and sacred places.

Wear fake, enameled, or unnaturally colored jewelry.

Wear only real gold, real silver, etc.

If you can only afford one pair of �real� earrings, wear them.  Fake jewelry is tacky in any country.

Wear cheap cologne or perfume.

Wear very little real perfume or nothing at all.

Italians have a highly developed sense of smell, and they use it!

Wear synthetic clothing such as polyester, nylon, etc.

Wear cotton, linen, silk and any other real fabric.

Italians have a highly developed sense of touch, and they us it!

Wear anything with a logo, or symbol.

 Wear simple unadorned clothing.

You will look like a walking advertisement.

Wear oversized clothing

Wear Appropriately Sized Clothing

If your clothes don�t fit, Italians will assume that you�re wearing hand-me-downs and were unable to afford appropriately-sized clothing.

Wear shorts if you�re a woman.

Wear slacks, or skirts.


Only men and children under 12 should consider wearing shorts, and the shorts should not be tight or shorter than mid-thigh.

It does not look classy, besides a skirt is always cooler in the summer!

Wear sleeveless or shoulder-less clothing to church and other sacred places.

Bring a sweater to cover-up.

Italy is still very conservative and you are expected to show respect for sacred places.

Wear baseball caps.

Wear sun hats, and other tasteful headgear.

A cap screams tourist.

 Wear fanny packs.

Wear a purse or small leather backpack.

They resemble the collapsible raincoats all Europeans wore in the 70�s.  They went out of style for a reason.

Wear flip-flops on the street.

Wear strappy leather sandals.

Italians use flip-flops for slippers for public showers at beaches and pools only.

Wear tennis shoes.

Wear loafers.

The only exceptions to this rule is if you are, in fact, playing tennis or are under the age of 12.

Of course, you can always pack light and go shopping in Italy!


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