I’ve been happy with my standard packing list on every trip I’ve ever taken. EXCEPT Rome.
It was my first trip in Europe, can you blame me? To be honest, I was totally clueless on what to wear in Rome, and I definitely messed up when I packed for the trip.
I felt really out of place, uncomfortable, and regretful of my packing choices the entire trip. My clothing choices were my biggest mistake in Rome (and I made a LOT of mistakes).
In general, I’m a dress and flats kind of girl. I like low maintenance but feminine clothing and tend to wear soft pastels or my favorite color: bright teal. And I tend to gravitate towards anything with lace or a pretty pattern.
Dresses are my go-to travel item as well, because you can pack fewer clothing items AND not need to worry about matching tops/bottoms. But thank GOD I threw in a pair of skinny jeans into my bag for Rome at the last minute. They were my most-worn item (for the once in my life).
My top mistakes in what to wear in Rome packing:
Too much skin showing
(Too) light in color
Not enough layers
The following “What to Wear in Rome” suggestions are specifically for Spring, but also applicable in every season (other than super-hot summer)!
What to Wear in Rome (NOT!)
Rome Fashion Mistake #1 – Too Much Skin
The only naked knees at the Roman Forum (but at least I’m layered!)
With my dresses (and lonesome pair of skinny jeans), I didn’t pack any tights, because of the sunny and warm forecast on Weather.com (…and I HATE pantyhose. Even the name sounds old and uncomfortable and icky).
My naked legs stood out like sore thumbs – everyone else was covered. I didn’t see another pair of bare knees the entire time I was in Rome. Seriously.
I wasn’t cold for the most part, but in order to feel more comfortable in my surroundings, and less clueless to Rome fashion, I bought some tights at a street-side vendor to wear under my dresses and cover my legs.
How to wear dresses in Rome? Pack tights/pantyhose/leggings if you plan on wearing dresses and skirts. Or go the easy route and just pack pants – for me, skinny jeans are the way to go (lately I’m getting all my clothes on ThredUp: half the cost and WAY better for the planet!).
Rome Fashion Mistake #2 – Too light in color
I love this white dress – but not for Rome (unless I put a blazer over it)
I definitely missed the memo on clothing color in Rome. I felt like EVERYONE was wearing black, brown, or something near to it. It’s like NYC!
Is there some mantra about not wearing white before Easter?
While this wasn’t a major problem – I still wish I would have chosen my clothes a bit on the darker side. Instead of my cream trench coat I would’ve brought my black one. I would have traded my white dress in for black or blue, and my gold and floral scarves for darker ones.
I felt a lot better when I was at least balancing out my light tops with darker jeans, or with brown boots and a spring blazer (as above).
What color to wear in Rome? Keep in mind Rome fashion preference for darker and muted colors, if you want to blend in. It isn’t the right place for a neon pink romper (though that sounds awesome in theory).
Rome Fashion Mistake #3 – Not enough layers
No coat, no scarf, no layers for the transition: I am cold!
I brought a light trench coat. And silk scarves. Those were the extent of my layers.
In Rome, the daytime weather can get quite warm, while at night it cools down significantly.
On my first day, I had to change my day clothes into warmer evening clothes so I wouldn’t freeze, which meant going all the way back to my Airbnb (which I want to avoid as much as possible, especially this particular disaster Airbnb).
On the following days, I wizened up, and carried my heaviest scarf and my trench coat in my day bag (even though the day started warm), so that I could avoid the wasted trip home just to make an outfit change.
In order to make a comfortable transition, you NEED layers.
What season of clothes to wear in Rome? Unless you want to pack a wide variety of clothes and make more outfit changes than Britney, I recommend packing layers. Bring a pair of tights/leggings as mentioned above, in addition to at least one pair of skinny jeans or thicker leggings, and a sweater, especially if you’re wearing dresses in the day. Sometimes at night my ears got quite cold as well, so I’d advise bringing some kind of hat as well.
Rome Fashion Mistake #4 – Wrong shoes
This will make me sound clueless – and I’ll be the first to admit I am — but I always bring Havaianas to anywhere that isn’t freezing. Maybe this comes from growing up in Michigan, where as soon as the snow melted, you would bust out your warm weather clothes, and sandals were fair game.
I wore Havaianas from the airport to my Airbnb, and I learned my lesson.
I felt like a clueless nut.
Everyone in Rome was wearing fashionable yet sturdy boots or substantial flats. Perhaps it’s a mix of sensibility for the cool spring nights and sometimes uneven paths.
While in Rome, I even bought a brand new pair of boots – an unplanned but worthwhile purchase. And only 15Euro (the shops near Campo di Fiori offer an awesome selection at a variety of prices)!
I seriously think the best shoes to wear in Rome are boots. Choose a stylish pair that are also comfortable for walking. Because they can dress up or down, protect your toes from the cobblestones, and don’t show too much skin, boots are the best shoes to wear in Rome in spring, and in fall and winter.
What shoes to wear in Rome? Either bring your own boots, or arrive with the plan to make the purchase soon after.
(I have no photos of me in Havaianas in Rome – the humiliation was enough in person)
What to Wear in Rome in Spring – An Example:
Packing List for What to Wear in Rome in Spring (or Winter, or Fall)
4 Day List (Double or Divide as Needed)
Any of these items can be purchased on Amazon by clicking the photo for that exact item or the text link for more options. I will receive a small commission, which helps keep JoyandJourney running, at NO extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting J&J!
Day bag (the pictured Travelon bag is anti-theft and slash-proof! I LOVE mine, and there’s a TON of other styles as well)
One dark coat that can be dressed up
Flats – Even in Rome, I’ll always be partial to NUDE flats. They’re a game changed, just try ’em.
2 or 3 pairs pants (I like skinny jeans with a bit of stretch, and black jeggings)
1 or 2 flowy sweaters, easy to roll up and stash in your bag if it gets hot (pictured comes in a bunch of colors)
2 or 3 dark blouses
1 or 2 dark t-shirts (that can be dressed up)
Leggings (to wear with a longer tshirt or blouse)
MAYBE one dress with tights/leggings (unless it is a maxi dress)
Light silk scarf
Stud earrings (the pictured ones are cruelty-free crystal pearls from Swarovski, and less than $20!)
*I’m not advising that you change your own personal style. However, when I travel somewhere, I like to adapt a bit to the local fashion flavor – not only does it challenge me to be creative, but I feel like less of a tourist and more of a local. I already stand out most places I go, with pale eyes and white-blonde hair.. I like to do all that I can to blend in a bit more*
More on Rome here
The best Rome activities are found through Viator (amazing customer service and even better prices!) and Airbnb Experiences.
I found the best prices for Rome accommodation on Airbnb (though my own Airbnb was a nightmare) and Booking.com
Have you ever regretted your packing choices? Do you have any advice on what to wear in Rome?
Hi there, I check your blogs like every week. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep up the good work!
Thanks so much Earl!
Thank you for this information !! We are going to Rome and you gave really great advice
Thanks Ann! I’m so glad it helped!
Thanks so much for all of the info! I love the links to the clothing items on Amazon. Going to Italy next spring!
So glad I could help! I hope you love Italy and please let me know if you have any questions about Rome!
Brava! Perfetta! I too learned the hard way how to dress in Rome. Funny thing is, except for shorts (I live in Texas now) I still wear most of the things you recommend. It does feel better to blend in and you’re not losing yourself, you’re finding a new layer (couldn’t resist the pun).
Hahaha love the pun 🙂 And I agree, it feels much better to blend in!
I have one this one question that so we are headed to Rome the last two weeks of April. Can I still wear my knee high boots? I’m just not comfortable in ankle boots 🙁
I see that you are wearing them in the photos, were others wearing them as well? That was 2015. I wonder if trends have changed much. Thank you for any advice!
Women were definitely wearing boots, but I’d go with black over brown (brown looks too close to “cowboy” boots apparently and I got mocked!)
We are going in June. Do these clothing items still apply then? I understand it starts getting warm in June. We were going to wear leggings or capris. As far as shoes go we were thinking tennis shoes because of the amount of walking. Will this be out of place?
Hi Nanette! I think leggings or capris would be fine, but I haven’t visited during that month so I can’t comment from personal experience.
In terms of what the locals are wearing, I didn’t see many (if at all) sports shoes/tennis shoes and people were quite “dressed up” in terms of American standards. Even if the locals aren’t doing it, though, doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate for tourists.