Blog written by Jake DeCarli
Jake studied at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and has a Bachelor of Arts in Italian studies and international studies. He has a passion for the Italian language, traveling, and European politics. He is currently living in Matera, Italy as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in two technical schools.
Preparing to travel for the first time abroad can be a challenging task. How many pairs of pants do you bring? Which documents must you have to board an international flight? So many questions run through your mind as you prepare for the vacation of a lifetime. On my first trip to Italy, I packed way too many clothes as I didn’t know what to expect of Italian weather in early January. Most of you will be traveling in the warmer months, so packing for your vacation will be easier. Some of you will be traveling during the spring and fall which means the weather can be a little unpredictable. And a few of you will be traveling in December thanks to our new Christmas Markets tour. However, minimize your concerns by following our Italy packing-essentials list! Note, this is not a comprehensive list, but these are suggestions that have helped me prepare for my travels in Italy this past year.
Italy is part of the Schengen Zone, a free-travel area of the European Union. U.S. citizens are allowed to travel 90 days within the Schengen Zone as long as they have the following documentation:
-A U.S. Passport. A passport is required to board any international flight to leave the U.S. and enter a Schengen Zone country. Passports are issued by the U.S. Department of State and are valid for 10 years. Also note that passports must be valid for 3-6 months after your planned trip, so check that expiration ahead of time since issuing a new passport can take 6 months or longer. Do not forget your passport as you prepare to leave your house for the airport. Double check and triple check that you have it.
-ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System). Starting in November 2023, all US citizen will be required to apply for a sort of "visa" to enter any country in the European Union. Read more details in our blog post.
-Arrival Day Information. About a week before your tour, we will send an email with information you need to know upon arrival. This will give details about where and how to meet the group (usually in “Arrivals” at the airport). This email will also give you the name and address of the first hotel we will be staying at. This is important in case your luggage gets lost. To file a claim for your lost luggage, you will have to fill out a form with your personal information, the brand, color, and type of luggage that was lost, and the name and address of your lodging so that they can do their best to send it to you ASAP.
Italian culture prioritizes style and elegance in everyday life. It’s not uncommon to see Italian women dressed nicely when shopping for groceries. While you may be tempted to appear as stylish as possible, remember that you are on vacation and you may spend long periods of time walking around. Since many of you will be traveling in the late Spring and early Summer as well as late summer and early fall, the weather in Italy tends to be warmer and sunnier than in the North East USA (average temperatures in June are in the 70s and low 80s, sometimes warmer). Prioritize dressing comfortably for the weather and for the constant movement during your travels.
Try not to overpack for your trip. Rewear pants and shorts every other day on your trip. Pack a t-shirt for every day of the trip, pack 1 pair of easy-to-walk-in shoes (besides the one you’ll wear to the airport), underwear and socks for everyday of the trip, and 1 light jacket in case of colder evenings. While it’s not necessary or required for our tours, some of you may want to bring one business-casual outfit to wear to one of our nicer or finale dinners. It’s expensive enough to bring luggage on a flight, and you do not want to exceed the 50-lb. weight limit. Additionally, you will want to buy some souvenirs (or treats like wine, cheese, or balsamic vinegar!) or more clothes while in Italy, so try to have some room in your suitcase as you prepare to travel!
Things to keep in mind: I recommend not wearing sweatshirts or sweatpants in public. This is extremely uncommon in Italy (unless you’re going for a hike or doing some other intense exercise). Bring 1 pair of pajamas or whatever you wear to bed. Also….LAYERS! Layers will be your best friend, especially those of you traveling in the spring and fall. There is a strong possibility we could encounter a cooler or rainy day, especially if you will be north near water. Layers and an umbrella will be helpful.
Unless you’re going to a beach, I would refrain from packing flip flops or sandals with no support. For those of you who will be going to a beach or hot springs, we recommend bringing water shoes. These beaches may have rocks or pebbles for sand so going barefoot may be uncomfortable. In general, you will be walking a lot during your trip, so please pack shoes that will keep you comfortable. We also like to remind our travelers that many towns we visit have very old steps and cobblestone streets which make for uneven pathways. This is why it is important to pack sturdy shoes that will make walking as safe as possible.
Final note: don’t feel like you have to go shopping the week before your vacation to Italy. Go through your closet and utilize the items that you already have on hand. Save more money for your trip!
-Bring a water bottle. Again, you’ll be spending your days walking and exploring, and it’s important to stay hydrated in the Italian sun! Many cities have water spouts called “nasoni” that you can easily drink from or fill up your water bottle with. Rome has the most “nasoni”, but I’ve seen them in many other cities across the country.
-Bring some type of fanny pack or satchel (for men and for women). Everyone has heard of petty theft and pickpocketing in the big Italian cities. It is important to protect your valuables while walking amongst large crowds. Many Italians wear fanny packs/ satchels everyday. You can easily store your phone, wallet, passport, and other small items while traveling around. I recommend men to purchase a fanny pack or satchel as it provides more security than simply keeping your wallet in your pocket. Pickpocketing doesn’t happen to everyone, but from personal experience I’ve felt more comfortable carrying my items in a fanny pack (which you can adjust and wear across the shoulder/chest to have a more stylish appearance).
In terms of other accessories, bring a pair of sunglasses and a hat for your trip. The Italian sun can be quite powerful, so best protect yourself with these items!
-A voltage converter and a plug adapter. These are extremely important as the EU has different power outlets than the US. You can easily find them at Walmart, Target, or Amazon. Do not forget to purchase one as your phone charger will not work in the European outlets! The voltage converter is important for any items you bring that may have a motor like a razor or laptops.
-Portable charging block. For longer days without access to a power outlet, it’s smart to bring a charging block to power your device.
-Sunscreen. Pack a couple travel-sized sunscreen bottles for your trip. Again, the Italian sun can be powerful, so do your best to protect your skin from the rays. Bug repellent spray may be a good idea too, especially if we eat outside, which is very common in Italy.
-Washcloth. Italian hotels do not provide washcloths. If this is something you are used to using, it may be a good idea to pack a quick-drying washcloth to use at each hotel.
Now, You’re Prepared for Your Trip!
This packing list for your Italian vacation will help you be prepared as possible for a week of fun activities, exploration, and delicious food. Remember to double and triple check your suitcases before you leave for the airport. Do you have your passport, Arrival Day Information, clothes, underwear, phone chargers, money, etc.? If yes, then you are all set for the beautiful Italia! Buon viaggio!
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