How to Pack for Your Trip to Italy


To share with you how to pack for your trip to Italy, I must first introduce you to our fantastic drivers, Ermanno and Emanuele. They’re a part of our Off the Beaten Strada team in Italy and we’re soooo fortunate to have them on board! Their Mercedes Benz vans are beauties, they keep them immaculately clean and they treat our guests with the utmost care.

So why mention Ermanno and Emanuele in a post about packing?

Because if you’re traveling with us, your luggage needs to comfortably fit in the back of their vans! Oftentimes when people travel to Italy they think about luggage in terms of their flight and they overlook ground transportation. Make sure that’s not you!

Vehicles in Europe tend to run smaller than those in North American. Hotel rooms run smaller too. Plus there will likely be times when you need to handle your own bag – and you sure don’t want it to be a super heavy one.

So let’s start with luggage.

If you’re coming on one of our tours in Italy I suggest your bring one small carry on bag and one medium/large checked bag with wheels. By the way, small really means small. It might be necessary to occasionally carry this bag on your person or set it on your lap during our travels. Here are some examples:

Carry on Bag:

L.L. Bean Carryall Accessory Bag (I really like that this powerhouse of a small bag can also hook on your wheeled luggage. Nice!)

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Samsonite MIGHTlight Boarding Bag. Meant to carry a little bit of everything, this Samsonite carry on is a winner for being small but roomy.

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Checked Bag with Wheels:

Don’t even think about traveling to Italy with luggage that doesn’t have wheels! Wheels are a must, and most luggage companies make fabulous wheeled bags. We recommend luggage with four wheels, referred to as spinners.

I personally prefer fabric (soft-side) bags to hard-side – but the choice is yours. Be sure to keep your checked bag in the 24″-26″ range or it will be excessively heavy to handle – even for pulling. Keep in mind that there will also be times when you need to carry or lift your own bag!

American Tourister makes a 25″ bag called Splash that’s both roomy and expandable. Of course there are plenty of other choices, as well!

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Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 11.51.38 AMNow, on to the PACKING TIPS!

Here are some of my personal tips for packing thoroughly – yet light. (see downloadable packing list below – for both women and men)

  • Think in Layers. Light weight clothing that you can layer is essential. From pants and tops to sweaters and rain jackets, choose clothing items that can be layered when temperatures get cool or when you’re heading out to dinner. That way instead of changing your entire outfit you’re simply adding a sweater, scarf or jacket.
  • Focus on Versatile Items. Piggybacking on tip #1, choose casual clothing that can easily be dressed up with a sweater, scarf and/or bit of jewelry. The same goes for shoes. There are oodles of cute shoes today that can take you from sightseeing straight to dinner. A pair of sandals and a pair of versatile “go anywhere” shoes, along with some good hiking/walking shoes (3 pairs in total) should be plenty.
  • Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.41.44 PMRoll it. Neatly roll your clothes to decrease wrinkles and leave more space in your luggage. Plus you can better organize your packing with this method.
  • Plan to Hand Wash. Laundromats are not readily available in Italy, and if you do find one they’re expensive to use (think 5-10 euros per load). Be ready to hand wash items during your trip. Yet another reason to pack light-weight clothing.
  • Leave Space. Nearly ALL of our guests complain that they didn’t leave enough space in their baggage for the items they bought in Italy. Keep in mind that future purchases are likely going to find their way into your luggage!
  • Don’t Bring: Here are some items you can leave at home: hair dryers, short-shorts (unless you’ll be at the beach or pool) and high heeled shoes. (Instead bring shoes that are comfortable yet versatile enough to be worn out to dinner at that local trattoria!)

Looking for more specifics? Download my Italy PACKING LIST!

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pamela orancePamela Haack creates and hosts boutique-style small group tours, workshops and retreats that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps guests experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way – off the beaten strada.

Pamela is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites. She lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.

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