Even though it is very important to wear modest clothing to religious
places (synagogues, neighborhoods, etc.) there is a raging secular
society in Israel that is not afraid to show some body! Showing
your stomach is not a big deal in cities like Haifa or Tel Aviv.
Also, very few Israeli women wear shorts! Even though it is VERY
hot in Israel, wear pants and get used to it. Jeans, stretch, or
wide legged pants - you can buy these for basically 5 American dollars
in most places in Israel. Shirts that are very "Israeli" can be
anything from a tight fitting three quarter blouse or a t-shirt
cut at the neck so that it hangs off your shoulders. Scarves are
a nice thing to have to cover your hair. If you are going on a hike
or walking in the desert you are actually better wearing thin loose
pants or a wide cotton skirt than shorts just because you will appreciate
the protection from the sun. And don't depend on borrowing sun tan
lotion from an Israeli friend. It is not that common. And most importantly
tell your male counterparts not to bring really nice clothing. Israeli
men dress VERY casually (the classic picture is the shirt open at
the neck and khaki pants.)
Lize, Boston/Haifa, Israel
Although Israel is boiling hot in the summer, you must wear a long
skirt and long sleeves to get into most of the religious sites.
Liana, Calgary, Canada
Travelling in the Middle East, I found my two most useful clothing
choices were: a puffy, white, long-sleeved cotton blouse, and a
full, calf-length, black cotton skirt. Both were cut generously
enough that I was cool and comfortable, sober enough that no one
could confront me, and formal enough that I could wear them to Shabbat
dinner (Israel)and to mosques (Egypt) alike.
Miranda, Victoria, Canada
I live in Israel and I strongly recommend a comfortable hat for
travellers - I have a packable crocheted hat. This is good for visiting
religious sites AND for walking in the sun. It gets quite hot here.
Sue, Kiryat Motzkin, Israel
If you are planning on traveling alone in the cities of Israel
take a light weight skirt that reaches below the knee, modest short
sleeve top (loose T-shirt okay), and a large scarf (to use when
needed...one that covers your arms is preferable). This outfit will
get you into the religious sites and keep you from being hassled
by the more traditional or religious folk.
Alexy, Hamilton, New Zealand
Shorts and miniskirts are inappropriate for visiting the sacred
sites of all the religions, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. Even sleeveless
tops are looked down upon by some. Otherwise, dress is casual, even
in good restaurants.
Sally MacDonald, Travel Section, The Gazette
In Israel, be sure to dress nicely. Black is popular in the universities,
and tight clothing is how to fit in. If you are blonde, watch it!
I stuck out big time in Israel and Egypt with my blonde hair, haven't
learned exactly what to do about that one. I guess a scarf or a
quick dye job?
Tracey, Tennessee, USA
I spent four months in Rome in 2008. After I read your JW page,
I opted to bring just one pair of jeans. I regretted that decision
when I found jeans are much more common than I believed. You can
dress comfortably. I wouldn't recommend your sorority sweatshirt
and sweatpants, but jeans are very common. Scarves are very common.
Dress in layers because you'll notice the weather can change quickly.
Always have an umbrella!
Ashley, Colombia, MD, USA
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for contributing, Ashley.
Your email is why we welcome everybody's point of view on what to
wear, where. There is no definitive answer in this section. Travelling
women should make their clothing decisions based on their age, whether
they dress for comfort at all costs or more formal reasons. Everybody
is right. Most important factor -- always think cultural correctness.
We ask readers to read through all the suggestions and then make
their decisions based on their own needs and wants.
When traveling in Italy, don't ever wear short skirts. Even if
you see Italian models wearing them, it is not considered the norm.
Men will see it as an invitation to grab your bottom and pinch you.
There's an unfortunate stereotype that North Americans are 'easy',
and this will only further that idea. Sneakers are only worn for
playing sports like soccer, but you can get away with them if you
must. Don't wear sneakers to restaurants however. Good comfortable
leather shoes are more appropriate. In religious places it is considered
immoral to dress too revealingly and they will not let women in
with their arms showing or a short skirt. Skirts must be ankle length,
or wear pants. Carry a light sweater to throw on over your arms.
Jeans are not rare among the younger kids, but don't wear them baggy.
Italy is the fashion capital of the world! To blend in wear fitted
pants (or if you must wear jeans make sure they are snug for both
men and women). Money belts and fanny packs make you stick out as
a tourist. I'd suggest a purse, leather totebag or backpack. I would
not suggest you wear clothing specific to other ethnic groups if
you want to blend in though here has been more ethnic diversity
in recent years. Deodorant is not common in Italy and is very difficult
to find, so pack your own ahead of time. Some people suggest bringing
a silk scarf along to cover your arms for a church but you will
only look silly. Remember above all churches are places of worship;
if they have art there that's only secondary. Remember to respect
the people worshipping there by trying to dress appropriately. Hope
this was helpful!
Shanna, New York, USA
In Italy, wearing shorts or miniskirts will label you as a foreigner
(especially an American) very quickly! And if you are travelling
in Autumn months, pack a waterproof jacket or an umbrella. The weather
can become quite cool and rainy during the afternoon and evening
hours in Tuscany.
Christine, Raleigh, USA
Be sure your clothes fit well. Italians hate sloppy or oversized
clothing and will stare at Americans traveling alone or in groups
who just don't get it. They feel that presenting a "bella figura"
is a personal responsibility, even when traveling.
Judy, Santa Cruz, USA
After spending three months studying in Rome and traveling many
other places around Italy, I noticed how differently you are treated
if you dress well. Wearing the same top, one day with jeans and
sneakers and the next day with black slacks and black leather boots;
there's a world of difference! Italians appreciate people who are
well-dressed and give them more respect and attention.
Christina, Front Royal, USA
Pants were fine, especially the black, gray and khaki. Blue Jeans
are not as commonly worn as they are in the United States, however
one or two pair would be okay, depending on your packing practices.
I went on an excursion to a village on the Mediterranean Sea. I
wore long khakis which were great for the time of year and the visit
to the cathedral. I wish however that I brought some shorts for
the beach since my pants got wet from trying to wade.
Marsha, Ohio, USA
In Italy be as conservative as possible. If you have blonde hair,
cover it up as the Italian men will be like bees round honey.
Rebecca, Oxford, England
I visited St. Peter's in Rome during the summer which is very
hot and humid. To other JourneyWomen I suggest wearing a skirt which
covers your knees. What I did was to carry a skirt and a scarf in
my small travel bag. I would wear my skirt on top of my shorts and
cover my shoulders with my scarf. That way I was sure to fit in
anywhere -- since sometimes they don't even accept long Bermuda
shorts. I would also suggest those zipped shorts-pants. You could
add the bottom parts of your pants when needed. This advice is also
good for most churches in Italy.
Sophie, Quebec, Canada
For five weeks of study and travel in Italy, I tried to pack light.
My absolute *best* pre-departure buys are: Dark sunglasses - they
protect your privacy, believe it or not. People (especially Italian
men) can't tell if you're looking at them, if you're looking desperately
for a street sign, if you're feeling less than confident. Mona Winks
is the name of a book not clothing - I'm not being paid to plug
Rick Steves' self-guided tours through famous European museums -
honest. But this book was worth every pretty penny I paid.
Megan, Winnipeg, Canada
Feel free to be glamorous and stylish in Italy. I was in Rome and
Florence in December when it is quite chilly. I noticed many of
the women were wearing beautiful floor-length, wool sweater coats
(mostly gray and black) and I bought one in Florence for $40 US
and a beautiful silk scarf to drape over it ($4 US). With high-heeled
black leather boots I packed from home and black leather gloves
(bought from the marketplace in Florence),I not only looked and
felt totally Italian vogue, but I stayed warm too.
Sabrina, Miami, USA
Don't wear sleeveless or strapless clothes if you intend on visiting
churches, even if it's just to view the art. A cardigan, scarf,
or short sleeved shirt/blouse to cover-up will come in handy. Also,
no matter where you go, you could feel dumpy and under-dressed in
comparison to the well-dressed Italian women so make sure you are
comfortable and stylish by dressing in a classical & minimalist
way. This leaves room for the accessories you are sure to buy while
Joelle, Halifax, Canada
I studied abroad in Italy last year, and one of the things I learned
was how important fashion is to the Italians. Call me naive, but
I felt tennis shoes and jeans were the perfectly logical choice
for long day trips and weekend excursions. I stuck out like a sore
thumb at the beginning... then I learned. It's not that dressing
casually is all that bad--it just gives you away as an American,
which would be good and bad in certain situations. Comfortable yet
classy shoes are a great asset, as are quality--but not necessarily
extravagant--handbags. After all, as I forgot, Italy is one of the
fashion capitals of the world. "When in Rome..."
Jennifer Bryant, Athens, Georgia
When visiting Vatican City, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome don't
wear shorts, or tops with plunging necklines. Conservative decent
dress is respectful. Chelsea, Manilla, Philippines
It tends to rain in Venice all throughout the spring and summer
so don't be surprised when the entire city floods as the canals
overflow. Just pack a pair of sensible shoes and an umbrella as
you don't want to be wading through the 3 inch deep water in San
Marco square in open toed sandals.
Leslie Ehm, London, England
When you travel in Italy, wear long, loose, comfortable skirts
with flowing long-sleeved blouses. Short, tight skirts, shorts,
and bare arms are not permitted in the many churches one might visit
Mary Smith, Oakdale, USA
I traveled in Italy and would like to pass along this advice.
When visiting St. Peter's in Rome make sure your shoulders are covered
and that your shorts or skirt comes to your knees. The guards will
NOT let you in if you do not meet these requirements.
Stephanie, Philadelphia, USA
I have travelled in Northern Italy for the past three years, and
yes, no sloppy clothes, no fanny packs or money belts (as suggested
by RS). A good leather purse makes you look like a local. Young
Italians do wear jeans, but very trendy jeans and always with high
heels (not the best choice for walking on cobblestones). Also, no
Vancouver fleece. I always pack cotton and linen in black, and try
for one great dress that can go to museums or out for dinner.
Leslie, Vancouver, Canada