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Packing Tips for a Woman's Trip to Italy


Susan Van Allen

We're delighted to have Susan Van Allen, author of '100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go' as a longtime member of our Journeywoman Network. We asked her to share her expertise with the rest of our readership by telling us what she puts in her suitcase when she sets out for Italy. Here is her 'what to pack' list which is well worth following and also forwarding to your pals who are heading that way. Susan writes ...

Think simple...

Italian women dress stylishly without a lot of fuss. So color coordinate your outfits, add lightweight accents (scarves and jewelry), be neat, and all will be well.

Over-packing will end up being a drag on your trip—unfortunately the days of scurrying porters are over and you’ll end up having to lug about your own belongings—packing light is so much more sophisticated!

Remember, you can always hand wash, or get to a laundry or dry cleaner while you’re there.

And… what’s the hardship in having to buy extra clothes or shoes in Italy? There are always bargains to be found in the daily outdoor markets in Rome and Florence.


Don’t pack...

Your hairdryer: Even budget hotels have them.

Spike heels: They get stuck in the cobblestones.

Shorts: You’ll feel odd unless you’re biking or on a beach.

Sneakers: Meaning your gym shoes or white sneakers. That said, comfortable shoes are important as you’ll be doing lots of walking. Make sure you have good rubber soles, as leather slips on the slopes in the hill towns. These days Italian women sport fashionable flat-heeled boots or fancy colored sneakers for day wear.


Do pack...

Umbrella: To always carry with you on “iffy” weather days. You’ll regret having to buy one from eager street vendors who jack up the price the moment the sky opens.

Tissues: To double as toilet paper. There will inevitably be places that are lacking.

Band Aids and moleskin: In case of foot blisters.

Travel-sized toiletries: This is the stuff that can really add weight, so bring only what you need. Hotels generally supply shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion.

Lightweight duffel bag: To fill with souvenirs for your return trip.

Bikini for warmer months: That’s right! Even if you feel like you’re past your bikini times, you’ll feel odd at Italian beaches and lakes in a one-piece. You’ll see that women of every shape and size would rather feel the sun than fret about their bodies. So go ahead and join in on the pleasure…

Cover-Ups for anything sleeveless. At Saint Peter’s in Rome, you’ll be turned away if your shoulders aren’t covered, and all those many churches in Italy with the beautiful masterpieces inside would prefer that you follow the shoulder-cover modesty when you enter.

Copy of your passport, credit card numbers, and toll-free numbers to call in case of credit card loss. Give another
copy and your itinerary to someone who can easily be reached, so they can be sent to you if necessary.

Before you go, call your bank and credit card companies to give them a heads up, as in these days of high security, they may block your card if they aren’t forewarned about your foreign spending.

Pages of guidebooks: Rip out those that apply to your destination. Don’t take the whole heavy book.

Streetwise Maps for the cities you’ll be visiting. These laminated, purse-friendly, well-indexed maps are far superior to
the ones hotels and tourist kiosks hand out. You can buy them in U.S. bookstores or online:

Italy: Instructions for Use*: A unique, practical, lightweight guide and phrasebook containing all the nitty-gritty details you’ll need as you travel—trains, driving, eating, making phone calls, public transportation, etc.


Packing à la Susan...

Use Wire Hangers: I know Joan Crawford would be horrified, but putting all your clothes on wire hangers, which you
then roll up in plastic to prevent wrinkling and then whoosh into your hotel closet when you arrive, cuts down on unpacking time, which gives you more time for Italy.

Have a bag for undies, and a separate one for socks and hose so you can decant them to separate drawers, then a cosmetics bag to drop in the bathroom…and you’re done!

Have a Dress Rehearsal: Here I go confessing my corny secret packing ritual: I take my inspiration from Cher in
Moonstruck—the scene where she gets ready for her date with Nicholas Cage. To get psyched for my date with Italy, I put my mirror center stage, have a glass of white wine nearby, Andrea Bocelli blaring in the background, and all the wardrobe possibillities on the bed, including jewelry and scarves. Then I dress for the plane, for that day I know I’ll be touring a museum, for that special dinner, etc. Inevitably, this is where I’ll figure out what to mix and match, what shoes won’t work, and cut out half of what’s on that bed.

And so your light, lovely Italian adventure begins. Safe journeys, everybody. Buon viaggio!


Stuff you'll love in Italy ...


How lucky we are in the Journeywoman Network to have members who have experienced these places and can give us their helpful, practical information designed to please a female traveller.

25 Things Women Should Know About Florence
10 Hints to Make You Fall in Love With Venice
Seven Restaurants You Will Love in Venice
20 Things Women Will Love in Milan

Penguins and the Paparazzi



Back to GirlTalk Italy...



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