Stylish yet comfortable. That’s my advice on dressing for Rome. Rome, like most big cities in the US and Europe, is very fashion-forward. And the more you dress like a local, the better you’ll fit in. However, as a sightseer, I recommend balancing style with comfort, especially during dreadfully hot summertime trips. Additionally, travelers must also plan ahead for Roman church’s conservative dress codes, which prohibit excessive exposed skin. Don’t piss off God (or, rather, his Earthly minders). But also stay stylish and comfortable while traveling Rome with these tips.
Wear Nun-Approved Clothes in All Roman Churches
Anyone who travels to Rome for the first time is bound to visit a few of the city’s historic churches. Please keep in mind that many of the Rome’s greatest religious sites have strict dress codes. And they will be enforced. This is especially true for the major attractions like the Pantheon and throughout Vatican City, namely St. Peter’s Basilica.
When picking out clothes to wear to these churches, just remember that modesty is key. Wear long pants and clothing that covers your shoulders. Jeans are fine, but they should have no rips, grime or “fashionable” tears in them.
Women can get away with wearing capris, skirts, or dresses, so long as they extend below the knees. Shorts, however, remain verboten in most Roman churches. Ladies can sport tank tops, but they must have something like a large, non-transparent scarf, sarong or shawl to cover their shoulders with when entering churches.
Consider planning the days you wish to visit religious sites ahead of time so you’ll know when to prioritize modest attire. On the days you’re not visiting any churches, feel free to wear more casual, looser-fitting clothing. Wearing breathable clothing is a must on hot Roman days as you’re hiking around attractions like the Palatine Hill, the Altare della Patria and Roman Forum.
Roman Fashion: Keep It Light & Bright
Fashion experts often explain Italian fashion by contrasting it with the French. While black and understated colors are the norm in Paris, Italians tend to favor lighter colors in their wardrobe. These lighter colors have a practical purpose: They reflect the intense Roman sun. When in Rome, dress like the Romans by favoring a lighter colored wardrobe.
Don’t Look Like the Tourist that You Are
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of petty crime in the Italian capital. The easiest way to get pick-pocketed on your trip is to look like an obvious tourist. So, when packing up your clothing, always ask yourself whether your wardrobe screams “clueless tourist.”
A few pointers: It’s always a bad idea to wear clothes with prominent logos, especially if they are from your home country. You should also avoid wearing baseball hats, fanny packs, cargo shorts and logo-covered synthetic sportswear or “athleisure” wear, as they’re not common in Rome. Instead, pick up a locally made fedora, use a hidden money belt and stick to denim, linen and other natural materials. Finally, let me really drive home this point: You will scream obvious American tourist if you sport Under Armour. This hideous clothing line is universally abhorred in Europe, especially in Rome. Leave the Under Armour at home. Or, better yet, burn it now.
Baggy clothes aren’t a hot idea in Rome…indeed, you’ll probably feel unbearably hot if you wear baggy pants in the summertime! Generally, Romans prefer well-tailored clothing; so, the closer your clothes fit you, the better.
As for footwear, it’s best to wear formal shoes (e.g. leather or suede) that fit you well and hold up to lots of walking. I’m pretty darn loyal to the Ecco brand. Lightweight slip-on shoes are popular as are sturdy, leather sandals. A few no-no footwear options include tennis shoes and flip-flops.