Our three weeks in Italy are coming up very soon. So, obviously I’ve been musing about my travel wardrobe. That’s nothing new. What should I wear? And, how should I decide what to wear? These are perennial questions for me.

Still musing about what to pack for three weeks in Italy

I’m pretty methodical about wardrobe planning for travel. I always look at climate, the predicted weather conditions for our destinations, how many different “seasons” we’ll be experiencing. In South America we went from the chilly, late fall conditions of mountain mornings in Patagonia and parts of Peru, to tropical, high summer temperatures in Buenos Aires and Lima. I look at the type of activities we’ll be doing. Are they likely to involve lots of exercise in the heat, or might they instead require gloves, a waterproof jacket, and maybe even a toque?  Even the location of the activity makes a difference. For instance, if we’re walking, will it be on trails where I’ll not have to worry about looking good, or in a city necessitating an outfit that’s comfortable, but still somewhat smart? So many variables, so many decisions. I call that last one the fleece or no fleece decision.

I remember the stressing I did before we went to France in 2015. I was worried, in particular, about what to wear in Paris. Silly me. Everything was fine. But I remember one friend commented on Facebook that I should toss in a few tee shirts and a pair of jeans, carry a mostly empty suitcase, and shop in Paris. No, no, no… that would never work for me. It may seem shallow, but I always have a better time if I feel comfortable in, and confident about, what I’m wearing. And what Hubby would say if he had to trail me around Paris, while I shopped for those things I hadn’t packed, doesn’t bear thinking about. Ha.

Packing for South America last year required lots of lists, much editing, then more lists. It was a complex trip requiring a variety of clothing, all packed into the same size suitcase I always carry. We spent some of our time in cities, some hiking in the hinterland, some in tropical climates, and some at elevation with pretty chilly temperatures. The range of activity, plus the need for a more complex “medical kit,” and inclusion of bulky hiking boots and poles, meant that I only had room for a few outfits for each stage of the trip.

My trip to England last fall should have been a doddle to plan by comparison. Most of our time was in cities and towns, one season only, no hiking or outdoor activities except city walking. But oddly enough I made better packing choices for South America. For England, I packed several pieces I could easily have left at home, and even a couple of outfits which I regretted bringing. That’s partly due, I know, to my state of mind last September. My brother had just died after a long and difficult battle with deteriorating health, and we all felt kind of wrung out in my family. As a result, I was stressed and not making good decisions. In retrospect I guess I should have delayed or even cancelled the trip. But… water… bridge… you know. I’ll move on and learn from the experience.

This morning I dug out my lists for both trips and annotated them, highlighting those items I could have easily left at home.

Annotated packing lists for South America and England

In the final analysis, I could have packed five fewer pieces for our South America trip. Not counting the flip flops I never wore. Not bad for a six week trip that spanned numerous activities and conditions.  According to my lists, I could easily have left five items home on my England trip too. That does not include the outfits I hated. Not to mention the couple of unplanned pieces I squeezed in at the last minute… thank goodness. So, not great planning for a fifteen day journey.

This year I’m trying to learn from past mistakes. I’m identifying a colour palette to work with right from the beginning. Boring it may be, but I’ve decided to go with black, grey, and white. I plan to bring as “toppers” two black jackets, one casual and one a bit more dressy. And as much as I love it, I’m leaving my Veronica Beard navy blazer at home. It did yeoman service in England last year, but as a result I hardly wore my black Lafayette 148 zippered sweater. I’m going to substitute my black Helmut Lang blazer, instead, which will work with the same bottoms and tops as the Lafayette sweater, giving me more outfit variety with fewer pieces. Hopefully. We’ll see.

To that end I’ve been playing around with combinations. Like my black Helmut Lang jacket, white jeans, and my black Stuart Weitzman loafers. Layering the jacket over this grey Aritzia hoodie and a short-sleeve white tee.

My Italian palette: black, white, and grey.
Then adding a scarf, either this one (below) or my Burberry one, seen above in the first picture. I did something similar in England last year, but with the navy VB jacket and blue jeans. My goal is cobble together a few outfits in this palette that I really like, and go from there. I’m hoping that combinations like this can do double duty as a casual dinner outfit or smart, walking-around-in-cities outfits in either coolish or warm weather depending on how many layers I wear. I can wear all these pieces with my black leggings and the loafers or with jeans and sneakers. Of course, I’ll bring a pair of athletic sneakers for some serious walking when we’re not in cities, a rain coat, a couple of pieces for a pop of colour in my very neutral palette, and maybe a pair of ankle boots depending on the weather predictions.
I wore something similar in France in 2015, and last year in England.
As usual, my goal for a travel wardrobe is NOT to be fashion forward. But to be comfortable, presentable, and a bit polished, in clothes that feel good, and make me feel like me. And to be appropriately dressed for the occasion, the location, and the weather. And in as few pieces as possible, so they will all fit into my suitcase. Ha. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?
This week is my shopping week. I have a few things to purchase for Hubby. And I’ll be on the hunt for a couple of long-sleeve tees, and maybe a light fall sweater for myself. Packable, washable pieces that won’t break the bank, and which will double as casual or a bit more polished depending on which pants and jacket I’m wearing. I also have my eye on a new travel bag that I saw a few months ago.
Yesterday an ultra-light down vest from Uniqlo that I ordered on-line was delivered. Oh my, it’s lovely, a wine/burgundy colour, and it fits perfectly. Thanks to those of you who suggested it. I haven’t decided if I will take it on our trip.
But then, I’m not finished my planning yet. Now I must go. I’m not nearly finished trying on outfit combinations: discarding pieces, adding others, deciding which tops, which tees, which scarves. Do I pack those sandals, or my ankle boots, or neither? Not to mention the shopping that still needs to be done.
I’ve miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep. As Robert Frost didn’t exactly say.
What about you, my friends? Have you had any packing “learning experiences”… let’s call them that, shall we?


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From the archives


Illuminating The Luminaries…

Everyone it seems loved The Lunminaries. Everyone but me.

Reality Check 66

Time passes in chunks for me. And every few years I realize that a big chunk has gone by. And that is always a huge reality check.

Home and Away.

The best kind of travel is when you feel at home no matter where you are.

34 thoughts on “Planning My Travel Wardrobe for Italy”

  1. I've been doing the same thing for a trip to Italy that starts next week and, like you, I find lists (and google spreadsheets) essential to figure out what to pack and, more importantly, what not to pack. This trip, it's navy, black and white/cream with scarves for some variety. I create combinations to be sure I haven't fallen in love with an item that only works one way. I even make a day-by-day plan, though I don't follow it exactly. I'm hoping Rome and Florence will cool off in the next week, so that jackets and sweaters are comfortable. I really enjoy your blog … this is my first comment. Safe and happy travels to you and your husband.

    1. I write down my outfit choices as well, except in my journal. I find that way I don't need to unpack everything to know what I want to wear. Since at some points we'll be moving every day, I hate to fully unpack, and sometimes I can't remember what I'd planned as a combination. The lists help. I'm hoping the weather is in the high teens and low twenties… but I fear that Florence will be quite warm. At least according to the "Accu-weather" forecast. Hope your travels are safe and happy too. If our paths somehow cross, and you spy me and Hubby somewhere… make sure to stop and say hello.

  2. Beware the old cobblestone streets and sidewalks in Italy, they are very hard on the feet. Forget ballet flats, you need sturdy shoes with good support for your feet and a not-too-thin sole.

    1. Ah yes… those lovely cobblestones can be treacherous, aren't they? I never travel with ballet flats since I don't find them any more comfortable than heels. But sneakers… now sneakers are my footwear of choice.

  3. Glad you like your Uniqlo vest I have just bought the same burgundy colour and have already worn it a couple of times this week itsi so useful and takes up no room.Mustard colours seem to be very popular this year not sure about it myself? Enjoy Italy a lovely time to go Im sure you will make the right wardrobe choices nothing too tight with all the wonderful food on offer.

  4. You are perfect planner and I like to read about different experiences.
    I have a chocolate brown Uniqlo vest bought three years ago in London and like it very much. Would like to buy a longer version (maybe burgundy,too,-to wear under Fjallraven parka,if needed) but they don't ship to Croatia (I even wrote and complain)
    I write all my plans (travel wardrobe-ups and downs-,menu plans,Christmas and birthday presents etc.) in a notebook
    I'll just describe my today's morning wardrobe-it was 17°C and I was outside, in a shade all the time-: linen trousers,viscose knitted very light wide t-shirt with short sleeves and open toe sandals. I was fine (and I'm more sensitive to cold than warm)
    Now is noon,27°C and it is very warm-although I'm not in the shade any more-in the same outfit
    I have problems with prolonged weekend travel wardrobe in this crazy weather and forecast-will report next week (or maybe during the weekend)

  5. To fleece or not to fleece. That is the question. You're funny! I'm a terrible packer because I wait until the last minute. Dumb, I know. At the end of this month I'm going to Montana, near Glacier Ntl Park. It's already in the 30's at night and their highs are lower than our lows in Texas. You've given me a idea about the hoodie, but I'll pass on the vest. Unless you're uber thin… and regardless of what you say, you're very thin, I'll wind up looking like the Micheline Tire man. We love the same brands… ALL of the same brands. Just looked on Aritzia for a hoodie. They have a grey thermal hoodie I may snap up. Not as dressy looking as yours but I can use it. Loved this post. xoxox, Brenda

    1. I have all the clothes for that trip… and it would be so easy for me to pack for a trip to Montana. Maybe I should go there next?
      It looks as if my Aritzia hoodie is no longer on offer. The have lovely cashmere ones…. but at a higher price point.

  6. Love your chosen palette and love your list making as it's so similar to mine…how fun to ponder all the combinations and permutations by writing them down and saving them for future reference once the trip is over.My standard wardrobe for travelling consists of clothing items in black and white with one other colour. This past trip I selected cobalt blue and it worked like a charm to give various outfits that made me feel appropriately dressed at all times. I have used red, deep pink, yellow and grey as the alternate colours in previous trips. My vote would be to take the down vest with you…they are so very light weight and it can add that extra bit of warmth should you need it on a cool morning walk or a rainy day. Also recommend taking a variety of scarves with you…silk is light and they give such variety to an outfit…my suitcase had a total of 7 scarves that gave variety, colour and additional warmth when it was needed. Think about your footwear…so important to have comfortable feet when walking over various terrain. Your colour palette is perfect for this time of year and will give you maximum outfit combinations…have a blast packing and travelling to the beautiful country of Italy…Andiamo! Cheers, Alayne

    1. I need to start accumulating a basic travel wardrobe that I can mix up with different accent colours. That's a great idea, Alayne. Footwear.. I'm on it. I only travel with a few select pairs of shoes…ones that have proven to be comfortable for walking in all day long.

  7. Don't even consider taking shoes that don't have industrial strength arch supports and good cushioning! I have a pair of Mephistos that work well and a pair of FitFlop Skates that I love. Several scarves totally change the look of neutral outfits; they wad up, are lightweight and add colour. I must check out those Uniqlo vests as they keep popping up in various travel and fashion blogs that I like. Boomerbroadcast.net

    1. I only pack shoes into which I can fit my orthotics. Mostly sneakers, hiking boots, and loafers. Although I often pack a dressier pair of flat sandals for wearing to dinner. Sore feel can definitely ruin a holiday!

  8. It's hard packing for unpredictable and/or changing climates, but it looks like you have it under control. I'd probably take ankle boots, not sandals. I'm sure you're going to have a fantastic trip – Italy is amazing.

    1. I think my ankle boots may be too warm. I'm planning to delay the decision until a day or so before we go so I can get more accurate weather predictions. My feet are so hard to fit that I usually don't have a large selection from which to choose.
      BTW… congrats on your painting being selected for that juried show:) And one of my favourites too.

  9. My first, and so far only, trip to Italy was in late September 2002. I had been off work sick early in the summer and still had to use up my vacation time so it was a spur of the moment trip – 3 weeks from deciding to go to actually going. It was a heatwave in Toronto when I left and hot & summery in Italy during the trip. The airline lost my luggage on the way so I learned how to travel light! I picked up a couple tees in Rome & a pair of booties in Siena. By the end of the trip my travel companions – it was a group tour – were quite envious of my lack of luggage. Nearly ten years ago, I went on a solo four month backpacking trip around Mexico & South America and the salesperson at the travel/outdoor store had to convince me to get a larger backpack than I initially thought I would need. It worked well & I was glad I had followed a travel tip to wrap duck tape around a pen, which I needed to shutter a window.

    1. I can't imagine going on a four month solo backpacking trip. You are a true adventurer. But I don't understand how duct tape wrapped around a pen would be useful.

    2. The backpacking trip was a bucket list item I pursued a couple years after being hit by a vehicle. I've not really been in a position to be a true adventurer. The tape around a pen is convenient and doesn't take up as much space as packing a full roll. I used it to help keep window shutters closed during a wind storm but it could be useful in a variety of situations such as if your bag were ripped or a window screen hole or keyhole needed covering.
      Enjoy your trip!

    3. Ah… I get it now. The pen is just used to wrap and store the duct tape. We always have duct tape when we're camping. Comes in handy in so many ways:)

  10. It's still so warm in Rome (very high 20s) — I couldn't manage without sandals, myself — my feet swell in the heat if I'm walking lots, as you will be. You're so organized I'm sure you've got this, but I'd make sure you're well prepared for an entire week, at least, of really warm afternoons — of course, it could be cooler and rain the whole time, so layering's a good idea, but I'd want to have enough to wear if it happens to stay warm (the three times I've been in Italy in the fall, that's been the case). Happy packing!

    1. I wish I could find walking sandals that fit my foot, but they're always too wide. So it's sneakers for walking around cities for me. My feet swell in the heat too… now. Must be the 60's thing, eh? I even had trouble with swollen ankles in South America.
      Good point. We've decided to bring enough clothes for six or seven days. We've sort of planned the places on the trip where we will be on one place long enough to do laundry… hopefully twice. Thanks for the advice. I'd considered e-mailing you since I knew you'd been to Italy several times in the fall.

  11. As always I admire the military precision with which you approach your packing. Sounds like a lovely mix. Don't think you'll need boots. Look forward to reading your impressions of Italy. Buon viaggio! Iris

  12. Hi Sue, sorry I'm a little late here! Glad you're pleased with your Uniqlo jacket, I've a similar one in grey that layers well under coats and trenches as well as working well as a lightweight jacket on it's own … really useful, especially as they pack up so small! As others have said I'd leave your boots at home and rely on your Stan Smiths and maybe a pair of loafers. I'd be inclined to pop in some sandals for the warmer days, that I'm expecting/hoping you'll have 🙂 and are you not tempted to pack your navy dress? … I think it would work well for evenings in a restaurant.
    Lynda's comment about shoes took me back to Venice and wearing a previously comfortable pair of ballet flats. This resulted in numerous blisters and me sitting in the corner of a tiny pharmacy applying Compeed …. Ahhh the relief! 🙂
    I remember your posts about packing for Paris so clearly as I'd been a week or so previously and I remember telling you, you'd be fine and you were! I'd bought a new trench coat but the weather was too warm to wear it!
    Looking forward to anymore preparation posts and your actual travel posts on Italy …. I'm so excited for you, as everywhere you're going is wonderful! Although I'll be interested to hear if you feel, as I did, in Florence about all the handbag sellers!

    1. I didn't get a the Uniqlo jacket, just the vest. But it's lovely and light, and not too snug. I've packed a pair of flat sandals for evening. And my black loafers. I'll be wearing my Stan Smith's or my running shoes most days. They just don't make walking sandals that will fit me. Curse of the narrow foot. When Birkenstock came back in a big way a couple of years ago I shopped all over the city trying to find a pair to fit, tried Mephisto as well. I walk right out of them when I take a step, or slide on through with my toes dragging on the ground. Ouch.

  13. I love how you went and looked back at your packing list to see how it could be improved. I do agree that the most important thing with travel clothes is that they are comfortable. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

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