Nov 30, 2018

What to pack for winter in Italy

While most people travel to Italy in the warmer months, savvy travelers are more likely to take advantage of the sales available during winter. I'm a big supporter of traveling to Italy in the off-season. The only issue with this is packing – bulky winter clothing takes up lots more room than sandals and T-shirts.

I am a carry-on-luggage-only kind of gal, so my travel attire must fit in my packing cubes and cabin size trolley. I have become somewhat of an expert on cabin-size packing and often help friends and family with tips on how and what to bring in their luggage when they travel. Today I’ll be sharing my advice for packing for winter trips to Italy.

You know me and my love for lists. When I travel, I work with a checklist that I keep in my luggage. The list helps me plan out outfits as well as keep track of items throughout the journey.

what to pack for winter in italy

One master packing list that will work for every Italy traveler is utopia: there are too many variables to take into consideration. What region of Italy? If traveling in the Alps, whether skiing or not, you’ll need specific snow wear. If traveling to Sicily––even during winter––you may regret not having brought your bathing suit and sunscreen. Whether you'll be visiting Italy couchsurfing or ticking off all the country's 3-Michelin star restaurants will obviously affect what you'll be packing in the suitcase.

What this is, essentially, is a set of suggestions based on the few key pieces I've found useful on my trips, and that frequent Italy travelers should never come to the Bel Paese without.

what to pack for winter in italy

The first thing to consider when packing for Italy is the winter season's climate.

Winter in Italy is mostly chilly and wet. So what you want to pack should first of all keep you warm and dry. Since cold-weather clothing is far bulkier, if you have the budget for it this may be the time to splurge on travel clothing in high-tech fabrics that keep you warm without volume, and that dry quickly. I say that because in addition to traveling light, I am also an advocate of doing laundry during travel, including hand-washing items and drying them in the apartment/hotel where I’m staying. This reduces space in your bag (I hate the fact of having a section of my luggage occupied by soiled garments as travel days progress); cuts down on weight and shortens that dreadful back-home-from-travel laundry routine. For this reason, I always pack a clothesline with pegs; and when I arrive at my destination, I make it a point to purchase liquid laundry detergent for washing shirts, or a block of Marseille soap for my unmentionables.

So with no further ado, let's get started on your Italy winter packing essentials list:

what to pack for winter in italy

Warm, waterproof coat

A coat that's both warm and water-resistant is a staple of Italian winter travel. I worked 15 years in the film industry, shooting in all weather conditions, so I am partial to Gore-tex, but having a shell jacket that will shrug off the rain as you walk from monument to museum is equally effective. Something with a hood is helpful, too. That said I would avoid a big bulky down parka: learn instead to layer with thermals, long-sleeve shirts and sweaters and have that waterproof lightweight (yet warm) jacket be your water/wind breaker. Mostly, bring a coat you love and feel confident in. Patagonia, The North Face, Dubarry and Columbia are all reliable, durable brands.

what to pack for winter in italy

Waterproof shoes

How annoying are wet socks? Imagine walking around the Roman Forum all day with wet feet? Don't let a little precipitation dampen your Italy travel plans, though. Unless you're traveling to Venice during high-tide season, I wouldn't go as far as packing rubber rain boots, but do consider investing in a reliable pair of shoes that will protect your feet from water when you're sightseeing on a wet day. I would avoid white sneakers, and rather pack only one pair of shoes that's both functional (comfortable for walking around in) and nice enough to wear to a restaurant. Properly Scotchgard-treated Blundstone ankle boots are what I wear when leading walking tours on rainy days. Feet stay warm and dry for hours. Caterpillar hiking boots are also very reliable, but chunkier. 

what to pack for winter in italy


Denim is bulky and takes forever to dry––two things that count against jeans when traveling in wet weather––but I always bring one pair of blue jeans because they’re also sturdy and fashionable. Stretchy legging-type jeans that can be tucked into boots are also a great idea. One thing I do recommend is wearing them on the plane (that way they won't take up too much room in your luggage) and bringing another pair of non-denim pants to wear while your jeans have a chance to dry out if they get soaked. These can be tech material cargo pants, a fun pair of dungarees, or Chinos. 

what to pack for winter in italy

Wrinkle reisistant

I'm not a fan of the roll-up packing method because it leaves my clothes too wrinkled. Brooks Brothers, Land's End, Nordstrom's, Talbots and Foxcroft sell button-down shirts and blouses that don't need ironing and which work well with layering. 

Cardigans vs. bulky sweaters

I highly recommend bringing long sleeve tops and cardigans rather than thick sweaters, because these take up too much space and are not good for layering. Bringing 3-4 is sufficient for a week. I also recommend bringing one thinner fleece that can be worn on its own for warmer days and double as an additional layer under your coat on colder days. 


High quality thermal underwear (long johns) base layer wear is a smart winter travel move. I pack 2-3 doubles and wash them on rotation. They dry super quickly, so you always have a warm, clean pair every day. 


Pack one set of long-sleeved comfy pyjamas. If nightgowns are more your thing, consider flannel, not fleece, which tends to cause static with often centralized the heating.

what to pack for winter in italy


Umbrella – a small, lightweight but sturdy collapsible umbrella with a protective sleeve and a loop attached to the handle is the best purchase you can make for Italy winter travel.

Handbag – The bigger my bag, the more I tend to fill it. But the Longchamp Le Pliage lightweight hold-everything purse fits everything in its roomy interior and has long handles for comfortably wearing it over your shoulder. 

what to pack for winter in italy

Scarf – I'm a scarf-lover. No matter the season, I tend to bring a pashmina-style shawl with me whenever I travel. It's perfect on planes now that every airline charges for blankets, and in the winter it doubles as a scarf to keep me warm. This is where I throw thrift to the wind and go for good quality cashmere, which is warmer and softer than anything else.

Hat – My nonna's mantra was, "If your head's warm, you'll never be cold." As soon as temperatures drop, my collection of beanies and berets gets put to good use. I prefer models that cover my ears. Again, choose non-itchy wool and avoid angora which is pretty but sheds, ending up caught in your eyelashes.

Gloves – While I encourage you to look up from your phone and take in the beauty of Italy through your eyes, phone-dependant travelers may want to invest in a pair of texting gloves that allow your fingers to still work on a touch screen.

Socks – Don't be cheap: pack a dozen pairs of warm, comfortable, snug-fitting merino wool socks. Avoid cotton (which makes your feet sweat)! 

what to pack for winter in italy

Undergarments – I normally pack 7-8 panties and 1-2 bras per week. It's good to have extras!

Noise canceling headphones – Don't underestimate the power of a good pair of headphones for air travel. Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones are comfortable and lightweight, packing 40 hours of battery life, ideal for long-haul travel, but they do come with a detachable headphone jack so I also use them for in-flight entertainment.

Adapter, power bank & lightening cable – Travel power adapters are essential for your trip, be sure to purchase ones that work in Italy for Type F power sockets. I like to sleep with my phone on my bedside, so a long cable to charge my phone is essential at rentals and hotels that don't have conveniently-placed wall sockets. To never run out of battery juice while on the go, be sure to pack (and remember to charge up) a portable power bank.

Will you be traveling to Italy this winter? Want to join me on a tasting tour in Rome?
Readers of this blog get a 10% discount on a 3-hour food tour in Rome.
When booking, use the #AOPwintertravel code, valid until February 28, 2019.

Disclaimer: I do not receive a commission on any of the items listed and linked, they are products I normally use, and that I think can be helpful to you.

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