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Dressing like an Italian


When in Rome, dress as the Romans do. If you don’t want your clothes to scream “tourist” (or worse, ban you from visiting major historical attractions), pack with these tips in mind.

Shorts and sleeveless shirts are banned in churches and other religious sites. Men are only allowed shorts that reach the knee (women must also wear skirts of that length). If the weather’s warm, you may wear a bare-shouldered top but bring a shawl or jacket so you can meet the dress code. You should also cover up tattoos and remove any unusual piercings, both considered disrespectful in a holy place.

Flip flops and sandals aren’t forbidden, per se, but are generally frowned upon by Italians. This is the shoe capital of the world; beach wear stays on the beach. Some even find sneakers distasteful — most women wear shoes with a small heel, while men wear loafers. Other signs that you’re a tourist with “no fashion taste”: baseball caps, fanny packs or bum bags and huge shirts with logos. Italy may be home to designer labels, but Italians prefer subtle unadorned clothes where the craftsmanship (rather than the logo) speak for the brand.

No Italian would be caught on the street in synthetic fabrics, costume jewelery, cheap perfume and oversized clothing. They believe in understated elegance: a simple pair of gold earrings, well tailored clothes in cotton, silk or linen, and dressing your age. Shirts with cartoon characters or hearts or loose jumpers are only acceptable if you’re a toddler. But by far the most ridiculous thing you can do is channel Audrey Hepburn and wear scarves and hoop earrings, even if it is your Roman Holiday.

So here’s your rule of thumb: pack a few classic, tasteful, high-quality pieces in neutral colours that you can mix and match.

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