When deciding what to pack for Rome, the first thing you need to consider is the minimal amount of luggage that you are allowed to bring on the plane these days.
Remember the old rule of thumb: pack your suitcase, then, take out half the clothes, and bring twice the money.
I am not sure about the money part of that advice, since now there are ATMs and credit cards.
But when it comes to clothes, laundromats in Rome abound, especially near the Termini train station. Some hotels also provide a laundry service. If luggage weight restrictions will limit what you can pack for your trip to Rome, ask your hotel before you come if they have laundry services, or if they can tell you if there is a laundromat nearby.
After years of coming to visit my husband (to-be), and now living here, I became an expert at what to pack for Rome.
Things I list on the page are all things I used to pack for visiting Rome, and now own and use while in Rome. These are my personal recommendations for what to pack for Rome:
Any medications you are taking, and a list of these medications (do not put either of these in checked luggage!)
Photocopies of your passport and of the contents of your wallet (carry separately.)
Something suitable for going to the Vatican, and other Christian sites, that covers your knees and shoulders.
Plug converters for your dual-voltage appliances. Voltage in Italy is 220, and in the US and some other countries, it's 110. Most electronic devices such as cameras, cell phones, laptops and electric shavers are dual voltage by default. But you need a plug adapter since the shapes of the plugs are different here. If you travel to different parts of the world, you can buy a universal adapter like the one shown.
Apple also sells a nice plug adapter set, although it may have more adapters (for parts of the world) that you don't need.
Washcloths if you like to use them, particularly if you are travelling with a baby. These are not items one finds in a typical household in Italy, and hotels don't usually have them - you will usually find a large bath towel and a smaller towel, such as for drying your hair. You can buy washcloths here, if you need to, at some of the linen/bath shops such as Frette and Tebro.
Earplugs if you are a light sleeper. Rome is a big, busy city, and even if a hotel has good soundproofing, you may hear some ambient city noises. If you forget these, you can always buy them at the pharmacy.
I know this might seem odd but since my mom does this, I figure others might find it useful: If you love your sweetener, bring some in a little plastic ziploc baggie, or in mini-tablet form.
The sweetener used at bars/cafe's here is called Dietor, and is like Sweet N Lo. If you prefer Splenda or Equal, bring it with you.
You will likely be doing a lot of walking in Rome, so the key is to be comfortable. Try to avoid bringing shoes you have not broken in. Tennis shoes (trainers, sneakers), hiking shoes or other types of durable sports shoes are probably your best bet. No, you won't look like a poshly-dressed Roman, but you are sightseeing in Rome...you are a tourist! You are not only allowed to dress comfortably, you should!
Pack comfortable shoes, preferably with little or no heel. Rome is full of cobblestone streets. Whenever I wear heels, try as I might to avoid it, they always get caught in between the little stones...how do those Roman women do it? I guess it takes a lifetime of practice, or maybe they are just born to be elegant!
And if you are like me, count on leaving some room in your luggage for some eventual clothing and shoes purchases!
It's fine to dress casually to go sightseeing in Rome. T-shirts, jeans, tennis shoes, sundresses and sandals are all appropriate for any of the Rome sights, the Vatican. You should be comfortable since so much of the best sight-seeing in Rome involves walking.
To enter any Christian sight, including any church (certainly the Vatican) and the Catacombs, you must be dressed appropriately: no bare knees, shoulders or midriffs. You may still dress casually, but modesty is what counts.
As for shorts, most adult Romans will not wear short shorts in the city even during the hottest months. Bermudas are a bit more common. (Some young Roman girls are starting to wear shorts now, but the majority don't. Not in the city.)
In summer, Roman women tend to wear capri or linen pants, sundresses or skirts. Roman men wear linen pants, and some might wear long bermuda shorts.
Nobody minds if the tourists wear shorts, because there are so many who do. However, remember if you want to enter any church in Rome, and not just the Vatican, you should not go in dressed in shorts (or tank tops.)
If you are planning to go to some event such as a wedding, opera or dinner at some special restaurant, then you might consider bringing something elegant to wear.
Otherwise, keep your luggage light: you may plan to dress casually when dining in most Rome restaurants. It's fine to wear casual clothes such as khakis, jeans, tennis shoes, and sandals to many restaurants in Rome.
But remember that in Italy, modesty is key. You won't find Romans dining in shorts and tank tops, so keep this in mind for going out to eat, and again, for visiting the sites.
During the cool and rainy months, you should bring:
A waterproof rain jacket and/or coat. Especially during fall and spring, when temperatures in Rome can vary a lot between day and evening, plan to layer, i.e. bring sweaters and cardigans. I love my lightweight yet totally waterproof hiking jackets by Colombia and North Face, that have a removable lining.
Here is a men's version of the same kind of jacket: waterproof, sporty, and with removable lining. It's actually 3 jackets in one!
You may wish to bring a small travel umbrella. These are also inexpensive and easy to buy from street vendors, who seem to appear in droves when it begins to rain. But if you want a better quality one, that lasts, try this one like mine that has an open AND close button.
If you want to buy some here, there are a lot of lovely glove shops around, especially by the Spanish Steps, where you can find every type and color of glove imaginable! These also make great gifts.
You should keep in mind a couple of very important factors about travelling to Rome in summer:
I love these convertible hiking pants for hiking, but they are actually a life-saver in Rome in hot weather. You can un-zip and remove the bottom half of the leg for walking around in the heat, and put them back on for entering the Vatican or other church.
Here's the men's version of the same type of pant with removable leg. They are one of the most perfect things you can pack for Rome in summer!
A scarf, wrap, pashmina, stole...whatever you want to call it, bring one. In summer, I suggest 100% cotton, never silk which will make you hot. Some synthetic fabrics and wools can be ok to. Pashminas are also great on chilly airplanes.
My mom always tells me to wear a hat, and she is right. I love love love my Wallaroo hat and wear it all around Rome in summer. These hats are super easy to roll up, light and comfortable to wear, and best of all, have UPF 50+ to protect you from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
Another hat I wear, both hiking and in Rome, is by Tilley. Made in Canada, and perfect for sun, rain and wind, they have a lifetime guarantee. A great hat investment for any time.
A collapsible water bottle means you don't have to run around looking for bottled water to buy. You can fill up with tap water (safe to drink), and from the water fountains we have all over Rome (not the monumental fountains, the drinking fountains.)
In your summer list of what to pack for Rome, if you are checking luggage, you may want to consider sunblock and mosquito repellent, as well. But you can also buy them here.
One last summer item...
Even if you don’t have any beach time planned, you may wish to bring a bathing suit.
Sorry to tell you this, but it's useless to bring hair appliances such as curling irons or hair-straighteners when you come to Rome (or most places in Europe.)
Hair appliances that curl and straighten use very high wattage, and do not come standard with dual-voltage setting. A normal "voltage converter" does not cut it. You will more than likely short-circuit your hotel room or apartment if you plug one of these in. And, you will ruin your appliance.
Here are your options for travelling to Rome (and Europe) with a hair straightener/curling iron:
You can buy a dual-voltage appliance. Just keep in mind that because they are made to work in both North America and Europe, they have to work with lower wattage, which makes them a little less potent than a single voltage appliance.
You want to bring your own appliance? Then you will need a heavy-duty wattage converter. This is also called a step-down transformer. Basically, you need something that takes the wattage of your appliance down a lot so it does not fry. But then, you lose a lot of its power.
The below items are not necessarily what to pack for Rome as what to pack in general, particularly for any overseas trip. In my research for this site, and in my travels, I have come across these and think they are very cool things to bring anywhere!
Travel Vest with hiding and protective inner pockets - I read about this clothing line called Scottevest in the New York Times and it seems like a great idea. They make clothes for men and women that allow you to keep all your gadgets in your pants or jacket, un-seen. Great for a) thwarting potential pick-pockets and b) not needing to carry a backpack.
How I ever managed without this Anker Portable Charger is beyond me. Now I do not leave home without it.
We all know how quickly those smart-phone batteries die. This little baby keeps my phone charged throughout a very long day running around Rome, and it weighs so little. This is a must for me, for travel or just life in general!
This travelon cross-shoulder anti-theft bag is a must, and not just for travel! It has RFID blocking (nobody can walk by and scan your credit cards), and a zipper-lock. Its crossbody form, and small, thin size make it ideal to take on the plane, walk around Rome and even go into museums.
OPTP Original McKenzie Cervical Roll - I have this very item and I use it at home and to travel. If you suffer from any neck issues as I do, this cervical roll is a super, simple, and easy to pack item that will save you from a lot of pain!
How cool is this soft neck travel pillow? I have never understood how those other horse-shoe shaped pillows supported your neck.
But this one not only gives you solid neck support, it folds up small and takes up almost no space!
PopSockets! This little gadget has made a big difference in how I use and enjoy my smartphone.
I can hold the phone more easily when taking pix or video, selfie or otherwise. I can set it down at an angle to watch something. And it's just easier to keep my phone in my hand and ready to take a photo at a moment's notice.
Why am I including travel insurance on a page about what to pack for Rome? If you are making a list of things not to forget, this should be one of them. I can't tell you the times I have seen our hotel guests arrive without luggage, or have documents and money stolen while travelling. Travel insurance can make the difference between a ruined trip and a trip that has a hiccup that you can just get through.
I think travel insurance is one of the easiest things to forget about taking on your trip, but if you wind up needing it, you will wish you'd gotten it. Just saying.
I go back to the states a lot to see my family, so I finally made myself a packing list. It has evolved over the years, and it's really helpful when I am stressing about what to pack. I have adapted it a bit for this website, and tried to make it as generic as possible. Putting makeup on the list is the only thing that makes it gender-specific, otherwise, it's for everyone. I hope you find it useful!
If you'd like to use my packing list to help you pack, you may download it here.
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