What I Wore in Italy (a capsule wardrobe for museums to mountains!)

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Guess who’s back stateside–and back to blogging? After two days of inescapable jetlag and a sad period of mourning the lack of quality focaccia in my small Massachusetts town, I’m finally starting to process the amazing experiences I had during my trip to Italy.

This trip marked the first time I’d left the United States in just over three years, and the first time I’d visited a place entirely new to me in an equally long while. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed, disoriented, anxious–particularly when we visited bigger cities, which tend to make me extra jumpy and stressed!–but many more opportunities for me to discover new things, to expose myself to phenomenal works of art and culture, and to gain a true appreciation for a country I had never visited before.

Before I left for this trip, I assigned myself two main objectives: gain some understanding of Italian and figure out how to pack appropriately. Though I can’t teach you how to speak this beautiful language through a single blog post, I can give you a metaphorical peek into my suitcase!

For our northern Italy adventure, I brought only a small checked-on roller bag, my Kanken Classic backpack, and a purse. I tried to limit myself to a bare minimum of outfits, and chose pieces that could be easily mixed and matched. Considering that we’d be walking everywhere and spending long days on the train, I also eschewed some of the less-practical-more-magical-fairy parts of my usual clothing fare.

So how’d I do?

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For hiking and strolling in the Cinque Terre…

The Cinque Terre is one of the loveliest places I’ve ever visited. End of story. These five coastal villages, accessible mostly by train, boat, and cliffside staircases, offer a duality of adventures to travelers. The gorgeous teal waters and ample number of gelaterias encourage relaxation, while intrepid explorers can trek from pastel village to pastel village through mountain paths that lead right over the water.

I brought a maxi dress and lacy top for lazier days, and shockingly casual hiking gear (pants and a t-shirt–how often do I wear that?) for traversing the trails. My new cat-eye sunglasses and cloche hat remained constantly essential: such is the fate of a redhead in the coastal sun.

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For exploring Bologna’s streets and gardens…

Bologna, I noticed, is a city of porticoes, gorgeous orange-red buildings, and people who look really fabulous in fitted jeans, collared blouses, and leather jackets. As someone who, again, wears dresses 99% of the time, I found myself impressed by every stylish student I saw sporting a pair of pants and heeled boots. Though I could never achieve their effortlessly sleek and sophisticated looks, I did wear my own jeans and (fake–I’m a vegetarian!) leather jacket while visiting near-ancient churches or spying Bologna’s many beautiful plants and rooftop gardens.

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For a day in the mountains (after climbing through 666 porticoes…)

Speaking of jeans and a jacket: you’ll need both to climb to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca! Though it’s easy to work up a sweat while struggling up a seemingly endless chain of porticoes, the mountain at the end of the San Luca pilgrimage is surprisingly cold and breezy. I wore a light blouse (with an obligatory fancy collar) for the walk up, and pulled my jacket and hat back on once we reached the top.

The highlight of that journey? Seeing the Alps in the distance–talk about needing a coat and hat!

In the end, I achieved an impressive feat: I wore everything I brought at least once, and didn’t regret any of my packing choices. (Well, except not bringing enough washi tape to satisfy my scrapbooking urges.) What are your essentials for traveling in Europe: or anywhere?


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