It’s only been a few days since I’ve been home from Italy but I’m already pining to go back. It hasn’t helped that Chicago has had some of the dreariest summer weather I can ever remember but can you really blame me?
Few places speak to your soul the way Italy does.
The people, the culture, the history, and THE FOOD… a few short days can give you a lifetime of inspiration!
And inspired I am! I have so much to share with you from my trip food-focused through Umbria and my first trip to exciting Rome. But for now, I wanted to share with you an honest, in-depth look at what I packed in my carry-on for this 11-day journey through Italy. The good, the bad, AND the ugly…
What I Packed for Italy
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I knew I had to pack at least a few linen pieces to help me survive Italy’s notoriously hot summers but this easy wrap dress may have been the best investment of them all.
Not only is the quality of the linen exceptional, it’s also incredibly breathable in sticky, sweaty weather. And easy/light to pack. And while the fabric IS prone to wrinkling, the extreme heat in Rome quickly softened any wrinkles as I walked around. I even wore this dress on my flight home and don’t think I’ve ever been more comfortable on a trans-Atlantic flight.
Not to mention the fact that this dress is a compliment magnet. I chose the ‘honey’ color and felt like I was spreading sunshine everywhere I went!
I also appreciate that this Etsy seller will customize this dress to your measurements FOR FREE. It makes getting “the perfect, tailored fit” so easy.
My friend Morgan recommended these after her trip to Italy last summer. She walked EVERYWHERE in them and kept raving about how comfortable they were.
And while I have been trying to very seriously cut back on my spending in general, I felt like a good-quality pair of leather walking sandals would be very helpful on my trip.
And were they EVER.
I usually struggle with leather sandals: I’ll get blisters and sores quickly and frequently am having to carry HANDFULS of bandaids to come to my rescue when this happens. How attractive…
But not with these. I wore these pretty much every day I was in Umbria and Rome without a single blister. I wore them hiking into the mountains to truffle hunt and I wore them for MARATHON rounds of walking in Rome (we’re talking at least 30,000 steps EACH DAY for five days straight).
Not only are these the most comfortable sandals I now own (they feel like walking on pillows) but they’re also my most “Roman” in style. Win-Win.
I’ve been using my Away carry-on exclusively since my trip to Finland over two years ago. And in December, Hubby bought me an aluminum upgrade that worked really well on our Christmas trip to London (though I would have seriously considered this pretty rose gold version if it had been available then). You can see it in this post.
And while I do still swear by these carry-ons (where else will you find this high-quality of a bag for under $500?), I was a little frustrated with my aluminum version while in Italy.
Now take this review with a grain of salt: I am HARD on my suitcases. And I jam them FULL (I only travel with a carry-on, after all). And I’m usually stuffing them with awkward camera gear and lenses that don’t necessarily fit properly in the compartments of this bag.
But when I was packing up to leave Rome, one of the plastic hooks on the inside of this bag snapped off. It’s not a super vital piece… nor even one I use much. But since this is only the second time I’ve used this bag internationally, I was incredibly disappointed to see parts already snapping off. Especially because my original, less luxurious Away carry-on lasted years without this problem.
But all-in-all I still think this bag is the best aluminum carry-on available for under $1,000. And absolutely one of the sexiest!
I know a lot of bloggers and professional photographers who swear by Madewell bags. So when I was looking for the perfect leather backpack to roam around Rome with (see what I did there?), this one immediately caught my eye.
Not only are there hundreds of glowing reviews online of this bag, but it’s also a large enough to accomodate my multiple camera lenses AND 15″ MacBook laptop. And is one of the only authentic leather backpacks I could find for under $250.
So it seemed like the perfect investment for this trip.
I have never been so disappointed in a bag in MY LIFE. Not only did the poor treatment of the leather stain MULTIPLE shirts and outfits on this trip, the design of the straps was idiotic: once the backpack was full, the straps would CUT into my arms. Adjusting the straps did next to nothing. And once this bag had cut into my shoulders, I had small red wounds to treat every night. How… sexy?
Most days I was so frustrated with this backpack I left it behind. What a waste. This was by far the worst investment I made for this trip. How this bag has as many rave reviews as it does is beyond me. And how — in the hundreds of reviews I read — did no one comment on how badly the dyes will stain your clothing? I’m honestly at a complete loss and can only pray that writing this review will save one of you from the same fate…
5. This Dress
Italy is probably one of the most fashionable destinations in the WORLD. So I knew I couldn’t just arrive in sneakers and jeans.
Not only is this simple silk dress a perfect piece to transition from day-to-night in (I wore a t-shirt underneath during the day and a sleek cardigan over it at night), but it’s incredibly travel-friendly too. It barely wrinkles, is relatively stain-resistant (given all the pasta I spilled on it), is sexy without feeling like you tried too hard, and is one of the smallest and lightest pieces I packed in my suitcase.
I’ll go so far as to say this dress may be one of my favorite purchases ever and one I know I’ll pack with me for ANY hot-weather destinations going forward.
I’ve owned and raved about these sunglasses for years, so it’ll be no surprise that I packed them with me to Italy too.
Not only are they incredibly sleek-looking but they give the perfect “Anna Wintour” effect. They’re large, over-sized shape blocks out TONS more light than most other sunnies all while fashionably saying, “Don’t look at me, I’m not wearing make-up”.
I wore these on planes, while lounging at the airport, and through every little sunny street of Rome. They paired well with every outfit, all while preventing me from continuously squinting in the harsh, Italian sunshine. And are quite a savior when you’re fighting a small hangover… just sayin’…
If you invest in one fabric to bring to Italy, make it linen. Especially if you’re traveling during the hot summer months! I gravitated towards my linen pieces every. single. day. Especially this shirt.
I’ve sworn by my silk Equipment blouses for YEARS. They never fail me. But this was my first trip putting one of their linen shirts to the test and I was curious to see if I would love it as much as I love their silks.
My Verdict: 100% Love
Not only is the linen incredibly practical in Italy’s summer heat, it’s also breathable and easy to layer with. I’d even drape this shirt over my shoulders to prevent sunburn during the heat of the day — all without actually feeling like I was wearing another layer.
This was by far the best layering piece I brought. And even more practical given how light it is to travel with and how cute it can look tied in a knot over dresses!
8. These Cotton Tees (c/o)
Just before leaving for Italy, Uniqlo sent me a few of their biodegradable cotton t-shirts to try.
I ADORE Uniqlo products. Not only am I smitten with their new environmental initiatives, I’m completely smitten with their no-nonsense prices and easy-to-wear, unlabelled designs.
But these simple t-shirts took me completely by surprise. I layered them underneath dresses and pants in both rain and sunshine. I never once was uncomfortable and — I’m shocked to say this — am fairly convinced they got SOFTER as I wore them.
Once my Madewell backpack dyed most of my other shirts, I depended on my black and white Uniqlo tees to get me through everything. I wore them to fancy dinners and informal hangouts with friends. I never once felt underdressed and always felt comfortable, despite the oppressive heat. I even had to resort to wearing my white one as a sleep shirt at the end of my trip because I forgot to pack enough pajamas.
They worked great every time. How many $10 shirts can you really say that about?
9. This Serum
I’m becoming a broken-record when it comes to this serum. I talk about it a lot because it’s been such an effective product for my wonky, pale skin.
Not only do I suffer from adult acne but I also suffer from eczema — and the treatments for one often can aggravate the other.
To say my skin is a biological nightmare would be an understatement.
But I’ve been using this serum religiously for almost a year now and it’s pretty much replaced most other products for me. I use a Lancer scrub (worth every penny!), a mild cleanser (often just olive oil), and this serum. That’s IT.
And since I’ve been using this, my skin has never been happier. And it glows sooooo much. So I had to bring this along on my trip and am 95% convinced it prevented me from major facial breakouts. It was hot, sweaty, and rather unclean in Rome… all triggers that usually enflame my adult acne. And yet I only had some minor breakouts? I attribute my clear skin to this serum. But I am interested in leaving it behind on my next European trip to see just HOW effective it is at balancing my skin when I travel.
10. These Sandals
I’ve owned these heeled sandals for almost three years now. I NEVER travel to warm climates without them. And, if you look closely, you can see them ALL. OVER. THIS. BLOG.
I’ve hiked through the mountains of Baja Mexico in them (true fact!). I’ve roamed the streets of Amsterdam, explored the Met Museum, shot around Brooklyn, wandered the gardens in Parma Italy, and worn them for poolside parties in Las Vegas.
When it comes to a pair of heeled sandals I can wear anywhere and with any look, these are IT.
But — I must confess — these are Crocs. Otherwise known as the most notoriously ugly shoes ever created.
And yet NO ONE ever notices. And — after a day of wandering through dirty city streets — being able to soak your shoes in the sink to get them clean is a GAME-CHANGER. Not to mention the fact that I truly believe these babies are indestructible. I’ve squashed them into enough over-full suitcases to attest to that!
So regardless of their “ugly” name, these waterproof sandals are a wardrobe classic for me. Be ready — you’ll be seeing them PLENTY in photos from this trip in Italy!
What I DIDN’T Pack For Italy:
Jeans — While jeans are common in Italy, they aren’t nearly as common as they are in most parts of the world. So I opted for breezy culottes and dresses and left my heavy, bulky jeans at home. I saved space in my suitcase for souvenirs and managed to blend in better with the locals — win-win.
Jumpsuits — God bless any woman who travels in a jumpsuit but I just cannot do it. While I love the look and am always eye-ing cute jumpsuits when I travel, I know well-enough that even expensive restaurants in Rome can have… unsanitary bathrooms. I like to avoid the struggle and trouble of completely stripping down every time I need to answer nature’s call so I leave my jumpsuits at home.
My Engagement Ring — I learned this trick from my grandmother and I almost never travel with my “real” engagement ring. I travel with a nice fake I inherited from her when she passed. It keeps “some” of the Italian men at bay (it’s certainly preferable to not wearing any wedding bands at all) but isn’t valuable enough to sweat over when it gets dirty or lost.
Sneakers — I probably would have brought one pair of sneakers to Italy if I’d traveled there during the colder months but in summer, you won’t need them. I brought only sandals and didn’t miss my sneakers once. And I managed to avoid the American cliché of wearing sneakers in Europe too. Even chic, designer sneakers peg you instantly as a tourist in Rome!