When I first arrived in Tuscany, I quickly realised how important appearance and style are for Italians. I looked positively dowdy compared to most of the people around me. It took me years to learn all the secret dress code rules Italians have.
To be honest, I follow some and ignore others since whatever I wear, my height – I’m almost 6 feet tall – makes me stand out as a foreigner. But if you would like to fit in or just have a better idea of what to pack for each season, here are some ideas.
Rules For the Beach and Seaside Towns
The western coast of Tuscany boast a wealth of beautiful and fashionable seaside towns with beaches, mostly not far from Florence. During the summer season, city residents migrate to the beaches and leave their historical cities to the tourists. Beach towns cater to different crowds. You can choose between family friendly and quiet towns or crowded and lively ones. If you would like to get into the Italian summer vibe, spend some time on the beach but make sure to follow these rules when it comes to attire.
Though Italian women often wear skimpy bathing suits, going topless just isn’t done. Some seaside towns even have rules forcing people to cover up as soon as they leave the beach. You could actually be fined for showing your chest (this includes men) on the seafront promenade in Viareggio! So make sure to pack beach clothes.
Though flip-flops are perfectly acceptable on the beach, they are absolutely frowned upon in the city. Italian men actually never wear sandals and very rarely shorts away from seaside establishments.
Day Versus Evening Clothing
If you are hesitating on what to wear on your trip to Italy, always dress up. Italians’ policy is always look your best, which includes hair and makeup. In all my travels, I have never found a country with as many hair salons as Italy. Italians love bold colours and women don’t shy away from gold and silver, especially when it comes to accessories.
There is a clear distinction between day clothes and night ones. Though Italians have the expression ‘casual wear’, it is a far cry from what we consider casual. Unless you are a teenager, avoid wearing anything sporty. If it’s something you could comfortably hang out in at the gym, don’t wear it. The only acceptable trainers are the ones that look more shoe-like. I recommend investing in some comfortable leather shoes to wear as you go sightseeing.
As soon as the sun sets, it’s time to pull out all the stops. Whether you are going for a drink or a nice meal, don’t hesitate to wear elegant clothes. Women often slip on high heels at night even though they are absolutely unpractical on the historical towns’ cobblestones. This partly explains why Italians park so haphazardly; the goal is to get as close as possible to your destination, even if it means ignoring parking regulations.
Visiting Churches and Religious Buildings
If you are planning to visit churches during your stay, you may be required to wear something that covers your shoulders and knees. Since summer in Italy can be extremely hot, I recommend bringing a thin shawl that you can pull out before you enter a religious building. It can also come in handy if you happen to sit in a place with the AC on at full blast.
Summer is definitely one of the most popular time to visit Tuscany. The weather is usually extremely hot. Most locals avoid going out between 1pm and 4pm and you will find most shops closed at those times. Make sure to pack light clothes and sun protection. Wearing a summer hat will usually make you stand out as a tourist, but then again, it is probably a better alternative than suffering from heat stroke. If you want to ‘Italianize’ your outfit, make sure to wear fashionable sunglasses. Sandals are perfectly acceptable for women as long as they look stylish.
Early Autumn is a great time to visit Tuscany. The heat has abated a little and the grape picking season has begun. Nothing like a wine tasting tour to see the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Make sure to pack some comfortable shoes to go for walks. Though September and October can still be quite hot, make sure to pack some light sweaters and a windbreaker for the evenings or in case the weather changes. In the later Autumn months, rain could also be a factor but don’t bother bringing an umbrella. You can always find a cheap one there and then.
Not all touristic facilities stay open during the Winter months so make sure you check opening times before going places or rely on a tour operator to book a tour for you. Though the weather can get windy and cold, it very rarely snows in Tuscany. Most Italians dress warmly, but rarely wear sporty looking jackets and coats. They usually go for long down or wool coats.
Spring is another lovely time to visit Tuscany. You could be extremely lucky and get some beautiful sunny weather or unlucky and catch some rain (but rest assured, it doesn’t usually last very long). Some spring days are t-shirt days while others are light sweater or even windbreaker ones, so make sure to dress in layers. Consider a very light down jacket you can easily roll up and pack in you bag to pull out if the weather turns chilly.