It’s hard to believe, but we’ll be taking off for Italy in just a little over five weeks! We’re really getting excited about this trip. It’s been six years since we last visited. We’ll be spending a few days each in Rome, Lake Como and Venice, before stopping for a couple of days in Paris on our way home.
When we were last in Italy in 2011, much of Europe was experiencing an unusually hot and dry Spring. Temperatures were in the mid-90’s to low-100’s F for most of our visit that May. While it’s still too early to get a reliable weather forecast for this trip, I’m starting to compile my packing list based on average temperatures and the types of items that have worked best in my past travel wardrobes. (Have my fingers crossed for cooler temperatures this time, but at least I’m better at packing for the heat than a few years ago.)
Above, a potential “starter kit” for my Spring travel wardrobe. Yes, I’ll add a few pieces incorporating more color and pattern to fill out this wardrobe. Some of the items pictured in the collage above are no longer available, so I’ve linked to similar items in those instances.
My Travel Wardrobe Building Blocks
- Shoes: I usually bring 3 pairs total, and wear the heaviest one on the plane. Comfort is key, and I look for styles that can be dressed up or down.
- Bottoms: I usually include 4 total, one of which is worn on the plane.. one or two pairs of slim dark-wash jeans, one or two pairs of black pants (Eileen Fisher stretch crepe is a favorite…they dress up or down and are washable), and possibly a pair of lightweight chinos or cargo pants. If you prefer skirts, you could substitute for some or all of the pants.
- Tops: Two tops for every bottom is the ratio I find works best for me. Depending on the forecast I’ll bring a mix of long or 3/4 sleeve tees, woven shirts, sweaters, and cardigans. For warm weather travel I’m a big fan of linen knits which have the breathability and washability advantages of linen without worry about wrinkles. A linen shirt that can be worn on its own or open as a lightweight outer layer is another favorite. I find that when the sun is beating down, I actually stay cooler with more skin coverage as long as the fabric is light and breathable. Cotton gauze is a another good shirting option. For sweaters, I’ll pack at least one lightweight linen– or tencel-blend sweater, and one cashmere cardigan or pullover for the plane and for chilly conditions. Merino wool is another good choice for travel, as it adjusts to a variety of temperatures, is lightweight and resists picking up odors.
- Dresses: Up to you. I don’t wear them often at home so rarely pack them for travel. As with tops, look for lightweight fabrics and styles will layer well. Washable knits are an option that travels well.
- Scarves and accessories: These are great way to add color and pattern, and create variety in my travel wardrobe. I usually bring 3 scarves of varying weights that coordinate well with my wardrobe pieces. A cashmere scarf or wrap for the plane is a must. I don’t pack a lot of jewelry, and especially leave any fine jewelry other than my wedding ring at home. I’ve learned to select my jewelry using the concept of “Beauty Bundles” that helps me coordinate and choose well.
- Outerwear: I always wait until immediately before we leave to make my final outerwear choices, based on the most updated weather forecast where we’re headed. For cold weather, I love my packable down parka. A lightweight water-resistant jacket is likely to make my final cut for spring travel.
I’ve found that “smart casual” is almost always as dressed up as we need to be. Simple pieces in neutral colors are easier to dress up with a bit of jewelry if needed. I usually include a lightweight jacket and at least one silky top which also skews more formal if needed. If you have a truly formal occasion as part of your travel itinerary, you may need to pack shoes and clothing that would not be worn for other activities.
Do you have any strategies for packing for those seasons when the weather can be quite unpredictable?