Rome Packing Tips

Wondering what you need to pack when going to Rome? Here are our suggestions.

Protect your feet so you can enjoy your trip.  The single most important thing to pack for your trip to Rome is a pair of broken-in (not new!), comfortable walking shoes.  You will be amazed how much you walk in Rome (I once calculated how much I walk here), and you’ll be walking on unforgiving, hard surfaces like marble floors, cobblestones, and uneven surfaces such as those treacherous, slippery, rounded stones at the Roman Forum.  Also keep in mind your feet may swell from an overnight flight, all the walking, and summer heat, so shoes with some stretch or adjustability are best.  Even better: two pairs of shoes so you can switch them out.  Those venturing forth in flip-flops or heels do so at their own risk.

The pavement in the Roman Forum and around the Arch of Constantine. Neat to walk on the same stones the ancient Romans did, but don’t fall!

Bring layers.  People tend to spend a long time out on their sight-seeing in Rome, meaning the weather will change, so layers are always useful.  Besides, you will be entering and exiting buildings of various temperatures.  A few pairs of pants or shorts, maybe one or two skirts or dresses, and several shirts — a mix of long sleeve and short sleeve — can readily get you through the week since you can run laundry in the middle of your stay in our combo washer/dryer (which you will certainly want to do in summer).  Depending on the season, you may need a light or heavy coat, perhaps a sweater or two.  Again, layers are good.

Prepare to be modest, sometimes. In Rome’s many churches, you are supposed to cover your shoulders and knees as a matter of respect. This is (usually) rigorously enforced at St. Peter’s Basilica.  Other churches have various levels of enforcement.  For women, a scarf or wrap in your day bag may be helpful for covering shoulders (or shorts, or a short skirt).  For men, even in summer, you will need trousers at St. Peter’s, or risk being turned away.  If you’re prone like I am, you may also want to consider longer sleeves or pants to protect against sunburn, which leads to the next suggestion…

The Swiss Guards at St. Peter’s Basilica may not approve of your bare knees or shoulders.

Protect yourself against the unforgiving Roman sun.  Rome’s UV index can top 7.5 — I couldn’t help including a graph here…

Rome’s UV index since 2009 (source,

In the summer, a packable brimmed hat is a very good idea. Places like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are in the broad daylight with little shade, and you can spend several hours there.  As for sunblock, it’s also a necessity for summer in Rome.  You can bring it or just pick it up at the nearby grocery store (ditto for bug spray, another good idea when out and about in summer, so the mosquitos don’t get at you).

At the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine — with the summer sun beating down…

Going out clothes?  Maybe, maybe not.  Well, if you are going out to fine dining, you may want something other than shorts and sandals.  Yes, Romans have a reputation of dressing well, but things are more casual today than they were twenty years ago.  Very few restaurants require a jacket — La Pergola is one that comes to mind.  Perhaps wear a jacket on the plane (which is usually cold, after all), and have one or two outfits in case you go some place nice.  And, if you needed some clothes for a special night out, there is always shopping at Via Condotti and the surrounding streets…

Money belt? Special purse? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve never been pick-pocketed in Rome, although I caught a kid trying, once. My wife carries a regular handbag, under her arm, and she’s never had a problem. That being said, we have situational awareness when we’re out, and usually we know where we are going.  So, there is no set need for a special “pick-pocket proof” purse (and I doubt such a thing truly exists), or a money belt.  A cross-over purse or messenger bag with a zip top may be a good idea; a money belt may be as well if it makes you feel more secure.  But, the main thing is to use common sense as you would in any major busy city, no matter what you choose: have your bag where you can always see it (which means no valuables in a backpack, and don’t drape a purse on the back of your chair); only carry the cash you need for the day; carry one credit card and leave a spare in the safe; be careful with your phone, camera, etc.

Things you do NOT need to bring, because you’ll already find these items in the apartment!

Electric plug adapters.  I’m talking about the little plastic bits you stick on the end of your device’s power cord to fit the Italian electric outlet.  If you have a sensitive electronic device that requires an electrical converter, you’ll want that.  The distinction is that an adapter converts the physical plug, while the converter modifies the characteristics of the electricity.  But note, most portable computers and smart phones have power adapters that don’t need converters.  Take a look at the really small wording on the power adapter that came with your device (I need a magnifying glass for this).  If you see a range of voltage, then it’s intended for travel and just needs a plug adapter, which is what we have.  Italy, like the rest of continental Europe uses 220 Hertz, but you’ll sometime see a range of 110-230 Hz, or something in the 200+ Hz range.

Hairdryer.  We got ya covered — no need to bother transporting this bulky item.

Travel iron.  We’ve got this too.

Alarm clocks.  You’ll find one in each bedroom at our place.  At this time, we have clocks outfitted to connect iPods and iPhones with 30-pin connectors.  This is the wide connector that came with the first few generations of iDevices, not the new small Lightning connectors.  So, you will want to bring a 30-pin-to-lightning adapter if you have a newer generation device.

Bathrobes.  Fresh robes available for your comfort will be waiting for you.

Laptop.  Yes, one of these for your convenience, too, along with a laser printer in case you need to print something out, like your boarding passes or event tickets.

Guide books.  Last we looked, there was: Rick Steve’s Rome, Michelin Green Guide Rome, Eyewitness Travel Rome, National Geographic Walking Rome, National Geographic Traveler Rome, Fodor’s See It Rome, Rome the Second Time, Modern Rome: Four Great Walks for the Curious Traveler, The Little Black Book Rome, Cool Rome, art/shop/eat Rome, Wallpaper City Guide Rome, City Walks Rome… and much more!