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What to Wear in Italy During the Summer (Yes You Can Wear Shorts)

While preparing for our recent trip to Italy, we did our research to try to understand what we should wear. I looked at several websites and the overall consensus was that wearing shorts would make you stand out as a tourist because Italians do not wear shorts unless it is in the middle of the summer or they are going swimming. Also, some cathedrals will not let you enter wearing shorts.

I am here to tell you, that this is incorrect. You can wear shorts in Italy and look perfectly normal.

Here are a few examples of Italians we saw wearing shorts in Italy when it was in the mid-80s in September.

Romans wearing shorts
Guy wearing shorts in Florence Italy
Wearing shorts in Rome

We knew the temperature was expected to be in the mid-80s and 90s, but we also wanted to fit in with the local attire. I went ahead and packed three pairs of pants and three pairs of shorts. I am so glad I decided to pack some shorts!

On the first day, I wore some light khakis. We went to the Vatican and found that there were plenty of men wearing shorts. They were all allowed into all the chapels and museums.

On the second day, we went to the Colosseum and Roman Forum. This time I opted for shorts and once again I was surrounded by people wearing shorts. On the last day in Rome we did a lot of walking, went to Campo de’ Fiori, the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, and a few other sites and once again found the majority of people were wearing shorts.

I think you would stand out more if you went to the Colosseum in pants on a hot day than sticking with shorts. Also, remember that Rome is full of tourists, so even if you were “dressed like a tourist” you wouldn’t stick out anyway unless you are dressed horribly.

So why the misconception that Italians do not wear shorts?  

  1. There are plenty of men wearing suits or slacks, but they are working. This is how they dress to go to work.  When they are not at work, they wear shorts too. I saw plenty of Italian men on the Metro, at the market, going out to eat, all wearing shorts.
  2. You can wear shorts in Cathedrals, they just have to cover your knees. Below is a sign going into a cathedral. You can wear shorts, they just have to cover the knees.
Vatican and pantheon dress code

Now that we know we can wear shorts, here are a few other tips for clothing to wear in the summer in Italy:

What to Wear When Sightseeing in Italy in the Summer 

So yes, wear shorts. You also want to make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes or sandals because you will be walking and on your feet all day long.

What to Wear When Going in Churches

Some sites online say you will be asked to leave if you wear shorts in churches in Italy. This is incorrect. Some will not allow short shorts, and you must cover your shoulders. If your shoulders are not covered, you will have to buy something at the Cathedral that looks kind of like a poncho, so just dress accordingly.

Cover your shoulders in church in Italy

Here is a picture of a lady who was not covering her shoulders and short shorts and is now wearing a poncho-looking cover-up. To the right is a picture of men wearing long shorts in a cathedral.

Wearing shorts in an Italian church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pantheon Dress Code

If you are deciding what to wear at the Patheon keep in mind that short skirts, short shorts, and bare shoulders are not permitted. When we went, Dan wore longish shorts and t-shirts and Michelle wore a dress that went just past the knees and covered her shoulders.

Vatican Dress Code

On the website of the Vatican Museum, it says “Low cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, miniskirts, and hats are not allowed.” If you go in the summer, you can wear shorts in the Vatican or a skirt, but make sure they cover your knees.

What to Wear When Eating Out

Once again, a lot of websites say you should not wear shorts and should wear nice shoes. I think this is also misleading. Just like anywhere I have traveled, it depends on the restaurant, location, and time. If you are going to be in a very touristy part of town, wear what you feel comfortable in for that restaurant. Regardless of where the restaurant is, if it is a casual restaurant, then dress casually. If it is a nice restaurant you need to dress up more.

Overall, during your trip to Italy, dress comfortably and put together and you will be just fine. I hope you enjoy your trip! Let me know if you have any tips yourself below.

17 thoughts on “What to Wear in Italy During the Summer (Yes You Can Wear Shorts)”

  1. Thanks so much for publishing this! I travel extensively and dress nicely, but, in the end, comfort is most important. I am very ‘hot natured’ and find shorts and light linen or all cotton shirts are great for me in the summer in Europe. Interestingly, you still see websites that say shorts are not worn in Spain as well. What a joke, Madrid is so hot and filled with locals and tourists alike in shorts, male and female. Sad to say, but some of the locals dress rather sloppily, no more so than a sloppy dresser in the US, but don’t let websites convince you that everyone is a fashionista. Some dress is dictated by the restaurants and I’ll take nice business casual slacks and shirt for a nicer restaurant. I’m pretty much over the jacket-required type places as one can find something a little less stuffy with just as good a food. Hint for men, black jeans are a great way to feel a little more dressy while still having the comfort of denim. I was in a Michelin starred restaurant in Edinburgh last summer, it was lunch, not dinner, and wore black jeans and a nice shirt and fit right in. In fact, one other gentleman had on black Levi’s as well. You can’t miss the pop of that red Levi tag on a pair of black jeans. Happy travels.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, I was in Spain last spring and didn’t even think about wearing anything other than shorts. Glad no one tried to convince me otherwise before we went. We like to go to Michelin restaurants for lunch too because you can get away with a more casual dress and you can save a lot of money that way.

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  2. Thank you so much for your post! We are leaving in a few weeks and I’ve even posted the question on a forum and pretty much everyone thinks I need my whole family in pants for our summer trip to Italy the whole time just in case we want to pop into a church.. We are from Houston and understand heat. My husband already has shorts that cover his knees. I’ll probably have everyone wear pants to the Vatican, but other than that, we will be in skirts or long shorts.

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  3. Well. The usual thing is to say “do not look like tourist” That IS nonsense, american cannot look like italian if tried. And why try, as there is 3 million of you allready. Yes you’ll blend on other tourists no problem. Those pics sure looks like tourists as well, so that is more than nice tip. Locals are absolutely worsening their clothing as well, hardly any uses shoes, all are on white plastics, many has tattoos and nearly all smokes cigarettes. And some even drinks coke! And you can see printed-tee on italian guy. Or baseball hat. But these are rare. Only real differences are they are not ashame of getting bald or needing glasses.

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  4. Great post! We have taken a few trips to Italy and this is spot on with what I’ve experienced. Definitely do not need to wear pants all the time. I’d wear jeans if we were going to a nicer restaurant, but other than that, I wore shorts if it was warm.

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  5. Consider that some of those you see or saw or photographed are not locals but tourists from abroad. That is bound to happen as you yourself are in tourist places or tourist traps. That is why you see the shorts and sloppy clothes.

    But if it really is a heat wave, they will wear shorts but THEIR shorts, which would be Capri-like of the European countries.

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    • Many of these people were not all tourists that I took pictures of. Regardless, if you are wearing shorts in the summer in Italy, you will fit right in.

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  6. I know it’s a couple years old, but assuming people still come across it (like I just did :), I live in Italy, and good intentions aside, parts of this blog are absolutely incorrect. Churches won’t kick you out for wearing shorts, they simply won’t let you in if they’re too far above your knees. Italian men may wear long chino style shorts on occasion, but I assure you, it’s very rare to see Italian women wear them, even at the beach. They/we opt for dresses or skirts and capris with tailored or flowy tops or blouses instead, and are every bit as comfortable, if not more so, than we would be in shorts.

    The issue is that by telling people with authority you don’t actually have that it’s okay to wear shorts in Italy, you’re missing the entire point of why it’s not. It has nothing to do with looking like a tourist and everything to do with honoring the “la bella figura” culture you’re visiting. It stems from a sense of decency, self-respect, and caring how you present and conduct yourself, and radiates outward to your interactions with others.

    It’s what drives the warmth and generosity we show you when you travel here, and the deeply ingrained essence of what makes Italy Italy. It’s also why you have to cover up in churches and a big part of why we don’t tip…it’s an insult to the servers, who take pride in what they do and are paid like it’s a real job (because it is).

    Yes, being comfortable is important, and we wouldn’t want anyone to suffer, but you won’t sweat any less in shorts and it’s arrogant to completely disregard our conventions of etiquette. Will you fit in with other tourists if you wear shorts and graphic t-shirts with socks and sandals? Sure. But it’s still rude.

    Reply
    • @Beth, I see locals where I live in Italy and from tv, women included wearing shorts all the time, at most less so for really short shorts, just the ones above the knee mid thigh and flowy. Some resemble skirts others are similar to typical men shorts. And men wear shorts as well, sometimes with a refined look, good fitting chinos and button shirts, some more casual and some a bit “sloppy”. Enough for people to wear what they’re comfortable with, but there’s lots of room for both men and women to do it with style as well (:.

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    • @Anto, some graphic shirt design can be tasteful it depends, socks and sandals, I probably wouldn’t, I know some do intentionally making it look intentional and not “tourist” like, say black sandals with black ankle socks to resemble a light sock model boot, which I saw trending a lot lately ^_^.
      Though as that may be harder to pull off if it’s a matter of comfort and if even in shorts and sandals you find socks more comfortable, you can as easily if not more just wear shoes, maybe light ones (loafers, canvas) if warmth is a issue, with ankle length socks, which are visible only up to ankle bone, which you can match with part of your fit, your shoes, or simply wear black ones.
      But ultimately not a big issue, even socks with sandals, though the easiest to avoid.
      I stop spamming now and am curious about a thought from the blogger about my input if it’s worth it of course (:.

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  7. Thank you for your post! My husband and I are going to Italy in May and came across your post when researching dress code. My only question that I can’t seem to find a firm answer for is about covering up your shoulders with a shawl. Can the shawl/scarf be sheer or does it have to be solid where you can’t see your skin through it? For example – would a lace shawl be ok? Thanks so much for your time!!

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    • @Melissa, why would you have to cover your shoulders in Italy, there’s lot of off the shoulder tops, some asymmetrical with one shoulder out, long or short sleeves, some boat necks. A black lace would be a touch goth and classy-sophisticated imho, but you should follow your style first and foremost (:.

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  8. Hi, I’m italian and a man, finally a blog not stating that italian people, especially men don’t wear shorts, as that’s clearly not true at all in summer!
    Not that even if it was the case it would make wearing shorts bad, there are many tasty ways to wear different fashion styles than average and pulling it off discretely, at most standing out a bit but not in a bad way.
    The “norm” here is at most to not wear socks with shorts, pairing them with sandals, the leather smart casual kind or very light shoes, often dress shoes like loafers, being the most open dress shoe and the lightest type at that (:.
    With shorts I tend to prefer leather sandals to shoes, but of course it’s a personal preference, I sometimes wear loafers.
    Sometimes with a button up with first button out or various t-shirt, often more open necked, V or round, but any t-shirt or button down is cool as long as colors don’t fight together.

    Reply

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