There are a lot of travel bloggers out there who write about Rome and Italy. One of my favorite writers who always has some great advice (and can make me laugh) is Jessica Spiegel, who writes for BootsnAll Travel and has a great set of resources at WhyGo Italy. Check out her sites and pages for some great advice on traveling to Italy!
Recently, she wrote a piece entitled “5 Summer Travel Tips for Italy
” — if you’re planning on heading to Italy this summer, it’s a must read because she gives some pretty pertinent and useful advice. Since I just returned from Italy, I want to expand on one or two points that she mentions in her article about clothing and the heat — my two cents if you will! :)
I spent just over a month in Italy — I have to say that it was hot, even for June and early July. If you can’t take the heat, you need to understand that in Italy, air conditioning is not as pervasive as it is in other countries. Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be), I live in a pretty warm climate all year round and that couple with a few years of living in Australia, the heat doesn’t usually get to me. For Americans (like myself), this might be problematic. You can be sure of one thing – you’re going to be hot, and you’re going to sweat. However, you don’t have to suffer (too much) for it! You do have to be smart though in how you approach the heat so here’s some advice:
- When you’re “out and about” shuffling to museums or out seeing the sites, don’t give a fig about what you’re wearing. Dress to be comfortable and dress to stay cool. If you don’t plan on going into any churches or religious buildings that day, it’s OK to wear those shorts and short-sleeve shirts. In all honesty, I wore shorts a lot when I was out taking photos and being “touristy”, and no one ever kicked me out of a church. Women, though, are generally more scrutinized and would do well to carry a shawl or some other piece of clothing to cover your shoulders. In Palermo, for example, at the Cappella Palatina, they were loaning woman coverings for their shoulders, but don’t expect this at most churches. Low-cut blouses and tops should generally be avoided, especially if you plan to visit any churches.
Don’t be a slave to fashion, at least during the day. While Italians might be able to walk around the streets of Rome in a suit and tie or women dressed in their power suits without seeming to sweat, I doubt that many of us unaccustomed to the weather would fare as well. You’re in Rome to enjoy yourself — it’s a vacation. Try to suffer as little as possible! Plus, if you’re too hot, you could be putting yourself at risk for heat stroke or dehydration. Dress prudently but keep in mind the need to be conservative at some tourist spots.
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen when you’re out and about. This is especially true when you go to the beach or if you’re wearing tank tops, muscle-T’s and other shirts/clothing that reveal a lot of your skin. Baseball caps are considered somewhat gauche in Italy, but, during the day while you’re being a tourist, you can relax that the fashion police won’t be “arresting” you for your fashion mistakes. Cover your head — wearing a hat or some kind will certainly keep you cooler. Health and safety first!
- Do avoid sandals and flip-flops (thongs). Nothing says “I’m a tourist” more than sandals and flip-flops. The streets of Rome are not the cleanest in the world. The roads and sidewalks in Rome can also be brutal on your feet. Find yourself some decent sneakers or walking shoes that are comfortable on your feet. Wear socks that will help your feet stay cool and allow them to breath. Your feet will thank you for it!
- Consider waking up earlier to do some of your sightseeing and save the hotter and warmer afternoon hours for relaxing at your hotel, taking a dip in the pool or doing something to keep from overheating. The early and mid-morning and the later afternoon make for some great times to be outside when the temperature is a bit cooler and easy to handle.
- Seek shade or some place cool to rest every 30 minutes or so. You’ll certainly notice the difference the shade of a tree makes. Just ask the sheep — when I took the bus from Palermo to Agrigento, there was a field full of sheep and about 100 of them were crowded and pushing for the shade of this one lone tree standing in the middle of the pasture. A 5-10 minute rest in the shade will leave you noticeably more refreshed and relaxed, and what better way to enjoy that 2 euro bottle of water! :)
- Stay hydrated, but don’t chug your water. Sip and drink your water slowly. Keep in mind that finding a toilet in Rome might be difficult so don’t over do it on the liquids. Pay attention to your body – dehydration can set in quickly. Notice how your body reacts when you’re dehydrated since for many people it happens before they even realize it. Also try to avoid drinks that will cause you to get rid of water — such as coffee, tea, alcohol and even sodas!
- Keep some spare change on your at all times since many toilets in Rome are pay toilets — either the automated ones that clean themselves or others that are monitored by staff. Toilets can generally be found at most train stations in Rome and museums. Larger churches and basilicas generally have facilities. Restaurants, bars and pubs probably do, but generally only allow patrons to use them.
- At night when you’re going “out on the town”, it’s best to avoid shorts and beachwear whenever possible. Comfortable, lightweight slacks, a loose shirt and some comfortable shoes will be your best bet. Usually once the sun goes down in Rome, the temperature eases quite a bit (although the humidity doesn’t always dissipate). Cool off with a light dinner and some gelato afterward.
During the evening is when it’s best to try your best not to look like a tourist — there’s a trend in Rome and many other cities in Italy to charge tourists more. While this is hard to prove, restaurants in Rome have been shut down for shafting its foreign clientele. Dress well and making an effort might help stave off overpriced dinners and drinks.