Deciding what to wear in Italy in winter is perplexing. Packing for Italy in any season does come with a side of anxiety – the Italians are known for their round-the-clock sense of style.
While there’s not exactly a dress code to adhere to, it’s always handy to pick out travel outfits that help you blend in among the voguish locals. At the same time, you need to consider comfort and avoid overweight baggage fees.
Your Italy in winter packing list will ultimately depend on your chosen destinations. Let’s assume that your itinerary will concentrate on urban travel.
As such, this guide focuses on what to wear in Rome in winter (plus other major Italian cities). Read on to find out how to feel all dolce vita even in the grip of Italian winter.
What’s the Weather Like in Italy in Winter?
As a European country, winter in Italy refers to the months of December, January, and February. Although the weather varies by region, January and February tend to see the coldest weather across the board. Italy isn’t the coldest but nor is it the warmest place in Europe during winter.
The further south you venture, the warmer it will be. Higher-altitude alpine areas have an increased likelihood of snow. Although you will need to study the weather as per your destinations and travel dates, these are the average temperatures across the country:
- Northern Italy (including Milan, Venice, Como, Bologna, and the Dolomites): 33°F-45°F / 1°C-7°C
- Central Italy (including Florence, Rome, and Pisa): 39°F-55°F / 4°C-13°C
- Southern Italy (including Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Bari, and Ostuni): 43°F-58°F / 6°C-14°C.
- Sicily: 46-60°F / 8°C-16° C.
Temperatures are fickle so you’ll need to keep an eye on the forecast in the days leading up to departure. Be ready to make a couple of last-minute tweaks in case of a surprise heatwave or shock cold snap.
What’s it Like to Travel to Italy in Winter?
The main tourism pursuits of Italian travel include cultural city weekenders, winter sports, and festive antics.
As the low season, winter is the best time to visit Italy on a budget and spend time in popular cities that are simply too crowded to truly enjoy during summer.
Despite the cooler weather, you can still visit the historical sites in Rome, fall in love with Venice, and cruise the best restaurants in Bologna. Winter is also a wonderful time to plan a Pompeii day trip.
When choosing what to wear in Italy in December, you should absolutely factor in festive markets. This often means hanging around outdoors after dusk, nursing steaming mugs of vin brulé pottering around artisanal stalls.
Having the right clobber makes this a far nicer experience. All you need to do is plan your timings with care, note seasonal closures, and nail your packing list for Italy in winter.
What to Wear in Italy in Winter
When deciding what to wear in Italy in winter, you could take your standard packing list and preface every item with chic.
You want a chic bag to go with your chic coat that coordinates with your chic Italy outfits. But, you’ll also want to be mindful of comfort and steering clear of clothes that could feel too fussy.
Starting from the bottom, this is what to wear in Italy in December, January, and February. You might say this is the polar opposite of what to wear in Italy in summer!
1. Ankle Boots
Italy is a nation of cobbled streets and while travel insurance is an essential item it’s always better not to have to test out your policy. A pair of Chelsea boots is recommended for what to wear in Rome in winter.
These trendy yet comfy boots are versatile enough to wear with dresses, skirts, and trousers. Despite being flat, they have all the sassiness of a stiletto.
Seeing as rain is possible at any time in Italy in winter, leather – not suede – will be your best friend.
A regular pair of Chelsea boots from a reliable brand should do the trick for a city break. On the other hand, you might want to invest in a specialist boot if your itinerary is focused on the great outdoors. Dr. Marten’s boots are top quality, long lasting cute boots that can’t be faulted for comfort, durability, and versatility.
If you do splash out on a new pair of boots for your Italy packing list, remember the golden rule and break them in beforehand so you don’t get blisters or achy feet.
2. Dark Jeans and Coordinating Tops
There’s an urban legend that Italian women never wear jeans. While there is some truth to this during the sweltering summer months, the rule doesn’t apply to what to wear in Italy in winter.
However, if you want to blend in, it’s wise to pack a pair of jeans that adhere to the Italian fashion sense. That means avoiding ripped, poorly fitted, or light-wash jeans. A pair of well-fitting dark blue or black skinny jeans will serve you well. Particularly if they have a bit of stretch to accommodate those mountains of pasta.
Once you’ve found your perfect pair of jeans, you can carefully coordinate with a mix of tops, shirts, and sweaters.
Timeless turtlenecks are ideal for Italy. Opt for a decent fabric such as Merino wool as this will keep you warm without feeling too smothered while on a museum or cafe pitstop. A comfortable Breton t-shirt works well for daytime sightseeing in any Italian destination – all the way from the city, to the Alps, to the seaside.
At night, you can wear your jeans with a button-up shirt or blouse.
3. Leather Backpack
A leather backpack is a suitable choice of day pack for Italy in winter.
This will stash your essentials without straining your shoulders. The Michael Kors Backpack is roomy enough to carry anything you might want to keep on your person without looking like a backpacker. It’s also the right size to take into a museum although you might have to scoot it to the front of your body.
Just as you would at any time of year, you need to be mindful of petty theft and pickpocketing when choosing what to wear in Rome in winter. At night, you may prefer to switch to a dinky crossbody bag for your smartphone, credit card, and room key.
4. Jumper Dress
The jumper dress is the answer for what to wear in Italy in winter at night. Choose wisely and you can even wear these from day to night, using accessories and styling tricks to mark the transition.
Chuck a sweater dress over your choice of tights or leggings – you can even go bare-legged if you run into a heatwave.
Even better, your trusty jumper dress will work just as well with a pair of knee-length boots or canvas pumps as it will with your Chelsea boots. While in Italy, stick to streamlined designs rather than the slouchy ones. Athleisure and sportive fashion never really found their wings beyond the gym in Italy.
5. Winter Coat
An obvious consideration when picking what to wear in Italy in winter – you’ll need a decent coat of some kind. December tends to be the wettest month during Italy’s winter season although it’s not as common as it is during the shoulder seasons. If you travel during this time and rain is forecast, you may need to consider a waterproof/water-resistant coat paired with layers. On the other hand, January and February call for a warmer selection.
When thinking specifically about what to wear in Rome in winter, you need to bear in mind how much of the historic attractions are outdoors. A classic woolen overcoat will keep you warm and toasty while you navigate the monuments and trattorias. Although a lightweight down or quilted jacket may feel more practical for a busy Rome itinerary.
6. Sophisticated Scarf
The wind can pick up and get pretty fierce in Italy during winter. A scarf will protect your skin and serve as a buffer if you hit a cold patch.
Pick out a material that provides warmth without being too chunky, such as cashmere or a woven wool blend. Adopt an Italian mindset and make sure that your selected coat, footwear, and outer accessories work in harmony with each other.
7. Hat and Gloves
In terms of what to wear in Italy in December and beyond, you’ll also want to throw in a hat for good measure. Choose a style that works well with your coat and skip the bobble hat. Opt for a simple wool beret or a beanie without a pompom. A knitted headband is an alternative for the early days or tail end of winter.
Remember to always follow the Italian custom of removing your hat while inside any restaurant or church (mandatory at the Vatican Museums). On the other hand, you’ll appreciate having a cozy scalp while sipping al fresco negronis.
Seeing as apéritifs aren’t purely for summer in Italy, a pair of gloves should also go on your Italy in winter packing list.
8. Thermal Base Layers
If you want to dress stylishly but minimize the chance of frostbite at the Italian Christmas markets, here’s a tip for what to wear in Rome in December.
Slip a thermal base under your main clothes. Thermals are pretty cheap and they come as a mix of long-sleeved, tee-shirt, tank, and cami. It’s not insanely cold in Italy in winter so a fitted thermal will be sufficient.
Nobody need ever know you’re sporting a thermal under your favorite dress! Plus, they’re quite comfy for chilly flights.
The secret to feeling like Sophia Loren when you’ve just stepped off the red eye in Rome? Perfume. Even when you’re feeling hot and bothered in your winter woolies (or bloated after bruschetta and burrata) a quick spritz of fragrance will leave you feeling ready for a post-Colosseum glass of Prosecco.
Decant your usual fragrances into a mini perfume atomizer. This helps you get around carry-on liquid regulations and means you can tote your perfume around in your day bag.
10. Jewelry and Cosmetics
If you adopt the capsule wardrobe approach and opt for day-to-night dressing, jewelry, and make-up are a fun way to spruce up for the evening. Pick out a couple of accessories that complement your chosen travel outfits and steer clear of layering on too many pieces. Investing in a jewelry travel organizer will help prevent tangles.
Specifically in regard to what to wear in Rome in December, remember that the city will feel very busy. Pickpockets continue to operate in popular tourist spots around the Trevi Fountain as well as on the metro. Therefore, avoid wearing overly flashy accessories that could attract their attention.
11. Warm Sleepwear
Whatever the weather is doing is one thing but the heating situation at your accommodation is a mystery. If you’re staying in budget hotels or using a platform like Airbnb, it’s hard to know for sure how well-insulated your room or apartment will be.
As the antidote to festive party looks and in terms of what to wear in Italy in December, sleepwear is where you can throw the rulebook out of the window. Pack an warm set of pajamas that packs down nice and small in your luggage.
After a day of roaming around the cities in skinny jeans and gorging on pizza for supper, you’ll be thrilled to slip into a snuggly pair of pajamas while raiding the mini bar.
What to Wear in Italy in Winter: The Men’s Edit
Italian men tend to dress as stylishly as women. In fact, male travelers can follow the same principles as suggested for women: a nice pair of dark jeans or chinos, ankle boots, and a warm overcoat polished off with a cozy yet dapper scarf.
Opt for cashmere, Merino wool, or knitted sweaters by day. A dress shirt isn’t strictly necessary but you might feel more comfortable having a button-up shirt in case you head to a formal restaurant or catch a theater show.