Winter In Italy – 5 Essential Items You Need To Pack

Packing for winter travel to Europe (or anywhere) can be tricky. In todays 5 Things Friday we are going to look at 5 items I always pack for winter travel to Italy, or anywhere in Europe. I don’t ski, so don’t go to the alps or anywhere super snowy, so you need to adapt your packing if going to anywhere intensely cold.

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My goal is to both stay warm, and also to be able to pack light. I’m not a carry-on only traveler, but still I don’t want to be dragging around a heavy suitcase full of bulky items. So what I pack for winter travel is based around a core capsule wardrobe with well chosen pieces that can mix and match, that keep me warm, and that don’t require constant laundering.

Merino

Winter travel is all about layers and for me the most important layer is a merino base layer. If you’re not familiar with merino, this is a very fine, non-itchy wool that not only keeps you nice and warm, but also heat regulates. So you can wear it from freezing cold out in the street into the warmth of a cozy restaurant and then out into a drafty museum, and not have to take it on or off. Merino keeps warmth next to your skin but wicks away moisture (sweat) and has naturally occurring anti-smell properties. You can wear it multiple days without needing to wash it, which is a huge bonus when traveling. Also, unlike bulky sweaters merino takes up no space in your suitcase. A base layer is thinner than a t-shirt.

I have merino base layers from Icebreaker like this one, but you can also find less expensive ones on Amazon. I also have some merino sweaters like these.

Many brands make merino sweaters. I have several from J Crew, in a variety of colors. One thing I love about wearing merino sweaters is they are thin (yet very warm) so they layer well with coats and jackets.

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Ponte Pants

I swear by a good fitting pair of black pants in a fabric called ponte. Ponte is a double knit fabric with some stretch in it. Pants made from Ponte are super comfortable, the double layer makes them nice and warm, and they are a low wrinkle fabric, which makes them ideal for travel. The fabric gives wonderful structure and really holds its shape – you won’t get saggy, baggy butts and knees in ponte pants. You can wear them multiple days without washing, which makes them great for travel, especially in Italy where you almost never find clothes dryers, so laundering winter-weight pants while traveling can be a nightmare.

As a rule ponte pants are very slimming too. I love wearing them on international flights, they look good for day to day wear, but also look chic to wear out at night.

Loads of brands make ponte pants. I recommend reading lots of reviews – you want a well structured pant for travel, and although most ponte pants are great, there are some cheapie brands that don’t deliver the quality.

Ponte pants come in plenty of different shapes and cuts. Find the cut that works best on your shape. I have two pairs from Saint and Sofia (pictured above)that work well on my difficult to dress shape, but you can find more expensive ponte pants from brands like Spanx and less expensive ones from J Crew.

A Good Coat

Of course you need a good coat as well. Depending on where you’re going the type of coat will change. I spent ages trying to find the right coat to wear in Arezzo last February. I knew I needed something longer than a hip length puffer jacket, but my longer puffer although super warm, also felt a bit like a sleeping bag. I wanted something a little more chic. I went back and forth between bringing a woolen coat or a trench coat, and ended up bringing this one from London Fog. In the photo above I am wearing it with a black merino sweater.

Although not expensive, this coat has been a really good buy. It is beautifully made, fully lined, has a hood, and was surprisingly warm.

I also have this puffer jacket which is super warm but perhaps a little bulky, and this wool coat from Calvin Klein. The wool coat looks really chic and is very warm, but of the three the trench coat seems to be the one I travel with most. This winter (2023/2024) I’ve seen people layering a thinner Uniqlo puffer below a trench or woolen coat.

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A Warm Scarf

Scarves can make an outfit, as well as keeping you warm. Years of traveling in Italy have led me to learn multiple chic ways to tie/wrap a scarf, so now I enjoy them even more.

This chunky scarf is from Amazon

I have a pashmina that I’ve had for 30 years that still looks fabulous. I love pashminas because the real ones are like merino – very fine, not bulky, and very warm. I also have cheapie ones like the one pictured above bought in the San Lorenzo market in Florence, and big warm, chunky scarves like this one from Uniqlo.

A Travel Umbrella

I don’t really worry about bringing an umbrella in the shoulder season – late spring and early autumn showers in Italy tend to be mild and pass somewhat quickly. But from mid autumn until mid spring I bring a proper travel umbrella. This one from Amazon is sturdy, doesn’t blow inside out (or mine hasn’t anyway) and is incredible value for money. Mine has been through some stormy winters in Italy and is still in great shape. I originally bought it in yellow, which seemed fun at the time but actually felt a little bit too extra, even for me, so I bought another one in simple black and use it to death.

For for more travel wardrobe items as well as travel gadgets, electronics, and much more, check out my Amazon page at Amazon.com/shop/CorinnaTravels.

5 Things You Need To Know About The Venice Day-Tripper Tax

This year (2024) the city of Venice is implementing a new day-tripper tax. On specific dates visitors coming to Venice but not staying over night will have to pay a €5 daily tax. The fine for failing to do so is €300 per person. On today’s 5 Things Friday we are going to look at 5 things you need to know about the new day-tripper tax in Venice.

1. Why Is There Day-Tripper Tax/Entrance Fee To Venice?

Since UNESCO threatened to put Venice on the Endangered World Heritage list the city has been working hard to cut back the numbers of daily visitors to Venice. This started with banning large cruise ships from coming into port. The average ship held 4000 people and there were typically around 5 to 7 ships in port at once. This meant 20,000+ tourists descending on the same small area (Rialto to the Bridge of Sighs) every single day of the tourist season. Add to that the bus tour people and you have an unsustainable travel problem.

** Amsterdam recently also made moves to ban cruise ships. Their environmental studies showed that one cruise ship in port for 24 hours emitted the same volume of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere as 30,000 big rig trucks parked with their engines running for the same amount of time. And like Venice, Amsterdam always had more than just one ship in port – more like 5 to 7 ships. Read about it here.

On top of that, none of these people were paying tourist tax in Venice because none were staying overnight. The Boston Consulting Group study showed that 80% of the tourists coming to Venice did not stay overnight, and they only accounted for 18% of the tourism economy. The average day tripper spends between €5 and €20 in Venice, most of it on Made-In-China junk, which doesn’t impact the local economy – that money goes right back to China.

So Venice had 20,000+ people arriving each day, flushing toilets and creating trash that the municipality had to pay for. Something had to be done to offset these costs, hence the new day tripper tax.

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2. How Does The Tax Work?

On certain dates this year – dates that are traditionally super busy tourist days, all visitors to Venice will have to get an Access Pass. When you apply online for your Access Pass you will either pay a €5 fee for coming for the day, or you will register an exemption as someone who is staying overnight in Venice. For now there are only a handful of dates where the Access Pass is required, but keep an eye on it because they are bound to add more.

In Italy you pay a tourist tax for every night spent in tourism accommodation – hotels, airbnbs, agriturismos, bed and breakfasts, etc. Depending on where you are in the country the price per person per night fluctuates. Some places have it built in to your nightly cost, others take the payment as cash on arrival. Venice is just offsetting some of the financial burden the city bears due to mass tourism.

** Every visitor to Venice on the dates below will have to have an Access Pass. It will either show you’ve paid the day tripper tax or that you are exempt because you are staying in a hotel/B&B/AirBnb etc.

3. How Can They Tell If You Paid?

Don’t be thinking you can game the system on this one! When you pay or register you will get a QR code to download to your smartphone. When/if the police/authorities stop you they will scan your QR code to see that everything is legit. There has been talk of having turnstiles or some other form of barrier to pass to gain access to the city. In my opinion as someone who spends an enormous amount of time in Venice every year, this will be an evolving process and you will for sure need to keep an eye on the situation.

During Covid Italy did a fantastic job checking vaccine passes. Everyone had a digital vaccine pass on their smartphone and every establishment had to scan each person’s QR code before they could enter. So the technology and hardware are all already in place, and the people assigned to do the scanning have had ample practice.

By the way, I am 100% in favor of this – mass tourism must be curbed in places like Venice where it has become completely out of control.

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4. What Are The Dates?

So far for 2024 these are the dates the pass is required:

  • APRIL – 25-30
  • MAY – 1-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26
  • JUNE – 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30
  • JULY – 6-7, 13-14

** Additional dates in August and September will probably be added later in the year.

Again here is the official site. You will either pay the tax or register your exemption. You can check the dates here.

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5. Should You Still Go To Venice?

Absolutely! Yes – 100%.

Venice is the most unique city on earth. (And one of the most endangered.) Hopefully this tax will cut back some of the day trippers and lower the mass tourism burden on the city. Venice doesn’t need more mass tourism – it needs more quality travelers. People who come to enjoy the culture, the history, the cuisine. Travelers who want to explore the city’s myriad fascinating museums, walk the winding calles and just fall in love with this magical, beautiful place.

best books about Venice

If you are thinking about traveling to Venice check out my best seller Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Venice. This is like your secret window into completely fabulous things to see and do – things the mass tourism folks don’t know about. It is designed to not only give you the most sensational vacation in Venice, but also to make you fall head over heels in love with her, the way I have.

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Fantastic Gift Ideas For People On Your List Who Love To Travel

How is you rChristmas/Holiday/End of year shopping coming along? I am mostly done but am flying back to Italy in less than a week so am scrambling to get everything finished before I go. I didn’t do a Black Friday / Cyber Monday shopping post this year because my own inbox was so bombarded with endless Black Friday shopping emails, I just couldn’t face being part of that circus this year.

So what I thought I would do instead is write a post after the event telling you about the MVP items I have used in my travels over the past year. I have traveled more months than I’ve stayed at home in 2023 so have had to use my travel items more than ever. This has really reinforced which things are indispensable and which are just space wasters in the valuable real estate that is my suitcase. Without further ado let’s check them out:

Conair Travel Steamer

best travel steamer for international travel

Small but mighty, this Conair Travel Smart Steamer was a lifesaver this year and is perhaps my favorite travel gadget and top of the most valued list. For more than one reason too. It is nice and powerful for steaming wrinkles out of clothes. I travel for about 8 weeks at a time so I used this to refresh clothes living in my cramped suitcase too. I also like the idea that you can steam pillows or anything else you might be concerned is holding bacteria.

It is quite compact, weighs next to nothing, and doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase. I bought mine at the beginning of the year, it has been on every trip with me, has been used half to death and still keeps chug-a-lugging along. Check it out here on Amazon.com

BaByliss Nano Titanium Professional Hot Air Dryer Brush

best travel hairdryer brush

I use a dryer brush like this at home but it is way too cumbersome to pack for travel. I have an enormous amount of hair so didn’t have particularly high expectations for the small travel sized BaByliss Nano Titanium hot air brush, but it is fantastic! It blows my hair out smooth and the nano titanium part makes drying even my huge head of hair, really quick.

You can see in the image above how smooth it gets my crazy curly hair. This was walking with one of my Glam Italia Tour groups up to Civita di Bagnoregio in October 2023. Left to its own devices my hair looks like a Dollar Store home perm, so being able to blow it out nice and smooth without any drama is a Godsend. Check it out here on Amazon.com

BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Hair Dryer

best travel hair dryer

If you’re not into the single item hot air brush type hair dryer, the BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Travel Hair Dryer is incredible. According to Amazon I purchased mine in 2018, so if we take out 2020 covid year when none of us traveled, and exclude 2023 when I used the hot air brush from the same company, this little dynamo has had four years of hard core travel use, and is still going strong. Don’t be put off by how tiny it is – it is really powerful. Also the nano titanium part makes it dry hair more quickly and keeps your hair smooth. Check it out here on amazon.com.

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Apple AirTags

I have an Apple AirTag in my suitcase and another in my carryon, and I can’t even tell you how much peace of mind it brings when I’m out and about in the world! Especially with the last two summers being so bad all over the world for lost luggage. It is a relief to board your flight and see your suitcase has boarded it too, and to arrive at the other end and be able to track your suitcase to the luggage carousel.

When I arrived to Rome in May I thought for a horrifying few minutes that my suitcase was lost. I turned on the AirTag and it walked me around the corner to where someone had taken it off the carousel by mistake. This makes the perfect gift for anyone who travels. Even if your suitcase goes to Dubai while you’ve flown to Madrid, your AirTag will locate it for you long before the airlines can. I won’t fly/travel without it. Check out AirTags here on amazon.com

The Paravel Foldable Duffle Bag

This little gem has bailed me out more times than I care to mention! The Paravel Foldable Duffle Bag zips down into itself into the shape and size of an iPad. It weighs nothing and takes up no space in your suitcase. Mine sees daylight when I’ve over-shopped or somehow can’t fit everything back into my suitcase at the end of a trip. (Which basically means I’ve over-shopped.) The bag has a surprisingly large capacity. I roll up loads of clothes and lightweight items using them to fill the Paravel bag, which comes on the plane with me, and fill my suitcase with whatever new things I’ve bought.

It makes a fabulous Plan B and prevents you from needing to buy a second suitcase/checked bag. I bought mine (years ago) in sensible but boring navy, but I wish I had the red one. These bags are really sturdy, can handle a lot of weight, and trust me – you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit in there! Check out the Paravel bags in all their colors here on Amazon.

The Jisulife Handheld Mini Fan

portable travel fan

We just had the two hottest summers on record in southern Europe and this handheld mini fan was a lifesaver! It’s super small and slips into your handbag needing almost no space, so is really convenient when you’re out sightseeing all day and don’t want to carry around a single extra thing. It is also surprisingly powerful and holds a charge for a really long time. I charged mine in May before heading to Italy and made it through a really hot few weeks without needing to recharge it. (It has a USB port, so no nuisance batteries to deal with). They come in multiple colors and at under $15 these make great stocking stuffers too. Check them out here on Amazon.com

Bagsmart Electronic Organizer Case

best electronics case for travel

These electronic organizer cases also cost under $15 and make great stocking stuffers. To be fair I thought mine was pretty ugly when I got it and wasn’t sure I’d use it, but I have used it to death! It’s a perfect compact size and is nice and slim, so doesn’t take up room in your carryon or handbag. (You should always keep all your chargers etc with you when you fly – don’t put them in a checked bag in case you need them.) Normally I would opt for something sleek and black but I have left sleek and black on planes and trains before, so opt instead for eyesore pink or any other color I will see and not leave behind. I like format of the pouches and zippered sections on this organizer. See it here on Amazon.com

Kindle Paperwhite

I was late to the party when it came to buying a Kindle. For years I read everything on the Kindle App on my iPad and it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I finally bought a Kindle Paperwhite. Now I don’t know how I ever lived without it!

amazon prime day sale kindle

This is the travelers absolute best friend. Mine can hold somewhere between 5000 and 8000 books (!) and I don’t even have one of the souped-up models. I love that the Kindle is so slim and lightweight, so can slip into your handbag. They have low-light abilities, so you can be reading and not be blasting light into the eyeballs on the person trying to sleep next to you on the plane. I also love that I can be anywhere and still read, not needing a reading light. Again, I got mine in a color (sage green) rather than black, because I didn’t want to leave it behind on a plane or a train. There are a variety of different models and colors available. Check out Kindles here on Amazon.com

Audible Gift Subscription

This is kind of cool and is great for travelers. Audible is Amazon’s audio book service. They have gift subscriptions, so your travelers (or anyone else in your life) can enjoy listening to audiobooks courtesy of you. Statistics show that audio books are the fastest growing sector of the book market, and that readers/book lovers consume vastly more content when they can listen to books rather than have to find time to sit down and read. Personally, I am a voracious reader, but I love listening to audio books while doing housework, cooking, driving, doing things that prevent me from sitting down and reading. Check out Audible Subscriptions on amazon here.

Merino Base Layers

This really does have to be one of the best travel hacks around! I swear by merino base layers when I travel. In the summer I wear a merino cami under whatever I’m wearing to fly in, in the winter I wear a long sleeved merino t-shirt styled base layer. I also have several J Crew merino crew neck sweaters.

merino wool base layer

What makes merino so brilliant for the traveler in your life is this wool is super fine like a t-shirt weight. It’s non-itchy so even those of us who can’t normally wear wool (me!) can have this next to our skin. Merino is moisture wicking, so if you perspire it wicks it away from your skin. It’s also temperature regulating, so will keep you comfortable in temperatures from below zero up to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit/20 degrees Celsius, making it ideal when you are traveling from a cold climate to a warm one. It also is really helpful when you are moving from freezing cold outside into warm buildings/museums/homes/shops. And you don’t have to struggle with multiple heavy layers of clothing.

merino wool base layer

Merino is smell resistant, so you can go multiple wears without having to launder it, and it packs down super small so is ideal for travel. Winter travelers already know how cumbersome it is to pack thick sweaters when you travel! I buy Icebreaker Merino (see their store on Amazon here) but there are multiple other brands selling high quality merino products on Amazon too. In the photo above I’m wearing a black J Crew merino sweater in Rome when a very unexpected cold snap hit.

My Glam Italia How To Travel Italy Books

Best Florence Travel Guide Book

If you know anyone thinking about traveling to Italy, or anyone who already loves Italy, please think about gifting them my Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy books! All four books are best sellers and are popular worldwide. Rather than send people into the overwhelming tourist crowds like most travel guides do, my books show the reader loads of different, equally amazing and often more exciting places to visit. Most of the places I talk about are just down the street from where the crowds are, yet have very few if any other people there. There is so much more to see and do in these big Italian cities than just hang out where the tour buses go, and I want you to see these incredible places! All four books are designed to take a good trip to Italy and make it the best trip of your life.

Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy teaches you how to plan and execute your best trip ever. It is full of fantastic information, tips, tricks and ideas. Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome will make you fall in love with the Eternal City and show you endless places the tour bus crowds don’t know about. Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Florence gives you insider secrets to places you’ve never heard of before, and tells you intriguing stories about some of the places you have heard of! This book will change the way you explore and discover the most beautiful Renaissance city in the world.

Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Venice is an absolute game changer. It will take you away from the tourist crowds, show you incredible sights you’d never heard of before, and will make you fall hopelessly in love with the most unique city on earth!

Do you belong to my newsletter? Join the thousands of people around the world who belong to my monthly newsletter and discover incredible places in Italy to add to your travel itinerary! Most of these places are well off the main tourist radar but all of them are fabulous. Join the newsletter here.