10 Tips For Packing For Italy This Summer

Are you heading over to Italy this summer? I will be there with my 2017 Glam Italia Tours, and am already thinking about what I’m going to wear, what to pack and what to leave behind.

Figuring out what to pack is the key to a fantastic vacation. You want to look chic yet be comfortable, have clothes for very occasion you’re going to need, and not pack too much.

Some of the things you need to have for any trip to Italy include good walking shoes, a scarf to throw over your shoulders when going into churches, and some hem lengths that at least hit mid-thigh to knee area. Every year I take travelers to the Duomo in Siena, and every time we see tourists in short shorts or short skirts who have to put on paper skirts if they want to go inside! The sun gets fierce over there so you should pack a good hat too. I found a killer hat on Revolve.com but I didn’t buy it on time and now I can’t find it anywhere.

too much luggage in florence

One of my friends with too much luggage in Florence!

Here are 10 Tips For Packing For Italy This Summer (plus a bonus tip!)

10 Packing Tips For Travel To Italy This Summer

Don’t Overpack

I learned this the hard way, but when you are traveling in Italy do not overpack! Unless you have a porter trotting around with you everywhere you go, carrying your bags, getting them on and off the trains for you, driving you and your bags around in your own assigned vehicle, you will be miserable if you have overpacked! Cars in Italy are small and you will not have room for multiple bags unless you have a car to yourself. Even then you won’t be able to leave your car anywhere with all your bags visible because they won’t be there when you get back!

If you are staying in vacation rental apartments, and my trips always do, you will probably find yourself having to carry your heavy suitcase up multiple flights of stairs to get to your apartment. These buildings are centuries old, and many do not have elevators. Trying to maneuver heavy suitcases, or too many bags through the train stations and on and off trains is a nightmare, especially when you are getting on and off full trains and having to quickly get yourself up or down a staircase to your next platform! Been there, done that, never again!

Only Pack things That Can Be Worn Multiple Times.

I used to be the queen of wearing every single thing I brought with me,  but only wearing each thing once. It was incredibly stupid! Pack items that you can wear multiple times (or at least more than once), and that are interchangeable with other items in your suitcase.

Pack more Tops Than Bottoms.

It’s super easy to change things up and look like you have many outfits if you have more tops than bottoms. I’m always re-pinning other people’s travel packing stories on Pinterest, where they have 3 pairs of pants/skirts and 6 tops and make it look like 20 fresh outfits. I haven’t quite mastered it myself yet, but I’m working on it! Check out my Pinterest Travel Packing Board Here

Don’t Pack More Than 3 Pairs Of Shoes.

Seriously. Shoes take up so much space in your suitcase, and you really don’t need too many pairs with you.

I once had a traveler who brought 14 pairs of shoes with her. She ended up boxing most of them up and sending them home at huge expense.

Related Post: How To Use Trains In Italy

Bring good, comfortable walking shoes. I wear fun colored Supergas that look chic, but that I can walk in all day long. Pack sandals that you can walk in forever, and that won’t give you blisters or aching feet, and maybe one other pair for going out at night. Everywhere you go you will see super chic travelers wearing Birkenstock Gizehs. Technically they don’t look bad and you can literally walk in them all day and night. If you had told me 3 years ago that I would even own a pair of Birkenstocks I would have died laughing  and told you you were mad. However, one of my travelers back then pointed out to me that everyone was wearing them and that they are beyond comfortable, and I’m not quite sure how she did it but she talked me into getting a pair. I have never looked back! I have a black pair and a white pair, and this year I may buy some other color too. I order them on Zappos.com (A sude note about Birkenstocks: you need to wear them around to break them in before you travel)


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Don’t Pack Heels

Italy is all hills and cobblestones, and high heels just aren’t practical while you are there. In fact they become a liability. Not only are you likely to twist, sprain or break your ankle, but you are unlikely to be able to keep up with the rest of the group as they are heading out and about.

Related Post: 10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Rome

Don’t Pack Multiple Electronics

You don’t need a laptop, an iPad, a digital camera, and a smartphone. They take up valuable space and can get quite heavy. These days electronics can multi-function, so only bring what you need, and items that do more than one thing.

Don’t Pack “Just In Case” Items

Basically you won’t need them. If by chance you get invited to a ball while you are there, go buy a ball gown in Italy – it will be more chic and fashionable anyway! Anything that you may suddenly need you can always buy there.

Don’t Pack Extra Pairs Of Jeans

Jeans are amazingly heavy (I found that out the hard way) and you really don’t need multiple pairs with you. (also found out the hard way)

Pack one pair if you think you will need them, and leave the rest behind.

Don’t Pack At The Last Minute

This is where the mistakes happen. Plan out your outfit for each day, well ahead of time. I start with a rolling rack and put on it everything I think I might like to wear, and over the days or weeks prior to my trip I start pulling out the things that maybe won’t work, that I can get by without. Think about the climate you are traveling to and what you will be doing while you are there. Italy is all about walking and is full of hills, so make sure you are packing comfortable clothes and shoes to walk in.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

Only Pack Things You Love

There is no point in packing clothes that you feel iffy about. Only bring things that you love, that look great on you, and that you will adore walking around in.

Leave Room In Your Suitcase For Shopping!

There is SO MUCH amazing stuff to buy in Italy, and you are going to want to bring some of it back home with you. From Italian leather handbags and jackets, to ceramics, to food, to wine, to clothes and shoes (this is afterall the world capital of fashion!), no matter who you are you are going to find all manner of amazing things that you want to bring home with you, so leave yourself plenty of space in your suitcase.

Vera Bradley Designs, Inc.

Packing Tips For Summer In Italy

10 Things To Do In San Gimignano

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San Gimignano, the magical hilltop Tuscan town famous for it’s towers is my second home.

With all my travels in Italy San Gimi is always home base. Arriving back there heals me and leaving there makes me tearful. Perched on a hill between Florence and Siena, watching over the fields and vineyrds, San Gimignano is the perfect medieval town.

 

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Piazza-Cisterna-San-Gimignano

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10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In San Gimignano

 

1. Visit the Duomo.

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the view from my apartment window, looking over the Duomo

 

The Duomo is in the heart of town, so you can’t miss it. It is world famous for it’s spectacular fresco cycles dating back to the 13th century, with works from Domenico Ghirlandaio, Benozzo Gozzoli, Taddeo di Bartolo, Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi. The basilica is located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the “Historic Centre of San Gimignano”, with its frescos being described by UNESCO as “works of outstanding beauty”.[2]

2. Eat an artisanal gelato.

Late night gelato in Piazza Cisterna, San Gimignano

 

 

The gelato store in the neighboring Piazza Cisterna makes fresh gelato each day in a variety of sensational flavors. Try raspberry with rosemary, or any flavor with lavender. Actually, it’s probably impossible to find a flavor that isn’t fantastic. Sometimes there are lines across the piazza with locals waiting to get a scoop or two of this delicious homemade gelato.

Wander back through to Piazza Duomo and sit on the steps while you eat your gelato. Look up and you will see my apartment looking right back at you!

3. Walk down to the medieval font.

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one of my travelers in June 2016 exploring the font on a rainy day

 

The history of this idyllic mountain town is just wonderful and there is just so much to see! Most people don’t make it down to the font. Everytime I have wandered down there we (whoever is with me) are the only people there having a look. I think most people don’t even realize its there.

 

medieval-font=san-gimignano

Related Post: How To order Coffee In Italy

4. Take a stroll.

 

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You can walk around San Gimignano forever and not get bored. The light hits the walls and the towers differently every minute of the day, so it always looks new.

Wander through the medieval arches and alleyways, explore the little piazze, window shop and walk from one end of town to the other. Meander off the main shopping streets and explore ll the little neighborhoods. San Gimignano is just beautiful!

 

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wander around in the evening for a different view of the town.

 

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5. Walk the wall.

 

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walking along the wall in San Gimignano, summer 2016

The views from the walls of San Gimi are absolutely breathtaking. A glass of local Sangiovese in the late afternoon at one of the little restaurants along the wall, with a view of endless vineyards, olive groves and fields that have been farmed by the inhabitants of this town for centuries. The view is so lovely it will stay with you forever…

 

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late afternoon glass of wine along the wall, taking in the view in San Gimignano

 

6. Visit iSculpture San Gimignano

This one is a fantastic find in a region full of historical sculpture my friends Francesca and Patrick have built a tremendous business and a wonderful gallery featuring only contemporary art created by Italian artists.

The works are fresh and exciting and new, and make for an all encompassing experience housed in an ancient, historical building. The gallery is deceptively huge, and is the perfect showcase for both small and gigantic pieces. It’s one of those places that keeps drawing you back in.

Related Post: 9 Things You Need To Do before You Go To Italy This Summer

7. Climb the rock at sunset.

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The highest point of town at the San Matteo end affords you the craziest, most sensational views as the sun goes down. Climb the stairs up to the top of the fortress and take in the absolute splendor of Tuscany, as far as the eye can see. Walk the inner wall at the bottom of the steps and look through the window-slits where for centuries local soldiers guarded the town and fired arrows at attackers. You can imagine them sitting watch, taking in the sunset, and wondering if they would be under siege this night.

 

sunset-san-gimignano

 

8. Eat Pizza at Il Trovatore

Summer evenings spent on the patio at Il Trovatore with pizzas cooked in their giant wood burning oven and jugs of local wine just cannot be beaten.

Tuscan pizza is nothing like American pizza. It is fresh and light and explodes with flavor. Don’t expect it to be drenched in tomato sauce and wallowing in melted cheese – this is pizza the way it was meant to be eaten!

Related Post: How To Use The Train System In Italy

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9. Enjoy Prosecco in the Piazza

 

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late afternoon spritz and prosecco in the Piazza Cisterna, San Gimignano

My favorite time of day is “prosecco o’clock” in the piazza. The late afternoon/early evenng glass of prosecco that you enjoy sitting at one of the outdoor restaurants that line the piazza, watching the early evening light hit the walls of the palazzi, as the tourists leave and the locals come out.

Its absolute magic.

10. Be there for market day

 

San-Gimignano-Market
buying fresh local cheeses and prosciutto at the San Gimignano market

Every Thursday morning San Gimignano wakes up to market day. The market takes up all of Piazza Duomo and Piazza Cisterna.

 

market-san-gimignano
the local ladies buying their fruit and vegetables at the weekly market

From local cheeses and meats, to fruits and vegetables, from Italian leather handbags and belts to clothes and shoes, from fabulous Italian linen tablecloths and napkins to housewares, there is so much to look at and buy!

market-day-san-gimignano

Plan on  buying lunch from one of the food trucks and eat it sitting on the Duomo steps.

 

market-san-gimignano

The leather handbags are the same as the ones you will find at the San Lorenzo Market in Florence. I have always found them to be cheaper at the san Gimignano market. Expect to pay between 35 and 50 euros for an incredible Italian leather handbag that will last a lifetime.

 

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I hope you take time to go visit San Gimignano – it is so lovely!

Related Post: The Glam Italia tour Goes To San Gimignano

11 Things You Must Do In Matera

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This past September I took my Glam Italia tour to one of the best places I have ever been. Deep in the heart of Italy’s south, in the region of Basilicata there lies one of the three oldest and most continuously inhabited cities in the world, Matera.
Matera has been populated since paleolithic times.

You can read more about Matera here

Matera needs to be on your bucket list, and while there you absolutely MUST do these 11 things:

11 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Matera

1. Walk

In order to understand this amazing city you need to walk. And walk and walk. Up and down and around the rabbit warren that is the Sassi.

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When you walk the Sassi you will discover that it is an optical illusion – it’s actually quite disorienting! Things look far away, but in fact they are quite close, it’s just that the Sassi is so vertical

Related Post: The Best Shoes And Sandals To Wear In Europe This Summer

2. Take a tour of the Sassi

matera-sassi

You can’t come all the way to Matera and not take a guided tour of the Sassi. On the Glam Italia Tours I use Antonio Manicone from Matera Tour Guide. Antonio is the top rated tour guide on Tripadvisor, and with good reason. He is fantastic! I use him for my Glam Tours and I sincerely recommend you use him too.

sassi-matera

No guide book can give you the insight into Sassi life that a guide will give you. Antonio’s grandparents lived in the Sassi until they were relocated by the government to the apartments on the other side of Matera. His stories about their life in the Sassi and the social fabric of the community brought an entirely different experience to the tour.

sassi-matera

Without a tour it would be incredibly difficult to understand the structure of the homes, and the brilliance of the design of the communities.

You can find Antonio here

3. Visit a Rupestrian church

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Santa Maria di Idris, Matera

The Rupestrian cave churches of Matera are sensational, both for their design and for the spectacular frescos inside. In a country overflowing with church art, these take you to an entirely different place. The art is largely Byzantine in style even though much of it was painted in the Middle Ages. The frescos in Santa Maria di Idris will take your breath away

 Find the best hotels in Matera here

4. Stay in a cave hotel

Staying in a cave hotel was such a fabulous experience! We stayed at the beautiful Le Dodici Lune where the ceilings are high, the decor is beautiful and the service is wonderful.

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sitting room area inside our cave hotel in Matera

Hotel specialist Alex Polizzi says that you should always know where you are when you wake in a hotel. Most hotels are very much alike and sitting inside that room you could be anywhere. When you wake in a cave hotel in Matera you know exactly where you are. And it’s magical.

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5. Eat in a cave restaurant

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Le Dodice Lune has a world class restaurant on the property, in yet another giant cave. The visual is fantastic, second only to the food itself. Local cuisine is fresh and flavorful, and really just sensational!

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The staircase down to the wine cellar at Le Dodici Lune in Matera

Pair it with local wines from the Basilicata for the most perfect experience ever.

Book a table at Le Dodici Lune

6. Walk through the Sassi at night

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The Sassi is spectacular at night. Take time to stroll through the labyrinth streets after sundown. The city shimmers like a jewelry box, and it’s beautiful!

sassi-at-night-Matera

In the 17th century a man of the cloth wrote that every evening it was customary for every home to put a candle in the window. With so many doors and windows it would look like a sea of light reflected in the stars above. Dalle sassi alle stelle / from the stones to the stars.

Related Post: 10 Reasons Why You Need To Visit Puglia

7. Cross to the other side

Matera

From the Sassi you can walk down the gorge and cross a bridge to the other side. There are caves to explore, an unobstructed view of the Sassi, and incredible views of the countryside.

Rail Europe (Americas)

8. Go to a cave house

cave-house-Matera

The cave house of Vico solitaire in Sasso Caveoso gives you insight into the life of the average family living in the Sassi. This cave home housed a family of 11 and their animals. See how the cave was set up as a home, where the kitchen was, where everyone slept, where the animals lived – it’s fascinating!

Train Tickets and Schedules  

9. Visit the crypt of the original sin

This is one of the best things I have ever done.

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Outside of Matera in the middle of nowhere, along the wall of the Gravina di Picciano gorge you will find the Crypt Of The Original Sin, a heavily frescoed cave church that was abandoned in the late 9th century, became overgrown with moss, as was used for centuries as a shelter for shepherds.

Rediscovered in 1963 this cave church holds a fresco cycle that comprise one of the most important examples of early medieval painting in the Mediterranean. The painter is unknown, simply referred to as the flower painter of Matera, but his work is hauntingly beautiful.

Image result for crypt of the original sin

The apses depict saints, and the entire back wall tells the story of Genesis.

If you are someone to whom art speaks, you will understand me when I tell you that when they slowly raised the light on these paintings I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Photography is forbidden, so images have been sourced from Google. I will be writing a separate post about the crypt.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

10. Explore the art galleries

Matera is a delectably artsy town, and is full of cafes, restaurants and little art shops and galleries. It has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019. When planning your trip to Matera factor in an afternoon for aimless strolling and wander into as many local haunts as you can.

11. Visit The Palombaro Lungo

One of the things I found incredibly fascinating from Antonio’s tours is the Palombaro Lungo, the largest of the sassi’ incredibly clever cisterns dug to capture what rain water the area got. An intricate system of tunnels, caves and water channels captured rain water to be drinking water for the locals. Eels kept the water moving so that it didn’t become stagnant and lime kept it safe to drink.

Palumbaro-lungo-matera

You can walk 17 meters deep into the cistern which was dug by hand into the rock.

Matera is one of the most spectacular places I have been to, anywhere in the world. If you are staying in Puglia it is super easy to get to Matera, which is only an hour or so drive from Alberobello.  You can take a train from Rome to Bari, grab a rental car and be in Matera in 2-3 hours.

Although a bit remote,  Matera is definitely worth the trip. I hope that you will make it out there one day.

My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) is a must read for anyone planning a trip to Italy. Get your copy anywhere in the world on Amazon.com


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