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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.