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.

How To Avoid Getting Sick When You Fly This Winter

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If you are planning any air travel this holiday season or winter you need to have a game plan in place to prevent catching something nasty inflight.

 Airplanes are hermetically sealed germ incubators. Whatever time of year you are flying you are always at risk of contracting whichever virus or infection the person next to you is carrying or the person before you left behind. Winter just seems to make it worse.

I have spoken before on this blog about getting a vicious upper respiratory infection on a flight to Australia several years ago. I thought I was going to die it was so bad. The doctor in Noosa who treated me told me that several times per week he sees upper respiratory infections like this, caught on planes. He also gave me advice on how to make sure it doesn’t happen again, which I will re-share in this post.

I have had multiple friends and acquaintances in the past three years contract the highly contagious Norovirus. Some on cruise ships, some on planes. All of them have had gastrointestinal problems and mad diarrhea for months on end, and have been very, very sick.

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This got me to thinking about all the people traveling by air this holiday season and this winter, and what you can do to prevent getting sick, allowing for the fact that no doubt multiple people on your flight will be sending their cold, flu and heaven only knows what other illnesses through the recycled air.

Before You Fly

Wellness begins before you board your flight. Staying on top of a few items can make all the difference in the world.

Sweet Dreams

Try to get a decent night’s sleep the last couple of nights before you fly. A tired body is more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

Avoid Bad Foods

You already know this but it is worth repeating. Foods that are high in sugar and/or salt, and junk foods should all be avoided at least in the 24 hours prior to flying. Airports are notoriously full of eateries selling high sugar, high sodium and essentially junk foods. Eating these means your body has to work overtime to break them down and deal with them instead of using its energy to fight off germs.

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Load Up On C

The days before you fly, the days you are away, and the first few days you are back home you should load up on extra Vitamin C. Take much more than the recommended daily dose – Vitamin C is the best fighter vitamin, and can be your best friend when you are exposed to colds and flus.

In-flight Tricks

There are also several important steps to take once you are on the plane. Some might surprise you!

Disinfect

This is the big tip the doctor in Australia drilled into me when I was so sick. Take disinfectant wipes onboard the plane with you and disinfect everything.

Arm rests, seat belt buckle, tray table- front and back, head rest. Everything you will touch during your flight. Assume the person occupying your seat before you had something highly contagious, and clean that thing down!

Airplanes don’t get disinfected in between flights. At best the tray table might get a wipe down overnight, but judging by the early morning flights I’ve been doing, don’t hold your breath!

Trust me, just one savage sickness caught on a plane and you too will be a convert! In all the years since I got sick on that flight I have never, ever boarded a flight and not disinfected everything. I couldn’t care less if it makes me look weird.

image via NY Times

Bathroom Rules

If you are on a shorter flight do whatever you can to avoid using the airplane lavatory. Pee before you fly and then hold on til you land if at all possible. Airplane toilets are more germy than you think.

On top of all the infections waiting to happen via the bathroom, recent studies have shown the water you wash your hands with is actually quite perilous too. Dangerous levels of Ecoli and Salmonella have been showing up in the water tanks, so dangerous in fact that it was recommended you not wash your hands, instead opt for handwipes and hand sanitizer.

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Hydrate

Before, during and after your flight drink loads of water. Part of the reason we get travel fatigue (that exhausting, headachy, feel like crap thing that happens after flying) is because we dehydrate so much in flight. I have read that we lose an additional 8 ounces of water for every hour we are in the air.

Either buy a bottle of water once you have cleared the TSA checkpoint or bring an empty bottle with you and fill it at any of the filling stations inside the terminal

I often add Airborne or EmergenceC to bottled water when I fly, just for the extra boost of the good stuff.

Hose Your Nose

Once you are in flight the pressurized cabin of the plane makes the air really dry. Dry air makes you more susceptible to colds, so doctors recommend using a nasal spray to keep the area hydrated.

Nasal sprays are also super helpful to travelers who suffer from allergies, sinus problems and headaches.

Neosporin Nostrils

One of my makeup artist friends who is constantly flying across the country and around the world for work always puts Neosporin on her nostrils when the plane takes off. Her theory is that she is killing germs on their way in. I don’t know if this works or not but I have started doing it too just in case!

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Stay Warm

Airplanes are notoriously cold so it is important to plan ahead and stay warm while you fly. The days of taking bulky sweaters and coats when you travel are well behind us now, the better option being super fine, thin merino layers and easy to fold, super warm puffer jackets.

Although I am from New Zealand I am a relatively new convert to the benefits of merino wool. As a rule I can’t wear wool – it’s too itchy scratchy on my skin. Merino is an entirely different experience. It is super thin, incredibly warm, wicks away both moisture and smells, and can be layered. Merino is also good in warm weather as it keeps you cool, making it the perfect travel fabric. It is also super soft and doesn’t itch.

Whether you invest in a base layer long sleeve Like This One from Icebreaker or a merino dress Like This One (there are loads of merino products for men too)

Merino is a great way to help fight off catching cold on the plane. An added benefit of wearing Merino when you travel is that it is cool in warmer climes.

Puffer jackets are still a big deal for travelers. They keep you really warm, even in frigid temps (especially with a super thin Merino base layer underneath!) and they fold down to nothing, so you aren’t trying to haul a heavy coat on and off the plane with you.

I’m in love with this one (pictured) from Michael Kors. It is available on Amazon, but I found it online for much less at Nieman Marcus Last Call here. I also like this one from Calvin Klein, available on Amazon. There is a huge selection of affordable puffer jackets on Amazon, including their most famous one, which you can see here. It costs less than $50!

My Secret Weapon…

This one may be a little much for some, but again I swear by it. I don’t always get to do it but invariably make it happen before all international flights.

Vitamin IV therapy basically takes vitamin protection to an entirely new level. Whether you choose a Myers Cocktail or a Super Immune blend, the practitioner adds to saline solution intense quantities of Vitamin C, B complex, minerals, everything from zinc to magnesium to selenium – all the fighter vitamins and minerals. These then make their way directly into your bloodstream via an IV drip.

Vitamin IV therapy has all kinds of beauty benefits. Your skin will glow, the whites of your eyes go super white, your hair gets really glossy and healthy. You start feeling amazing as soon as the drip gets going. It has been my saving grace when I travel and also when I am just working an extra punishing schedule here at home.

The easiest way to find IV Vitamin therapy places is to google Myers Cocktail and your city. You can read more about Vitamin IV therapy here.