The best way to tour Italy is unquestionably by rail — comfortable seating, magnificent views of the countryside, and point-to-point access from one city center to another. But you’ll be hauling your own luggage, often up and down stairs or escalators with nary an elevator in sight. So, whether you go with a wheeled carry-on suitcase, or a mid-size backpack and keep it as light as possible. And that means packing smart.
The veteran traveller’s rule of thumb is to lay out what you think you need prior to your trip, and then leave half of it behind and bring more money. Besides, arriving in Italy with a lightly packed bag just means you’ll have more space for purchases and souvenirs. Or were you planning to leave one of the world’s greatest shopping destinations empty-handed?
With that in mind, here are a few pro tips that will save you space, weight, and aggravation:
Just like at home, you’ll probably wear a few favourites over and over again. Pack items you genuinely like and already wear. This is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes or attempt to go down one size of skinny jeans. Women, bring a shawl or scarf — moving from scorching heat to frigid AC is no picnic, and many top historical attractions require modest attire (no bare shoulders or knees). A wrap can do double duty (and can also serve as a makeshift pillow).
Luggage locks: (TSA-approved) Unlike on an aircraft, your luggage is stowed in open overhead bins or in designated sections of the train car, and thus, potentially accessible to thieves. A small lock eliminates temptation and earns you peace of mind.
ID & Travel docs: Make a digital photo album of your important travel documents (passport, airline tickets, travel insurance, accomodations, prescriptions, emergency contact info) and store it in your phone, on a USB key and email it to yourself as well.
Seal a printout in an envelope in case your tech goes AWOL with your ID. One copy in your purse or wallet, and another buried in your suitcase.
VPN (Virtual Private Network): These days, the internet is an integral part of our travel experience, and more and more tourists are opting to protect their privacy (and their credit card numbers) when using open WiFi hotspots in hotels, airports, train stations and the like. Installing a VPN before you go ensures that your devices’ data is encrypted, and that you have access to your favorite sites and services regardless of regional restrictions.
Relaxing on the rails:
- Inflatable neck pillow
- Ear plugs
- Sleep mask
- Travel charger
Just in case:
- Super glue
- Lipstick-size USB charger
- Fold-up tote bag: For shopping, picnics and more
- Ziploc bags in several sizes
- Duct tape: Endlessly useful, just wrap a few feet around a pen or other small tube
- Windproof pocket umbrella or lightweight rain jacket
- Activated charcoal, in case you make an unlucky meal choice
- Stylish sun hat: Summer in Italy is HOT; many great-looking options can be folded or rolled up for packing
- Anti-bacterial wipes & hand sanitizer
- Travel toilet paper
- Microfiber washcloth
- Solid shampoo: Save space while circumventing the liquids restrictions on airplanes
- Weekly pill organizer for medicine & vitamins (leave those bulky bottles at home, but bring a copy of your prescriptions)
You’ll thank me later:
- A corkscrew, or a multi-tool with a corkscrew — seriously, you won’t regret this
- A flexible phone tripod, for when there’s no one around, or you don’t feel like asking a stranger to take your picture
- Sharing is caring: If you’re traveling with a friend or partner, share common items. Agree on brands, and you just cut the toiletries case in half
- One killer party outfit: bonus points if it doubles as day AND evening wear
Finally, what NOT to pack:
Don’t bring anything that you can easily buy at an airport, pharmacy or corner store. You’re vacationing in Italy, not hiking into the uncharted wilderness of Patagonia. Wherever you go, the people there eat food, wear clothes, and engage in basic self-care. They’ll have the shops for these essentials, and trying local brands just adds extra flavour to your holiday experience!