Packing seems to be a very stressful task for many soon-to-be-travelers. I don’t know why, but the idea of having to pare down your stuff and fit it all into a suitcase/backpack/rolly-bag can be intimidating, even if you’re only leaving town for a week. The prospect of packing can reduce even the most steadfast of people to a quivering, travel-bottle-sized mass of nerves. That’s one type of traveler.
There are other types of travellers though, who, happily don’t give packing a second thought. They chuck in every (heavy/useless/awkward/impractical/leakable/breakable) thing they think they might need in life, ever, and go about their merry way until they realize what a poor (and heavy) job they’ve done of filling their suitcase.
And don’t forget the other type of traveler who also doesn’t give packing a second thought and doesn’t bring enough stuff/the right stuff, which ultimately leaves them cold/wet/underdressed/overdressed/sick/smelly/uncomfortable. Nice, eh?
This post will help you to avoid any of these scenarios and will turn you into the calm, prepared and practical traveler you always hoped you could be. I’m not going to detail every little thing you need to pack, but I’ll go over the most important and often overlooked and underemphasized aspects of packing.
Let’s start, shall we?
What To Pack
1. Good walking shoes and sandals. I don’t mean ugly walking shoes and sandals, because you can get stylish ones, but I mean ones that will allow you to (happily) traipse through one Italian city after another and not think of your feet at all. For my bunion-adorned “granny feet”, I never go anywhere without my trusty pair of Mephisto (Helen style) sandals. Great arch support, minimal bunion & foot pain, minimal blisters, cute style. The other day I walked 15 km in Rome in them. Seriously. (And no, they’re not paying me to say this). I’ve also got some low-heeled, comfy, black dressy sandals for evenings out, and a pair of cute lace up shoes that also fit my custom orthotics.
Be sure to have more than one pair of footwear with you, and make sure that what you bring hits your foot in different places, i.e. not 3 pairs of the same cheap-o infradito (thong/flip flops) sandals in different colours. That doesn’t help you much when you’ve got blisters. (Please note: Italians look down on these types of sandals and their wearers). Also please remember that Italy has cobblestone roads and sidewalks. Make sure you wear something with a low and thick enough heel that you won’t twist your ankle on your first evening passeggiata. That’d be a real bummer.
2. Medication from Home. Do you know what the Italian word for Tylenol is? Neither do I. Advil? Pepto Bismol? Nope. Sorry. Can’t help you there. I do know that when you go to buy these things in Italy, they’re not called the same as they are in home and the same brands may not even be available. If you’ve got a brand of painkiller (antidolorifico) or allergy medicine or eye drop that you’re comfortable using, bring a supply from home. Here they gave me Fenistil (not Aerius or Reactine) for allergies and Metoclopramide (not Gravol) for an upset stomach. I also have a sneaking suspicion that over-the-counter medicines here aren’t as strong as the ones we’re used to in North America, so be aware of that too.
3. Decent clothes that you can mix and match. If you can only wear something once, it doesn’t deserve a spot in the suitcase. If it wrinkles easily, doesn’t wash up well and magnetically attracts gelato stains, it doesn’t get a spot in the suitcase. If you can’t mix it and match it and wear it in a variety of situations, it doesn’t go. If it looks like something you’d use to wax your car, it doesn’t go. Italy is not the place for faded, ill-fitting, holey beer t-shirts, bub.
I know most of us travel in the summer, and it’s hot, and Italy isn’t really air conditioned, but, rightly or wrongly Italians will respect you more if you don’t walk around looking like a tourist bum. Italians run around town nicely dressed all the time, and they think it’s respectful of the place you’re in and the people you’re with to dress “appropriately”. So try to do it as much as you can and it’ll make your trip go that much more smoothly.
Also, when selecting clothes to bring, think of the types of things you’ll be doing. A cycling tour in Tuscany (even only a day trip) needs different kinds of clothes and shoes than a shopping tour in Milano. You can obviously wear different things to the beach than you can to the Vatican. Many churches require that men and women have their shoulders and knees covered when they enter, or they won’t let you in. Want to travel all that way just to be bounced from the Vatican because you didn’t adhere to their dress code? Didn’t think so. Finally, bring a light jacket, sweaters and things you can layer on cooler Italian nights, and scarves to wear as you please.
4. Small notebook and pen to carry with you at all times. You don’t have to be a writer to make use of these two items, so listen up. What happens when your wifi or your data plan stop working and you only saved the train times to Pisa on your phone? You miss the train! Should have written them down in your notebook. And when you can’t pronounce a word but you know how to spell it? Write it down in your book and show it to whoever you’re trying to talk to. Same goes for addresses. Write down the address of your hotel and show it to a taxi driver to avoid any pronunciation problems. Trying to remember that great bottle of wine you had at that great little restaurant you don’t remember the name of and that you could never find again if your life depended on it? Should have written it down in your trusty little notebook. When someone gives you directions, they can draw it out for you for easy follow-ability. Where? Why, in your little notebook, of course! Learn a new Italian word you loved the sound of? Write it down and use it later.
5. Photocopies of all your important documents and reservations. What happens if you lose your passport? A photocopy won’t get you on a plane and out of the country, but it will help convince people you are who you say you are until you get a new one. Copies of plane tickets, hotel or tour reservations can only help you in the case of a lost smartphone, sketchy wifi or lack of printing facilities where you are. What about bank cards and credit cards? If they get lost or stolen at least you have the numbers there with you for when you call your bank to cancel the cards. (Which is the first thing you would do in that situation). I also always leave copies of these things at home with a trusted individual (Mom), just in case something goes awry.
Now that I’ve told you what to pack, next up will be a post about how to pack it. Thanks for reading. Grazie di leggere!