Rick Steves' Tour Guide Reveals The Best Packing Tip For Anyone Heading To Italy

Packing for a trip to Italy is a bit different from packing for a trip anywhere else. At least, that's true according to Sarah Murdoch's experience. Murdoch knows the boot-shaped country incredibly well as both a travel YouTuber and a tour guide and writer for European travel expert Rick Steves. She even co-authored one of Steves' books on Sicily and spends weeks, if not months, out of the year showing visitors around the country.

From her many adventures in Italy, Murdoch has become a pro at packing for its Mediterranean climate. And if you thought that meant throwing your comfiest sneakers and trusty cargo pants in a bag and calling it a day, the tour guide would argue otherwise. In an interview with Italy Magazine, Murdoch offered a tip for fitting in with the locals: Pack nice clothes and a few stylish accessories. She explained, "Italians in general dress a lot more formally every day. Even if it's jeans — they wear Armani jeans, or they'll wear stilettos with the jeans!"

If high heels don't sound practical for hours of sightseeing, the travel expert suggests embracing layers instead, such as throwing a nice shirt over a sleeveless top or upgrading a simple outfit with a scarf. "Those are things that don't weigh anything, but small details like that make a world of difference, especially in a country where la bella figura is such an important concept," she revealed, adding that your outfit could even influence how others treat you.

Look good while packing light

Adopting Italy's fashion-forward culture doesn't have to mean packing your entire wardrobe. Even Sarah Murdoch only relies on a backpack when traveling. She told Italy Magazine, "I try to convince people to travel with a backpack even if they think they're too old for it or haven't traveled with one for years."

So how does she fit all her stylish outfits into one small carry-on? She sticks to lightweight items and selects multiple garments that go well together. The travel writer told the magazine that she often starts with a color scheme and includes versatile neutrals in her Italy capsule wardrobe. She may also choose a scarf to center her outfits around, since scarves are a staple item in Italian style. "Beyond that, I also bring jewelry with me because I'm in Italy a lot and here you should accessorize," she noted.

Murdoch demonstrated just how much she fits in her backpack in a YouTube video following a three-week trip to Sicily. She brought along three pairs of shoes, four pairs of pants, a scarf, a lightly padded jacket, four tank tops, two short-sleeved tops, a few long-sleeved tops, a cardigan, a sheer knitted sweater, two dresses, and undergarments.

Other ways to fit in with the locals in Italy

Your perfectly layered outfit might fool the locals into thinking you're from Italy, but some common mistakes can instantly give away your tourist status. And while it's okay to be an outsider, following the local way of life can enrich your travel experience and help you connect more deeply with authentic Italian culture.

One way to take after the locals, besides dressing like them, is to sip on coffee the way they do. Order a cappuccino in the morning, but in the afternoon or following dinner, stick with an espresso instead. Speaking of edible treats, enjoy an ​​aperitivo — typically a drink and snack — in the early evening. Then, to avoid eating like a tourist in Italy, wait until about 8:30 or later to eat dinner.

Finally, be open to a more relaxed pace while exploring the country. Italy is known for being a slow, easygoing destination, and if you're not from there, you might be surprised at how things work. Follow the locals' lead and take your time, whether you're eating a meal or strolling around the city. Linger at a few spots rather than packing your itinerary with a dozen. And don't be frustrated when the shops close up for the afternoon siesta. From fashion to food rituals, getting to know the local norms is part of the fun of traveling to Italy.