Tourists Look 'Silly' Wearing This Article Of Clothing In Italy, Per Rick Steves' Tour Guide

As you get ready to take that dream vacation to Italy, you may be considering different ways to prepare for your trip. Your itinerary is planned, and you've made the reservations to visit your favorite museums. You have learned a few Italian words and phrases to help you converse with the locals, immerse yourself in the culture, and enjoy the Italian experience. You have even studied up on Rick Steves' advice about how to avoid eating like a tourist in Italy. But what about dressing like a tourist? Are you filling your luggage with outfits or accessories that are a dead giveaway that you're from out of town? As it turns out, one particular piece of clothing will tell every local that you're not a real Italian: a pair of shorts. Cameron Hewitt, co-author with travel expert Rick Steves and one of his organization's tour guides, discusses why this simple piece of clothing will mark you as a tourist immediately.

On his blog on Rick Steves' Europe, Hewitt lays out some advice to help travelers pack for a trip to Europe, particularly if you happen to be an "unfashionable male." He explains that he happily places himself in this category, by the way, for one reason in particular. "Being a snappy dresser can be a hazard for travelers who want to pack light," Hewitt sagely admits. However, he advises any visitor to think twice before throwing a pair of shorts into a suitcase.

Italy represents classic style

Italians have an innate fashion sensibility that is part of their heritage and culture. Sicilian designer Fausto Puglisi tells BBC Culture why Italian fashion is so sought after and admired around the world. "Italian craftsmanship is totally unmatchable. And in Italy it is something that is extremely connected to society," he says. It's this sense of pride in looking fashionable that dissuades most Italians from wearing shorts, even in the hottest months of the summer, Hewitt explains on his blog. "There are some cultures — for example, Italy, especially in the cities — where grown men who wear shorts look silly," he says. "It's not 'offensive' or 'insensitive,' exactly. Just... a little strange." Hewitt points out that the reason for this opinion is that shorts are often associated with children's attire or maybe a trip to the beach.

Many establishments in Italy have dress codes, and these formalities can be strictly enforced. In fact, the mayor of Viareggio, on the Tuscany coast, was once refused service and asked to leave a restaurant simply because he'd shown up for dinner in shorts, per BBC. Mayor Del Ghingaro had unknowingly violated the dress code that required men to wear long trousers after 7 p.m., so he and his companions were forced to enjoy dinner elsewhere. Yet it's not only restaurants that may require a more formal attire. Hewitt cautions, "In some Catholic countries — Spain and Italy in particular — some churches deny entry to men who are wearing shorts."

Choose between fashion and comfort

Hewitt emphasizes that it's important to check dress code requirements on any stops on your itinerary. However, he also defends a traveler's right to wear shorts in other situations, even if it makes you look like a tourist. He explains how he makes his decision. "On the shorts issue, the question is, what's more important to you: being comfortable or not looking silly? This is a sliding scale, which is calibrated against the current temperature." If he's traveling in Italy during the summer and the sun is shining, the decision is easy. "If it's very hot, I'll wear shorts even in places where it's very silly," Hewitt declares.

He says that a tourist wearing shorts in Italy might receive a similar reaction to a European tourist who visits America. "For comparison, think about those breezy, shin-high capri pants that men wear proudly in many northern European countries. "If you saw a guy in the USA walking around wearing those, you wouldn't think, 'Wow, what a FREAK!' or 'Well, I never! How RUDE!'" he jokes. Instead, Hewitt believes that most people wouldn't give it much thought. "At the end of the day, it's all pretty harmless. I find most Europeans are pretty live-and-let-live," he claims. So the choice is yours of whether you decide to let fashion rule over comfort. The perfect solution, of course, is simply to pack your shorts and head to a hidden Italian beach, especially one that offers a secluded, coastal escape.