What to Pack: Rome, part 2

What to Pack: Rome, part 2

I am not sure how useful this will be, given that there are a lot of other packing lists out there and really packing is an activity of individual choice (or art form), but I thought I should tell you what I think you should do. Of course, again, this list won’t cover everything – I’m not going to tell you to bring this or that or you MUST bring whatever, just some pieces and explain why.

Before I start, I have to tell you a little about Italian – and Roman – fashion. They are big on this idea of ‘bella figura’, which literally means ‘beautiful face’ but really refers to this whole sense of presentability. Italians wouldn’t go outside with wet hair from their shower, or wear flip flops in public, or even let themselves cry where strangers can see them. This helps the Roman public transportation system be less full of strange people and odd encounters like you might find on Chicago’s L system, but Americans are used to people’s eyes sliding over them like oil on water. Not so here. Italians love to stare, and aren’t shy about it at all. So if you leave campus in a Hawaiian shirt, flip flops, and sport shorts, you are going to get some weird looks. And you might get that on campus too, since plenty of Italians work on campus, and even more students pick up on Italian fashion propriety during their time here.

Also, they love dressing for the season, not the weather. Romans broke out their fall jackets and stylish leather boots as soon as October hit, despite that it was still quite warm and sunny like summer. They just dealt with it. Meanwhile the JFRC students were still walking around in shorts and tank tops. So if you want to not blend in with a crowd of tourists, don’t only pack warm weather things.

So, let’s also be real. You’re probably going to travel on the weekends. You might just stay in Italy. You might be jetsetting off to every Scandinavian country every weekend. Either way, it will be cold. You will be cold. Bring warm jackets or sweaters. Bring long pants. Italy has part of the Alps, you know. And the longer you put off that Berlin trip, the more you forget that Berlin is more or less at the same latitude as Minnesota. It will probably snow.

She’s warm!

My advice for you, in list form. Mind, I have friends here with only two pairs of shoes and friends with eleven. It’s up to you.

First, shoes. Don’t bother bringing heels, unless they are wedges. Cobblestones, my dudes. Bring autumn boots that are warm, and sandals that don’t take up a lot of space. Make sure every pair of shoes you own are very comfortable to walk in.

I also suggest flip flops or slip-on comfortable shoes for the hallways and the IC late at night. Bring a pair of shoes that go with everything and look just a little bit nicer for those fancier dinners or when you want to feel good.

Second, pants. This was a really big dilemma for me, okay? In the end, I just brought one of everything. One pair of dark jeans, one pair of light jeans, one pair of capris, one pair of black pants, one pair of shorts. One maxi skirt, for people who wear skirts, one set of leggings, for people who wear leggings, and one pair of khakis. That way, I am ready for anything but also must shake up my wardrobe more than I’m used to. Usually I just wear jeans all the time, but a pair of black pants instantly make an outfit a little nicer for those judging Italian nonnas on the bus! I also brought two pairs of workout pants, one pair of workout shorts, and one pair of warm pajama pants. The shorts doubled as my pajamas during the really hot nights. They still do when I can’t be bothered to do my laundry promptly. It’s two euros for a load!

Wow! Layers! And not heels!

Third, tops. I’m afraid my experience as a woman will shine through here because I don’t really have any advice for guys or people who dress however they want (although if you dress not according to fashion or gender norms, I’m assuming you probably have a better sense of your own fashion than anything I can help you with here, except maybe temperature advice). For guys, most people here at the JFRC dress a little nicer than they might at home – I’m talking button-downs, sweater vests, sports jackets sometimes, sweaters, polos. T-shirts of course, but less frequent. For ladies, I’m going to say: bring what looks nice and what you like, but bring pieces that can be layered with jackets or cardigans and that can go with two or more pants. Patterns are nice but generally serve as accents here rather than complete looks. If every top – or most of them – can be worn in chillier weather and in warmer, and is not very summer or very winter, you should be good. Keep in mind that colors get darker as the days do too. By now, everyone is in dark shades of what they were wearing light and bright just three months ago, if that affects your choice of jacket or shell.

This same sort of ‘can go with multiple things’ applies to jewelry or accessories. They take up a lot of room for being things you can find here or on your travels as precious and valuable souvenirs. I know I came with two scarves, but here I am having bought three more, and I only wear my new ones. What did I need the first two for, then?

Well, I hope this helps. As always, if you have any questions, just let me know!

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