What to wear to Rome this summer: 3 winning combos to beat the heat and get you into churches


Pants, Tank, Scarf

OK, remember how I said that Romans are still bundled up in spring?  Forget everything I said.  Starting around May 1, everyone in Rome decided to acknowledge that temps are in the 80s and switched wardrobes, seemingly overnight.  I see legs!  Arms!  Sometimes much more.  The outfits are definitely interesting.  I’ll have to try to capture some street style for you.

I’m glad for the switch.  It has been over 90 the past few days, and it is only May.  I’m a little leery of this summer.  Because we arrived at the end of August, we did not get the full Roman summer experience.

All of this to be said, if you are coming to Rome in the summer, as many tourists do, expect to sweat.  It can be pleasant in the shade with a breeze, but prolonged exposure in the direct sunlight is brutal.

Unfortunately, you can’t just pull out your easy summer dresses and call it day.  Because CHURCHES.  Many churches, most notably St. Peter’s, have a knees and shoulders must be covered dress code.  Some churches don’t have it.  Some churches don’t enforce it.  But you don’t want to wait in line for an hour only to be turned away.

Here are three combos that will keep you comfortable in the sun and get you in wherever you want to go.  These outfits also pass the Rome-test.  I’ve seen versions of all of these on locals.  Stick with these, and you won’t have to worry about sticking out as a tourist.

Option 1:  Easy top + Lightweight Crazy Pants + Breezy Scarf

This outfit is my go to, and I’m not even worried about church access 99% of the time.  It is just SO comfortable.  The fun pants make me feel like I tried, but it feels like I’m walking around in my pajamas.

Not only do they feel like an actual outfit, but they are high on function.  Want to climb on a bike in Borghese?  No problem.  Snagging a Vespa pic?  No awkward shifting needed.  Forgot to shave your legs because you have ALL the sightseeing to do?  No sweat.

In theory, the pants could also provide some protection from the punishing Mediterranean sun and those annoying mosquitoes that won’t take a hint.

Also, I think crazy pants also look good with most jackets.  Denim, leather, military, you name it.  Many cardigans would work as well.  Just in case you need a little more warmth at night when your trusty scarf isn’t cutting it.

Speaking of scarves, if you go for a tank option, the scarf is key.  As you approach the church, drape it around, and bare shoulders no more!  After many years of not knowing what to do with scarves, I am now fully obsessed.  Besides being a go to nursing cover, they are like washable necklaces!  Perfect for #kidlife.  Also, if you pack fewer clothes, they can help you spice up your wardrobe.  If I don’t wear different shirts in my normal life, you’d better believe I’m taking a minimalist approach to vacation packing.  Seriously, though, who cares what thousands of strangers you’ll never see again think?

Rome is a great place to stock up on scarves, as well.  I see them all over the streets for about three euro.  Functional souvenir?  Now you’re speaking my language.

When selecting your pants, go for a lightweight, breathable fabric.  Pass on the polyester.  I also steer clear of linen, but that is just because I don’t iron anything ever.

For style, I prefer the tapered leg, but you have about a bazillion options.  Wide leg, harem, palazzo, gaucho, you name it.

If you don’t like colorful patterns, you can get the same comfiness with a solid pant.  BUT if you ever felt like getting a little crazy in the pants department (name of Amy’s sex tape), this is a good town to try it.  Seriously, I’ve seen drop-crotch harem paisley pants walking down the street.  Just own it, and you can pants however you like.  Yeah.

Old Navy has TONS of crazy pant options. A cheap way to test drive the style.

A wider leg option. Forever21 also has tons of pants. Another cheap way to dip your toe into the crazy pants waters.

Uh. Well, then.  I would really like to see a conversation at the Vatican about these.

Ooo, I want these. I love that joggers are having a moment. What are things I NEVER thought I’d say even two years ago.

Option 2:  Maxi Dress or Skirt + Scarf

I don’t really do the maxi because, while I have many blessings, the gift of height is not one of them.  Also, I’ve gotten so lazy that I can’t handle any dress that requires a special bra.  So many of the cute dresses have spaghetti straps or some such tomfoolery.

But if you are into the maxi, this would be a great option for Rome.  I’d look for one with side slits, possibly two for movement and breeziness.  And remember!  If you don’t have sleeves, don’t forget your scarf.

This one just looks so cool and breezy to me. Side slits FTW!

Side slits for breeze, and sleeves mean you don’t even need a scarf. I think this would be super cute with sporty sneaks. Sneakers and dresses are a thing now. The internet told me, and it never lies.

Breaking my regular-bra-only rule, but I’ve never met a stripe I didn’t like.

Option 3:  Breathable Leggings + Tunic or Blousy Top

This option is also not at the top of my list, but I promise I see locals rocking it on the reg.  On the one hand, there is high opportunity for crazy pants.  On the other hand, fabric suctioned to my body does not sound cool and breezy.  BUT, if you get athletic wear, those pants are supposed to breathe, right?

My other issue with blousy tops is that so many are sheer, which would make me reach for another layer, which sort of defeats the purpose.  But, again, this is Rome.  I have seen completely sheer shirts, lace shirts, crochet shirts, and shirts with holes cut to the waist; all worn with regular bras.  (I have also seen many women exercising in regular bras, but this is another topic for another day.)  Also, bum coverage should not be a concern.  Do it if you are more comfortable, but I promise you won’t stick out.

Pretty! I love a good shirt mullet.

Bad ass.

I could see a lightweight button-up being perfect on its own or as your extra layer.

When doing crazy pants, go big or go home, I always say.

Clicking the pics should take you to the products.  Nothing affiliated; these are just things that caught my eye.  Old Navy and Nordstrom are both having sales.  (Although isn’t Old Navy always having a sale?)

So there you have it.  My formula:  easy top + crazy pants (or skirt) + scarf.  Everything you need for your upcoming trip to Rome.

But Melissa!  What about shoes???  You’ve forgotten the most important part!

I agree.  Shoes can make or break your travel day.  That’s why I’ll cover shoes soon in their own post.  [UPDATE: Shoes HERE.]  (And maybe dude style if I’m feeling ambitious.)  Till then, may the crazy pants be with you!

Have you embraced the crazy pants?  What’s your usual warm weather travel wardrobe?

That time we *almost* went to mass at St. Peter’s and *almost* saw the Pope

We did it!  We publicly transited!  I actually have two tram trips under my belt now, but this is a post about our first.  (No bus or metro yet.)  After we purchased our tickets, I went with a “go big or go home” approach and suggested to James that we go to church.  At St. Peter’s.  After consulting the tram schedule, this was not as crazy as it originally sounded.  We could pick up a tram  a few blocks from our house that would take us right there.  After much less cajoling than expected, James was convinced.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Hey, lady with the two small kids – you know St. Peter’s is pretty crowded, right?  ESPECIALLY on a Sunday.  And that is fair.  Being a Sunday morning did actually help us on the public transit front though.  Fewer cars on the road meant our travel time was faster.  It definitely cut against us because I forgot it was the last Sunday of the month, which means museums are free and therefore crowded.  We decided to go for it, taking the attitude that it’s not that far away.  If we want to see more, we’ll go back.

T – 60 minutes to mass

After consulting mass times, we decided to aim for the 10:30 am.  The tram rolled up after waiting just a few minutes.  The tram wasn’t packed, but people were leaping out of their seats to make room for the kiddos.  (This happened again the next day.)  This was nice and comforting for when I venture out with the kids on my own.  In DC I could usually get a seat, but not always, and people weren’t falling over themselves to make room.

Henry loved everything.  He loved looking out the window.  He loved holding onto the bar.  It was a hit.  (Mac slept through most of the ride.)

11.4_Vatican 1

Once we got there, we remembered about the free-museums-last-Sunday, but we weren’t trying to go into the museum–just St. Peter’s.  So we set off for the Square.  How bad could it be?

T – 30 minutes to mass

11.4_Vatican 7

It was pretty packed.  The line snaked all the way around the square.  I decided to wait in it for a bit.  It was a gorgeous day.

While Mac and I waited in line, Henry treated St. Peter’s Square like his own personal playground.  I love that.  Even though he won’t remember this, I’m looking forward to telling him, “Hey kid, we used to live in Rome, and you ran around the Vatican like it was your own personal playground.”

11.4_Vatican 6

James got to chase Henry around.  He said Henry got a lot of “aww” looks and some “who does this child belong to” looks.  At one point I saw a woman go up to Henry, but I figured James is right there, everything must be fine.  Apparently, she came up and said Henry was so beautiful she wanted to kiss him.  And then actually kissed him.

11.4_Vatican 8

T + 10 minutes to mass

The line took about 35 minutes.  We went through metal detectors.  We made it!

11.4_Vatican 3

Inside, it was very packed.  We were about ten minutes late to mass, but that’s practically on time around here.  A few minutes after we arrived, however, they started announcing communion instructions.  “Either that is the fasted mass ever or we messed up the times,” I told James.  It seems we messed up the times.  We were roped off from the legit worshipers who were more in the know on mass schedules, but we decided to look around where we could.

11.4_Vatican 5 11.4_Vatican 4

T + 30 minutes to mass

So we left sans mass.  We found a bathroom, but no changing tables.  (#stpeterssquare #placesmysonsjunkhasbeen)

T + 55 minutes to mass

At this point, we could probably leave and get home in time for lunch and actual naps without any serious meltdowns.  But James realized the Pope would be addressing the crowd at noon.  That meant if we could make it another half hour, we could be a part of that crowd.  They were no longer letting people into the church, and we realized that the exit point was a pretty great spot to see, should we want to wait.  The weather was on our side.  Should we go for it?

11.4_Vatican 2

I looked at the gathering crowd.  Hundreds.  Thousands.  I’m bad at estimating, but it was a lot of people.  After dithering for a few more minutes, I decided that waiting half an hour could be tolerable, but exiting when everyone else was would not be.  So we bailed.

Instead of calling the trip a failure, I’m calling it a win.  We successfully navigated public transportation.  Even if we didn’t mass, we got to see inside St. Peter’s.  Even if we didn’t see the Pope, we know a good strategy for viewing next time.  And that’s the beauty of living here.  We can come back whenever we want.

I’ve talked to Henry some about that time he went to the biggest church in the whole world.  “You know, St. Peter’s.”  Henry is all, “Mr. MacGregor’s garden.”  What, kid?  Oh, right, Peter Rabbit.  Different Peter, but at least something is rubbing off.