What Not to Wear in Rome as a Tourist

8 Jun

Affectionately subtitled: Super Sexy Tourist Attire


So, fate had it that I had to run a quick errand near the Colosseum metro stop the other morning. While waiting for my friend to arrive so I could drop off some things I needed to give him, I sat down in the small circular piazza above the metro stop, and realized I had placed myself at exactly ground zero for a super-mega tour group staging point. Like you know when a cruise unleashes like 200 people and they all divide into color-coded stickered groups of 20? Hashtag #scary. And yet, at the same time, a super fun sort of sociological anthropological experiment in tourist observation. My ethnographic notes for you are thus:

1. Americans love to ask each other “Where are you from?” It ties us together. I witnessed the most brilliant exchange. Two twenty-something young married couples start off chit-chatting, and, after the famous “Where are you from?” end up not only discovering that they live like the next town over from each other, but that they have friends who went to the same high school, and that they’re all four flying back on the same flight. Oh, love.

2. Two is the photo above. Why black short socks with loafers and shorts? I don’t know. I just cannot get on board with this look.

3. Waiting for a friend in front of the Colosseum is fabulous, no matter how many years you live in this city. It just simply never gets old. Never.

My title is a bit misleading because I don’t really have any exciting content for tourists looking for fashion tips. I’ve lived in Rome for too long and I’m far too cynical for that.

But, well, now I’m feeling a bit guilty, see, so, ok, fine. Here you go. My top PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DO THIS because it’s just basically super gag-worthy for those of us who live here (oh now, calm down, you don’t need to go into the comments and berate me for being snobby and opinionated. You won’t be telling me anything I don’t already know, so save your typing for comments on Perez Hilton’s blog instead.)

1. These:

No, seriously. 20-something college girls walk around the city in these, and for the life of me, at the risk of sounding like an old, prudish granny, I ask myself: what is the appropriate environment for wearing these shorts? Because I think they are pajamas but I could be mistaken. I’m sure they’re entirely appropriate attire on college campuses across the US. But frankly in front of a centuries-old church, they just look … [adjective]. See how fun I am on my blog? I let you play Mad Libs!

2. These:


Hey, come in really close, I want to tell you a secret. Do you know what Italians call American kids they see walking around the Eternal City in $2 Old Navy plastic and foam flip flops? They call them “piedi neri,” black feet. Want to know why? Because, as I’m sure you’ve discovered if you’ve ever walked around the Eternal City in flip flops, it takes but a minute for the bottoms of your feet (and probably the tops, too) to become totally and completely black. It’s the truth. This city is dirty and you should not be walking around it in shower shoes. Just saying.

Oh, and BTW, attenzione Italian language enthusiasts: a reader of mine going by the name of Emanuele who lives in Boston wrote a variation on my 51 Things I’ve Learned in Italy and wrote it in Italian, Le 70 Cose Che Noi Italiani Abbiamo Imparato in USA…because I guess he had to show me up and add like, twenty extras. And I’ll have you note that right there, hanging out at number twenty-three, is this: “23 – I sandali infradito, le cosiddette Flip-Flop, sono il culto pop di ogni donna americana al pari degli zoccoli di legno per le casalinghe italiane.” Which translates exactly to: “Flip flops are the cult classic shoes of every American woman, the equivalent of the wooden clogs for Italian housewives.” Whaa? Wooden clogs? What are these of which you speak? Maybe he’s talking about the Dr. Scholl’s they sell in like every single Italian pharmacy. How weird is that? Oh and just another lil’ BTW for y’all: don’t screw up saying zoccoli by accidentally saying zoccole. Just—don’t. Why? Because when you put that into Google Translator, and Google Translator gives you “hoes,” I can assure you that Google Translator is not referring to a garden implement. That is all.

3. This:


Actually has nothing to do with anything. Hell, “touristes” isn’t even Italian, for the love of God! What kind of blog is this, anyways? I just thought it was awesome that someone found the need for a sign forbidding tourists to walk around in a jock strap. Good times. Kind of reminds me of this.

Oh, people. This is what I’m reduced to, in lieu of a hot date on a Saturday night. I tell you what. Taking one for the team. You can thank me later.

Oh yeah. One last one. Call it 3a. This:


Trust me: puke and broken glass is not a good look on you.


24 Responses to “What Not to Wear in Rome as a Tourist”

  1. lisa June 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Molto buffo e assolutamente LA verita”!

  2. mcosdon June 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Hi from Naples!

    I refuse to believe Mr. Dark Socks is an American. Those calf muscles are a dead-giveaway for German. 😉


  3. Annika Blyckertz June 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Awesome timing as I’m starting to plan what to pack for our 3 upcoming weeks in Italy. I thought of bringing jock straps for my men but now I can scratch that off my list along with booty shorts and vomit. Thanks!

  4. onlyinmaine June 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    I’m so beyond horrified that Piazza Trilussa would EVER look like that….

  5. June 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Pretty bad that we have gotten so bad that pajamas are seen in public more and more in the USA. I saw two women walking past the reception area at my local hospital in pajamas the other day. The receptionist said pajamas are bad enough, but those two, like so many others these days, didn’t even under garments on.

  6. Filottete Manfredi June 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    Guarda le coincidenze. Stavo giusto scrivendo un articolo sugli infradito che l’americana media ama. Caschi al momento giusto. Lo metto fra una settimana.

  7. Catherine June 9, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    The last photo is awful! How often dyou see this I wonder.

    Oh and I am a casalinga who loves her Doctor Scholls!

  8. triciatierney June 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Mortifying! We Americans really do lack style.

  9. Brittany June 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    College girls wear pink stuff and yoga pants all the time. It is ridiculous. Dress for success, ladies!

  10. ilovelucca June 10, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    ha ha…Just as well I am a kiwi then:) Nind you, our shorts and singlets aren’t much better BUT i do think we behave ourselves clothes wise overseas but carry on binge drinking wise world wide though…

  11. ilovelucca June 10, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Reblogged this on Run Tonto Run…… and commented:
    bit of a laugh from a blog I follow!! Glad i am a kiwi!~! ha ha…even we can pick out the yanks!!

  12. D78 June 10, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    A lot of Americans will ask me before visiting “What should I pack? I don’t want to look like a tourist.” I wish I could reply “no matter what, you just will anyway”, but my main consigli are no flip flops, big white ‘merikun sneakers, to bring cardigans or pretty scarves (for women) to cover shoulders and for cooler nights, neutral colors, and that’s about it. One source of comfort is I have found almost ALL tourists seem to dress alike, or, at least poorly overall. The Tedeschi with the white socks and birkenstocks and sunhats , the British girls with their unfortunate brightly colored minidresses and miniskirts looking like typical zoccole on Ladies Day at Anfield (google it), the Japanese in their sporty khakis and nifty visors, and even the French is their t-shirts, sporty shorts and terrible sneakers, with huge backpacks.

  13. Un'americana a Roma June 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    It’s true, isn’t it though? I mean we all come from our respective home cultures and stereotypes all come from a grain of truth. Oh well. So true about looking like a tourist though. There’s really no way to avoid it. So, I guess embrace it and wear what’s comfortable, but to blend in, yes, the no flip flops rule is kind of a baseline. And yes, the sneakers… Italians always laugh and tell me “we only wear those shoes when we go to the gym” ha … it’s true. Shall we talk about Hogans? High heeled sneakers? Yikes.

  14. Un'americana a Roma June 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Yes, binge drinking is a huge problem here with American college students as well. Of course, the local bar owners do nothing to discourage it, especially when they offer 15 shots for €15 and the like, and the pub crawls that have ended in tragic consequences for some. However I’ve never quite seen anything like the British in Faliraki on Rhodes. The aftermath of driving through there in the early morning is truly monumentally debaucherous and gross.

  15. D78 June 16, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    The sad thing is, I think I have become so used to seeing those huge Hogans, that last year shopping back in the States, I saw a pair of wedge sneakers in black (I forget the brand) and thought “oh, those are kind of cute.” What?!?? lol. oioioi!

  16. Brandi June 23, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I just found your blog and obsesssssed! Can we be friends? 🙂 I recently moved to Florence with my hubs and I can so relate to this post. Although I am from LA I am so ashamed of what some Americans wear out in public here. Oy!!!!

  17. Arlene Gibbs Décor July 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    So sad I missed this post. You know how I feel about flip flops!!!

  18. Windy Wilson January 3, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    I agree, but I thought Germans also wore sandals to climb in the alps. All three of the people in the background do not have what looks like American calves/ankles to me, and I live in Los Angeles.

  19. Shelley Ruelle January 3, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    Trust me, they’re American. I was sitting there and heard them talking.

  20. Stan February 14, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    When we travel to Italy, or anywhere, we dress neatly and conservatively. And, no sneakers or baseball caps, etc. And, we are polite…and while not fluent, we speak la lingua. And we are not culoni. Still…people know siamo americani….and assume we don’t understand what they are saying. Sometimes that’s pretty interesting and you should see the shock come over faces when we reply to their comments. Anyway…yes…by and large, American tourists are a visual embarrassment. Heck, they’re an embarrassment here in the US. Actually one could say that for lots of people. I’ve seen Italians in Italy that are an embarrassment to their society.

  21. flips flops be damn February 15, 2014 at 12:47 am #

    Flip flops or thongs as they call these ugly footwear here in Australia is part of the national costume. People wear them everywhere including into restaurants, out on the town in the evenings and to parties. They are the very first things packed whenever an Aussie travels abroad.

  22. Anto January 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Let’s see, loafers and shorts are ok to me and even commonly used lately, about the black socks, they seem also ok or at least passable, though maybe with better fitted shorts than these. White socks would be much worse with such shoes, so I’d propose maybe dark blue or a brown shade that at least blend with loafers, not necessarily match.
    Yes they are ankle length, unlike the white socks worn by those with tennis shoes, but with tennis shoes they blend near the instep shape, having loafers a low cut and square instep, I think it looks better if the socks reach at least the anklebone, but I agree, never too higher than that.
    At the end I simply avoid shoes when in shorts and wear sandals because I think it looks better and more “appropriate”, but also to avoid the whole sock issue :).

  23. beckchris January 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    Excellent post – especially the asides! We’ll be going in late October (first and – sadly – possibly only time in Rome), and spending a fair amount of time in the Vatican (trip sponsored by Catholic company). I was planning on bringing dark full-length khakis and blue jeans, comfortable dark loafers/walking shoes, dark long-sleeved collared cotton dress shirts and dark short-sleeved cotton polo shirts. I wasn’t planning on wearing t-shirts, shorts, sneakers, white socks or baseball caps in public and may bring a sports jacket for dinner and/or Papal Mass. I don’t really have time to learn Italian, but I’m going to try to memorize lots of useful phrases. (I do know a little Latin from high school but I understand it is not much used these days.) Do you think this will help me avoid the scorn of the locals or the wary eye of the pickpocket or is it hopeless? (I’m thinking the constant photographing may give us away.)


  1. Flip Flops, il verbo quotidiano americano. Pro e Contro gli infradito ovunque. | Uno Spremiacume "under the Boston Sun" - June 23, 2013

    […] Anche recentemente su questo blog, un commentatore si è infervorito proprio riguardo l’argomento degli infradito sul post delle 70 cose che noi italiani abbiamo imparato in USA, in risposta alle 50 cose dell’amica americana a roma. Lo ha ripreso ancora Shelley, appunto da Roma, dove mi cita sui consigli di cosa non indossare da turista durante le vacanze nelle città italiane. […]

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