How to Dress Like a Local in Rome
Hannah, Rome, Spring 2017
April 20, 2017

After living in Rome for three months, I realized Italian women always look put together. Even on quick runs to the nearby grocery store, Italians always look their best. The “athleisure” trend that we all love in the US – leggings, tennis shoes, and athletic tops or t-shirts – has not made its way to Italy. Here are some ways to dress like a local in Rome:

1. When in doubt, wear black. Whereas some people in the U.S. might think that all-black outfit is just for a funeral, Italians think it is so chic.

Black or gray coats are great for winter because they match with everything

2. Dress for the season, not for the weather. You may realize that it is 65 degrees fahrenheit in February, but you would not be able to tell by looking at all the locals. They wear their big puffer coats until the end of March, when spring officially starts.

Italians love cashmere so it’s fun to shop for sweaters like this one in Rome

3. Find the perfect balance of cute, yet comfortable shoes. While athletic-looking tennis shoes may not make you look like a local, some stylish ones like Adidas or Nike street shoes are just fine! The cobblestones are very rough on your feet, and I am still amazed by all the locals wearing heels and walking through town without staring at their next step the entire time.

These cobblestones cover most of the ground in Rome, making it hard to walk in heels

4. Do not go outside with your hair still wet. Plan ahead so you do not have to run down the street to class with your hair still wet from the shower. Many Italians think you will catch a cold by going outside with wet hair, so you will never see a local who has not dried theirs before going out in public.

5. Put on a scarf! Another weird Italian folktale is that you will get sick from a gust of wind on your neck. In winter, almost all the locals wear thick scarves with any outfit. In the spring, they trade them out for lighter versions. When it was really cold outside, shop-owners used to ask me where my scarf was when I walked in the store.

6. Fur and leather are everywhere. In the winter, almost every Italian woman is wearing fur, whether it be in a fur coat or just accents like a pom-pom on a hat or fur cuffs on their coat. And Italians love their real Italian leather. Shop around for a leather purse, belt, or shoes while in Rome to really look like a local.

It was warm when this photo was taken but everyone around was still in winter coats

Above all, look confident! One thing I have noticed is that Italian women always walk with an air of confidence. It took me two months for someone to ask me directions thinking I was a local. It takes a little effort to blend in, but it is worth it to get a sense of what living in Rome really feels like.

– Hannah is a spring 2017 SAI Rome student from Baylor University.

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About SAI

SAI Programs is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.