I’ve been to Italy a few times now, the first with an excessively small case (making bringing back gifts a bit tricky) and the second with an excessively large one (I was au pairing for five weeks and uncertain about the washing facilities). My (almost) most recent trip involved a lot of travelling from place to place, via train, coach, bus and boat, as well as walking with the thing when we were (frequently) lost, and my small wheeled suitcase (with a large-ish sidebag) turned out the most useful. The sidebag went over my shoulder (for those scared of tourist-focused pick-pocketing) and given our city-style retreat it was so much easier dragging the rest of my things on wheels. My suitcase was small, however, and despite sitting on it to shut it I still had to pack carefully. Following this trip, I think I have a list of definites I would bring (in an effort to stream-line packing).
My first tip would be an internety-device thing. By this I mean my smart phone which, a little late to the game, I got right before heading off to Italy. For those anti-smart phone some kind of light and easily portable access to the internet (ipod touch, a tablet) is really useful for getting around. My phone was also useful for Google locate, however this was not always reliable which brings me to tip two.
Paper maps (or laminate, you do you). Way back the technology-scale now, but I really would recommend bringing at least one, clear to read city map. Phones can run out of charge, no matter how many maps you’ve print-screened, and when you’re lost nothing beats the real thing – especially when getting directions from a lovely helpful person. If you’ve ever tried to have someone show you directions on a small phone screen that keeps auto-rotating, you will understand.
A seriously comfy pair of sandals. Personally, I like a chunky soled shoe. It’s good protection against the hot or cobbled pavements. Any good break will involve a lot of walking, and a comfortable shoe (which goes far better with shorts and vest than any flimsy shoes anyway) will really help. Sandals, for me, were better than boots or trainers as they helped keep me cool. Who wants socks in that weather? Whatever doesn’t give you blisters, the comfiest on your feet and a lighter pair in your suitcase if needed.
Light, and not too much, clothing. A few vests, light trousers or shorts will be great for getting around and won’t take up much room. If you need to, you’ll be able to find a way to wash things. If you’re going in summer (or really if you’re going any time) a couple of light scarves, shawls or big white shirts to cover the shoulders is a real must have. This also doubles in handiness if you want to go inside any religious buildings, where they prefer not too much skin on show (for everybody).
A book. I’m a book-worm, this is on my list. A couple was enough for a week, especially when I had people to swap with. For my five weeks, I brought my Kobo which is stocked with all the freebies.
Tights. Really this should be with the above clothes section, but these are very useful to me so they get their own. If I was uncertain over the weather, or travelling from (cold) England to (hot) Italy this was a warming addition to my usual shorts and vest which did not add much to my suitcase – compared to a pair of jeans at least.
SUN CREAM. Obviously. Plus bug spray. And, if you have room in your case, some soothing moisturiser or after-sun for when things inevitably go wrong. I’ve known people to keep moisturiser in the fridge for sun burn, apparently it is soothing.
A plastic knife. I have not brought this yet, but will try and remember next time. Our classic meal was bread, pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella from the supermarket and we ended up buying a giant pack of plastic knives after having to struggle the day before. I’ve specified plastic as I think this should be fine for checked in luggage in airports, but I’d check. If you’re worried you can do what we did and try and find plastic cutlery there.
Obviously all the chargers and things you need, but as an extra I’d suggest an external battery for your phone. Useful on days where everything seems to be going wrong.
If you’re hostelling like we were – a towel (good for the beach too) but no fluffy luxury. Thin and scrunchable is what you need here. A friend also brought a lock, which I had not thought of. Very useful as the place provided lockers, but no locks. Also on this lack of extras (such as soap) some hygiene gel can’t hurt…
I realise these are pretty obvious ones, but when you’re struggling to pack frugally forgetting an essential item is quite easy so I hope these suggestions (or reminders) may help. Have you got your toothbrush? Good. You’re good to go.