When I started packing for our trip to Italy and France, I googled the weather obsessively almost every day in the preceding week. It’s entirely impossible to imagine what the weather could be like a hemisphere away, when you are sleeping under a single sheet in a 30 degree Johannesburg, praying for rain.
April in Milan. Spring, yes, but does that mean it’s warm? Surely I should pack my boots? I pick up a cute short sleeve top, then add a matching cardigan and shoes, then a jacket, thinking gosh, will that be too much stuff? I can’t possibly do that for every outfit!
In desperation, I google “what to wear in Europe in April”. I form a picture that it’s generally chilly, overcast and raining, but with patches of sun. Not helpful. The most recent post is from 2014 and mentions “sensible walking shoes for cobbled streets” which appalls my inner fashionista. Even worse, it recommends a “rain jacket”, which conjures up images of nasty golf wear or worse, sailing oil skins. Not going to happen. Maybe I can rely on an umbrella?
My husband shrugs. If it’s cold he’s packing jeans, T’s, some long sleeve shirts and closed lace up shoes. If it’s warm, he’s wearing the same thing. He may or may not roll up the sleeves. He’s basically sorted whether we go to London or Lagos.
Not so easy for us girls. An outfit can be completely destroyed by wearing a loafer instead of a ballet flat. Even a casual blazer says ‘upgrade me to business class’ in a way that a puffer never can. My trusty black pants are completely unplayable with flat shoes. They literally trail on the ground without heels.
Living in a city where you can drive everywhere and park under cover means you simply don’t own certain types of clothing. Like sensible shoes.
Silver or metallic sneakers are also big. Practical but seriously chic and good for when you need to lift your game a tad.
So what clothes do you pack for Spring in Europe? How can you look perfect whether walking the streets of Milan, or sipping aperitivo on the banks of Lake Como? Of course it does depend on what you will be doing. Our plan which was mainly about sight-seeing, photography and eating great local food. We stayed in some hotels and with friends, but mostly used AirBnB accommodation. We did loads of walking around cities and medieval villages. Temperatures ranged between 5 and 25.
We found the weather to be warm and sunny, although instantly cold in the shade and early mornings. Locals are dying for summer after a long winter and they need little persuasion to lose the sleeves and boots.
Here’s my list for a casual 3 weeks, assuming you can do some laundry once a week.
2 pairs of fitted jeans in different shades of blue. They must be stretch (you don’t want a saggy bum after only one wearing)
1 black trousers/pants – can be solid black stretch denim (choose a cigarette leg that can be worn with flats)
1 other fitted trousers in a different colour or pattern, could be Capri length.
5 short sleeve T-shirts or tops that can be used for layering if it gets chilly.
Matching light weight scarves to dress up the T shirts. (Takes no room and helps you to look more Bellagio and less Bloemfontein)
1 cardigan and 1 fleece (in case a cold front comes through)
3 long sleeve knitted tops (1 in black)
2 long sleeve cotton shirts
1 long sleeve fancy or sparkly evening top
Summer pyjamas (central heating means that it’s never cold indoors)
2 light weight puffer jackets (they can be shoved in your handbag and aren’t heavy to carry)
1 black or navy unstructured jacket
2 pairs comfortable walking shoes (Skechers or chic looking sneakers or short booties with hardly any heel – the cobbles are a real thing)
2 pairs ballet flats
5 pairs socks
6 sets of undies
Take one large light-weight shopper-style handbag. Great for squeezing in puffers when it gets too hot.
I packed a pair of slipper socks for when we were staying “home” in our AirBnB.
Also a pair of leggings or yoga pants for lounging around.
Take whatever you need for super simple hair. Hotel blow driers are ‘pap’ and lugging your own around is a pain. Also there is no time to fuss if you are packing it in! Now’s the time to try leave-in gels and a variety of clips.
There is no need for shorts or dresses. It gets hot in the sun, but the air is nippy. Also Europeans don’t wear shorts unless they are actually on the beach or at a resort.
This season everyone was wearing colorful puffer jackets. Old, young; male, female; locals and tourists.
Well, I hope this helps a bit! Bon voyage!