Packing for a 19-day Trip to Italy

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Termini rail station in Rome where I waited on platform 6 for the train to Firenze (Florence), which would stop in Orvieto,  an hour and 15 minutes north of Rome.

Luggage:  Pack only what you can lug.

The best decision I made for this trip: Travelpro luggage. The thought “Worth its weight in gold” kept coming to mind. Both pieces are carry-ons and while the smaller of the two does not fit under the aisle seat, it does fit under window seats. A friendly and helpful flight attendant (sometimes an oxymoron) led me to a Business Class overhead bin for storage during the flight to London.

Researching, reading and comparing reviews led me to purchase new luggage even though I have used sturdy 2-wheeled bags in the past. The older luggage is heavy even before packing.

Ahhh! The right suitcase is like a good-fitting pair of shoes. Baby Bear porridge, Just right.

Travelpro Maxlite International Carry-on Spinner is 21-inches rather than the domestic allowance of 22-inches. Lightweight, super-maneuverable, this suitcase served as the base for the smaller but wider bag. Travelpro Rolling tote has a “trolley,” a strap across the back that lets you attach tote to the handle of the base luggage, so that both pieces when stacked make walking through the airport insanely swift. Easy to push, pull and otherwise glide whenLightweight before adding contents walking on level surfaces, I could manage this luggage even on escalators.

The back strap took some work to break in. Putting the smaller bag through the handle of the carry-on required stretching one side over the handle and then the other. To remove luggage, I had to release the handle and work it down through the strap. But doing this got easier as the strap made of coiled nylon loosened a bit with use. The tote’s wider design allows the wheels hang over the side of the base luggage.

What was so great was weight distribution. My luggage seldom tipped over and the strap held the tote in place so that it did not swing around to the back of the luggage handle. If this has happened to you, you know what I’m talking about.

I packed for 19 days in these 2 pieces of luggage, which meant I had to put my cross-body purse (an absolute must!) in the tote to satisfy the airline requirement of one carry-on and one personal item. While not intended as a post about luggage so much as what I lugged to Italy, again and again I was so grateful not to have more to keep up with or bigger suitcases to manage, especially on cobblestone streets in Orvieto.

To Carry On or Not to Carry On?

Not long ago, I read the book and later watched the movie Wild. The thought of Cheryl Strayed’s ridiculously heavy backpack for her 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail practically forced me to meet the challenge of making these 2 bags carry everything I would need for nearly 3 weeks of travel in Italy. I mean, I had nightmares. And since I was traveling alone, I had to keep up with all my stuff. All the time.

Furthermore, what sold me on the idea of carrying all my luggage on the plane was the realization that once I arrived in Rome, I would need to transport these bags on trains and buses and, as it turned out, a water taxi in Venice.

Besides that, my original flight got delayed a day because of storms in Dallas, so who knows where my luggage would have wound up if I had checked it?

Italy in May, temperatures vary.

Before leaving, Italy’s weather forecast called for a range from 72 for highs and 52 for lows, but I arrived during unseasonably hot weather that turned cool and rainy after about 10 days. Last minute purchase of a lightweight raincoat instead of the heavier one I planned to take was Baby Bear porridge––Just right. Dressing in layers made temperature variations the least of my travel worries.

Uneven terrain and LOTS of walking (2 days, over 26,000 steps according to my Fitbit, miles and miles on foot), I was hot and sweaty most of the time.

Staging to pack, I know I will need to unpack.

I start packing weeks before my trips so that I can unpack and repack before I leave home. I pack too much. Collecting things I would like to take, the pile grows and then, time to edit.


I originally planned to take 3 pair of jeans but took 2 instead and wore on the flight there and back a pair of black Travex pants (Eddie Bauer) and packed another pair of khaki Travex.

Be kind to your feet.


I ended up wearing the tennis shoes because these took up the most space in my luggage. I did not wear the brown boots, not even once, even though this pair is the most comfortable of all the shoes in my closet.

The Jambu sandals were my go-to for most days, except when it rained, and I also had a pair of Sketchers Go Walk Go-ga mat slip ons. Comfy-cushy, but unless wearing thin little socks, these shoes develop an unpleasant odor:)

Ended up wearing none of the Smart Wool socks, but Fits short runner socks are the best.

In Europe, wear clothing more than once. More than twice. Nobody knows or cares.


Unless you forget to wear deodorant.

Packed 7 tops with T-shirts underneath since I planned to wear these shirts more than once and wash the T-shirts. I was able to do laundry one time. In Vicenza, another girl and I split a 12 Euro taxi ride to spend 13 Euros apiece plus a couple of hours to wash and dry a load each. The return taxi only charged us 9 Euros as we had walked part of the way back. Most expensive trip to do laundry, ever.


These ebags cubes are great. The smaller Travelpro tote does not have dividers so packing an extra outfit or loose items in one of these works well.


Hairdryer (dual voltage), power adapter for Italy, hair products, toiletries, band-aids, medicines––EEK! Bags inside of bags.


Clear plastic bag for liquids is a must for carry-on. London Heathrow is a the fussiest about removing liquids from carry-ons.



Don’t forget the chargers.


Dadgummit. Not everything will fit. Carried my camera, a Canon G15, in my purse.


Reading and loving Shauna Niequist’s new book Savor, a daily devotional, I made copies of all the pages/dates of my trip. Has to count as one of my better decisions. Timely messages kept me focused on God’s goodness and mercy and presence throughout my trip. Also took my iPad; had downloaded an audiobook, The Goldfinch, which put me soundly to sleep on the flight over.

Reading and writing:  Don’t leave home without it.


Essentials for every trip I take, a journal and the book I’m currently reading. In this case, Anthony Doerr’s Four Season’s in Rome. Doerr just won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the Light We Cannot See, the book he was writing when he lived in Rome for a year with his wife and 6-month-old twins, baby boys. After reading All the Light … his memoir about Rome … couldn’t have had a better read for this trip.


Do not take coffee to Italy. A friend had told me that you cannot get coffee until afternoon. Not true! Italian coffee, from espresso to cappuccino to coffee with warm milk, is molto bene.



Ready, set, Go! One bag weighed 26 pounds and the other 23. A Fodor’s for Rome and noise-cancelling headphones also made the final cut.

There’s a neck pillow attached to one bag, which Sonia of Sonia’s Travels recommends. Helpful hints she has. Watch her on YouTube.

The pillow? Not so much. I could have done without one more thing to keep up with.

Tune in next time for tips on coming home.

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