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trip to Italy and France

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Going to Paris and some towns in Italy in July with my two daughters. I do not want to look like the sloppy Americans that I see in restos in Jersey with those stupid baseball caps on their heads and dressed like rag pickers when eating out. I wonder if shorts are acceptable for lunch when one is touring and doing alot of walking around. Pants or a skirt/dress would be fine for dinner I am sure.. Is it the individual resto that sets the dress policy, or is there just a general rule when dining? Are these rules enforced and one getst turned away? What to wear for lunch and dinner??

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  1. I really don't remember every seeing French or Italian adults wearing shorts, particularly in a restaurant. My suggestion would be nice looking capris or airy longer pants. I had a pair of black cotton/linen pants with an elastic waist that I wore with a sleeveless black tunic nearly every day during summer traveling and I always felt properly dressed for eating out...I had a shawl for churches or strong air conditioning.

    1. I think the oldish rule still applies: if you're an American who doesn't want to stick out, you might as well leave your shorts at home unless you're anticipating playing in some tennis matches.

      1. Women in general tend to get by more easily than men when it comes to dress code.

        In Paris and Italy, go on the safe side and dress more "chic" than you would normally do in the USA.

        Don't underestimate a _nice_ pair of jeans with a _nice_ shirt to go with.

        Also, Paris in july will be hot, so ... bring linen, light cotton, ...

        1. In Italy in particular, you may not be able to get into some of the sightseeing places wearing shorts (churches for sure) and there's no way you won't stand out like a sore thumb in them in either country. Dresses are better for women, lightweight trousers for men, but Dockers and the like get you pegged for a tourist. Ditto sneakers. You don't have to dress expensively, but try to dress nice, like you were going to a nice brunch or maybe a dress-up garden party at home. it's not that you're trying to "pass', but as you said, you don't want to stick out. fanny packs, shorts, white socks, tennis shoes, khakis... they unfortunately all scream American tourist and tend to look too casual in most Italian or French cities. I spent time in a very small Italian city and the women there really blinged it up! not that i would recommend that either, but try to dress more fashionably than you would on other, American vacations. All this, of course, is just my opinion.

          1. In Italy I wore Chico's traveller crop pants (pack easily without wrinkling and have elastic waist), a shell and Coolibar (SPF 50) loose top, hat - not baseball ugh - and NOT sneakers. Wore this combo in Istanbul, etc. Very comfortable - never wore shorts except in hotel room.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Linda VH

              T hanks Linda. I also love and have many Chico's capris and traveler's bottoms, great idea!!

            2. We Europeans do not generally wear shorts except in resort areas. Of course, some folk do - but they tend to stand out in urban areas.

              As for dress policy - it's the same the world over, with individual places setting their own standards. Another generalisation - but I find dress codes seem much more formal when I visit America than here in the UK or other countries I visit in Europe.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Harters

                I'm really curious about where you find these formal dress codes in America. Please tell.

                1. re: escondido123

                  I would also like to know. I am disgusted with the way some people dress in nice restos, anything from white tee shirts, base all caps left on all the time, etc. just so sloppy!!! I always see the female much better dressed than the male..Why is that? It does not matter whether the meal is $10 or $ 30!! Americans are so sloppy!!!

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Restaurant websites when we were planning our last trip (2008) and, of course, the many Chowhound threads that mention places that require jackets.

                    By comparision, jacket wearing is a non-event in Europe. I reckon I could probablly count on both hands the total number of UK restaurants that still require jackets. Our main guide book, the "Good Food Guide", used to mention places that did require it but stopped a few years back as there were so few it wasnt worth their bothe

                    1. re: Harters

                      Maybe they don't make such a big deal about it because Europeans know how to dress appropriately? But then, you did say the UK which is different from the rest of Europe.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        "the UK which is different from the rest of Europe"

                        Sorry, but I don't understand your point or perception. Can you explain please?. As I see it, the UK is not different from the rest of Europe except, of course, in the way that any country is different from any other.

                        1. re: Harters

                          Well, I would freely admit that the UK is more like Europe than it is like the USA (where I live), but the UK also has its historical differences from the Continent, not least the breach with Catholicism and the earlier advent of industrialism. The fact that the UK does not use the Euro currency today points to deeper points of difference. Don't underestimate that "island" sensibility!

                          1. re: Harters

                            No offense, but I remember seeing a lot more fancy dressers in France and Italy than I did in England. Sorry but that was my observation. There are probably hundreds of other ways the UK is different from the rest of Europe, but mainly I was focused on the clothes.

                            1. re: Harters

                              I do think that Italians and French people, in particular, dress smarter than the average Brit. Not this Brit though.

                              I'd say that, depending on your age, tailored shorts will be fine, worn with sandals or plimsolls (definitely not sneakers, I'm thinking along the lines of Converse or Superga or Boden). Where do American tourists get those baggy khaki shorts from - I've never seen them for sale here!

                              I would definitely invest in some floaty skirts and sundresses though - it's going to be scorchio in Italy in July.

                    2. this summer, shorts are *everywhere* in Paris, on both genders and all ages -- mostly bermudas and capri-length, but the younger girls are wearing some *very* short shorts.

                      Italian churches won't let you in if you're wearing shorts or your shoulders are showing, by the way.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: sunshine842

                        are they having early summer weather? is it already hot there?
                        i mentioned the churches thing in relation to shorts, above. i think sandals too, but i can't remember.

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          Wait, no sandals in Church either? No sneakers for dining, and no sandals in church, I may need to bring my suitcase along each day!!!

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            We went directly from winter to summer(ish) - it's been in the 70s and 80s since March, so the shorts have been out for a few weeks.

                            No problem with sandals in churches, as the monks frequently wear sandals (as did Jesus).

                            A tank top or spaghetti straps with trousers or a longer skirt is fine in Italy -- just carry a jacket or a wrap to cover up before you go into a church.

                            French churches don't have a dress code -- but some modicum of respect is usually appreciated.

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              I really don't think sandals are a problem in churches. I'm envisioning a monk....what is he wearing on his feet? Sandals!

                              1. re: escondido123

                                you're right! i just thought i remembered something about feet being uncovered.... in Italy churches.... misremembering.

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  I've noticed that the monk/priest giving people the once-over at the door to the church takes a holistic approach before coming to a decision. Few single items (e.g. sandals) are automatic disqualifiers. For men, sandals without socks coupled with shorts hitting above the knee coupled with a collar-less tee shirt will tend to get the "Do not go" response. Start to change any one of these elements and suddenly the other two become acceptable. Sandals with socks -- goofy to American eyes but quite common in Europe especially among the monks you're citing -- make a difference. The same length shorts described above but this time paired with a collared shirt with slightly longer short-sleeves also tends to be enough to gain entrance.

                                  I'll make a contrary suggestion about women's clothes: I only travel in skirts. France. Italy, Thailand. Poland. Norway. Doesn't matter. I choose skirts that are heavy enough (e.g. denim or twill) so the skirt stands away from the body. These are much, much cooler than any pant of any length in any weight material that encircles the leg. And -- how shall I put this delicately? -- destinations in France and Italy, especially, still seem to cling to the old-fashioned style of commode that makes wearing pants a challenge. I'm not talking about a hole in the ground. These are bona fide porcelain commodes that are functionally holes in the ground!

                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                    but a mini skirt will earn you the status of standing outside the church waiting for everyone else in Italy. Fingertip length seemed to be the rule, although I never saw that actually written there -- just seeing what length seemed to be "long enough". (The skirt is as long or longer as your fingertips when standing with your arms at your side, fingers straight)

                                    I don't like Turkish toilets, but they're not a problem with shorts or trousers.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      "I don't like Turkish toilets, but they're not a problem with shorts or trousers"

                                      Clearly a case of your mileage may vary!

                                      1. re: Indy 67

                                        Also known as 'your knees are a helluva lot younger than mine'!

                                        1. re: mnosyne

                                          don't know if my knees are any younger, but a severe sprain a few years ago makes them just as creaky as anybody else's. (you haven't lived 'til you've used a squat toilet with only one leg that bends beyond 90 degrees)

                                          Haven't seen a squat toilet in Italy in years, and it's not because we haven't gone WAY out into the countryside...interesting that France persists with an antiquated system that even the French don't like.

                                          There's *usually* a handicapped stall with an actual toilet nearby...and it usually gets more use than the other.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            While driving thru Normandy a couple of years ago, we stopped at a highway rest stop (shockingly good food options, including organic fruit and delicious yogurt--we spent about $60US on snacks there!). This rest stop had two toilet options, the indoor kind you had to pay to use and the outdoor kind you had to squat over. Since we'd blown so much money on the food, we decided to use the squat toilets. The line was huge and every time someone came out of a particular stall, she'd be screaming or swearing in whatever her native language was. My daughter ended up in that one and sure enough, when she flushed, I heard her scream. She came out with her sandals soaked and explained that the water had actually shot up like a geyser and flooded the stall.

                                            1. re: Isolda

                                              that one has been moved to the Cote d'Azur -- just inside the Italian border. My husband hear me swearing 50m away in the car park. (fortunately, we were the only car there - it was a weekday in the spring, so no crowds!)

                                              I've been tempted for years to write to the ministry of public health in Paris and indicate that my gosh -- if ITALY has been able to enter the 21st century in terms of sanitary technology, sure a country as well-bred and cultured as FRANCE could see fit to upgrade their plumbing.

                            2. I just got back from France, where it has been quite warm -- in the 80s when we were in Provence and Lyon. I saw lots of young women wearing shorts during the day but, at least in Lyon, I don't think I saw any mature French women wearing them. I fortunately had packed a casual cotton sun dress (sleeveless, scoop neck) and a flouncy cotton skirt, and wore them virtually every day in lieu of shorts. I doubt that I would have been any cooler in shorts, and I felt a lot more stylish than I would have in shorts.

                              The one day that we went to churches in Lyon, I was wearing the sleeveless dress but I carried a light cotton sweater with me (that I could stuff into my oversized purse) and put that on before entering churches. I don't really think it was necessary -- saw plenty inside churches dressed less modestly -- but it just feels "right" to me.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: masha

                                It also tends to be quite a lot cooler in churches, and the sweater will keep you from shivering!

                              2. If you're over 18, do not wear shorts anywhere. And don't wear white sneakers either, unless you are actually on a tennis court, playing actual tennis. Capris and cropped pants are fine; French women wear them, too.

                                When traveling in France in the summer, I wear skirts pretty much all the time. They're cool and comfortable, and you can easily throw a nice jacket over a tank top along with a scarf and look very presentable.

                                I haven't been to Italy in years, but the French care very much about how you present yourself. Even if a restaurant doesn't have a dress code, you will get much better treatment if you dress up.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Isolda

                                  Shorts are EVERYWHERE this summer -- mid-thigh to knee-length on those over 30, and no limits whatsoever on the under 30s (and the mutton trying to dress like lambs).

                                  No problem anywhere in France with shorts this year, as long as they fit reasonably well and are reasonably clean and well-kempt.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    You're talking about the nice lined shorts, worn over tights or leggings with heels or nice shoes, though, right? My image of the "forbidden" shorts are the somewhat baggy type worn by many Americans, who are frequently too, um, large to look good in them. I just can't see walking into a restaurant in those and expecting good service.

                                    I guess my concern about traveling isn't "fitting in" so much as it is about dressing respectfully and getting good service.

                                    1. re: Isolda

                                      oh heavens yes -- tailored shorts that fit properly, not gym shorts

                                2. Just back from a few months in France. while shorts were very visible in touristy areas, saw none in restaurants, men or women, not once.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    not the higher-end restaurants, to be sure, but anything up to midrange? Everywhere.

                                  2. Unless I'm engaging in athletic activities, I find skirts (A-line, not pencil cut) to be just as comfortable as shorts, maybe even more so. In Paris, these skirts paired with some rubber-soled ballerina wedges took me everywhere from walking all around town to lunches at 3-Michelin starred restaurants. On the plus side, none of the cheezy souvenir vendors accosted me, even when I was walking around the Eiffel Tower.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Yep, that was my experience as well the last time I was there, two summers ago. It doesn't matter whether you are taken for a local, as long as you don't stand out due to sloppy attire. We received excellent treatment everywhere we ate, and even got a couple of free desserts, although this was mainly due to my 12 yo son's refusal to eat much of anything. People kept plying him with food. But I like to think this was partially due to my and my daughter's lovely attire.

                                    2. I tend to think most shorts, aside from longer, tailored ones, don't flatter most people and that a sundress/cotton skirt is best for daytime just about anywhere in the summer (particularly if one is packing light and the dress can go from day to night with a change of shoes/accessories).

                                      That said, no, I don't think you would be turned away in shorts in a casual restaurant. Parisians will certainly know you aren't French, but I never understood the burning desire of some people to completely blend in when travelling? There's a world of difference between the Ugly American stereotype and being mistaken for a native Parisian from afar.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                        I usually ask people which Parisians they want to blend in with? There are as many styles of dress in Paris as there are Parisian, so whether dictated by customs of a religion or native land, peer pressure, income, or whatever, there's no "Paris style" to follow -- and the minute you open your mouth, they're going to know you're not Parisian anyway, even if you speak fluent French.

                                        And they don't care how you're dressed. They're busy doing what they need to do today, and how a stranger in the tourist district is dressed is absolutely not on their radar of things to even notice, let alone care about.

                                        Wear what is comfortable *and flattering* to you, and all will be fine. Paris isn't a pajama bottoms and flip-flops kind of city, so if you look well-kempt and presentable, you'll be fine.

                                        (compare that to the creature I saw today wandering the 7th wearing a neon-yellow tutu, a florescent pink leotard, purple tights, and neon-yellow platform heels...with a neon-rainbow braided wig. No idea what she was doing, but THAT everyone noticed.)