Here is my ultimate packing list for studying abroad in Milan, Italy. This was probably one of the number one things I wanted to know when packing for abroad so I thought I would share all the things you must pack and what to leave at home.
Okay, first of all I want to address some of my thoughts around packing clothing. I had very much assumed that because Milan is a fashion capital everyone would be extremely well dressed here and that a lot of what I wear in the U.S. would not work well here. I have found this to be extremely untrue. People here aren’t necessarily dressed nicer than in the U.S. and I think if you attend university in the city or live in a city in the U.S. you will find it is similar to living in any city. It is true that they do not really wear much athleisure here so you probably will look American in leggings and Lululemon unless you are working out. I had been told how crazy it is to wear sweatpants out in Italy and guess what I have seen multiple people wear sweatpants out of the house. It isn’t super common to dress like that in class but I definitely have seen Italian high school students in sweatpants or people in the metro.
✔ Dresses/Skirts — I got a lot of use out of dresses and skirts in the beginning of the semester. Particularly long skirts and dresses. I realized with mini skirts that tights are such a lifesaver when it gets cold and bought some here. Don’t overpack these and try to keep them casual so that you would feel comfortable wearing them on a day of travel or to class.
✔ Tank tops — I packed too many tank tops that were not very practical. They are perfect for summer but I realized I prefer to wear a comfy tank under sweaters and the ones I packed were not ideal for this.
✔ Going out clothes — If you plan on going to bars or going clubbing I would pack some going out clothes. In my opinion, you do not need that many items for this. I would try to pack mostly black. Things that are my go to’s include leather pants, black jeans, black mini dress, and I have maybe 3 go to tops. I would not recommend bringing too many dresses. The dress codes in Milan are not that fancy so it is not necessary to only wear dresses out. I also bought a leather jacket in Florence that I love to wear out.
✔ Pants — Bring jeans!! You will wear jeans. I only brought two pairs and found I wanted at least one more once it got cold out and I didn’t want to wear my skirts and dresses anymore. I also brought two pairs of trousers which I wear a lot here. I am happy, I left my ripped jeans at home although if that is more your style than go for it.
✔ Jackets — I brought a rain jacket, a long wool coat I already owned, and a small puffer. I ended up buying a shorter fall jacket and a leather jacket here. If there is a specific jacket you do not already own, I would just buy it here. Florence has great leather markets if you want a leather jacket. Many students find cheap jackets at Zara or thrift stores (check out Humana Vintage).
✔ Long sleeve shirts — I wish I brought more basic long sleeve tops. I only had maybe 2 or 3 and ended up buying more here. Remember that if it is cold the cute thin long sleeve blouse type top might not be ideal
✔ Short sleeve tops
✔ Sweaters — Also, something I wished I had more of but was able to get more here. It is also nice to have sweaters you can wear with many pieces like over a dress because it can be cold in the evenings
✔ Loungewear — So this was probably my biggest packing mistake. I brought so few lounge clothes/clothes to sleep in. I wish I had brought a big t-shirt. I prefer to sleep in little tank tops typically but to be honest I would have preferred a big comfy t-shirt here and I didn’t bring one :( I also only packed 2 pairs of sweatpants which I would recommend having 3 pairs. I packed too many summer lounge clothes. I only packed one sweatshirt and wish I had 2 because I get cold easily and often like to sleep in sweatshirts. Be careful not to overpack loungewear though because you probably won’t want to wear it out of the house here but definitely make sure you have enough comfy clothes
✔ Socks, underwear, bras (yk the obvious stuff you don’t want to forget)
✔ Business appropriate outfit — If you are doing an internship this might be a necessity. It can also be helpful to have a nice top if you plan on interviewing for summer internships or full time jobs while you are abroad)
✔ Shorts — I decided to pack more skirts than shorts and I do not regret that at all. I packed one pair of denim shorts and opted for a longer pair and then I packed comfy shorts to sleep in and a few pairs of workout shorts. If you are not into skirts, I would pack more shorts than I did.
✔ Activewear (if you plan to workout) — Try to not over pack this stuff and consider that you may be traveling a lot and not working out as often as you do in school
✔ Boots!! — This has been my most worn shoe here and I almost didn’t bring them because they take up so much space in my luggage. Boots are perfect for going out, wearing to class, etc. They go with so many outfits, are comfy, and are good for when it happens to start raining
✔ A comfy pair of sneakers you can wear with many outfits — A necessity for travel! I love my Reeboks
✔ Sandals — Good to have for the beach but wish I only brought one pair
✔ Workout sneakers — If you plan on working out
Tips for Packing Clothes:
*wear and pack whatever you want and feel comfortable with but these are my tips*
- Make sure you bring enough comfy clothes and workout clothes (if you plan on working out) but also be careful not to overpack these
- Leave room to shop but I also wouldn’t pack as if you are going to buy everything there (unless you have a huge budget for shopping) because you don’t want to feel like you have to spend all your money on shopping because you don’t have proper clothes
- I personally wouldn’t pack as many colors as I did. I personally just found the stuff I wore the least in my closet were my really colorful going out tops and nicer tops.
- Consider that in a semester you will need both clothes for warmer and colder weather and pack accordingly
- Try not to pack like how you pack for vacation. I found I was too concerned about creating cute outfits that work for super specific occasions or that I would consider super instagrammable rather than making sure I packed enough basics I would want to rewear a lot. I needed to pack warmer clothes because I was very focused on the first half of the semester and packed too much for California weather.
- Just note that any branded sweatshirts like college sweatshirts and greek letter sweatshirts will make you look very American
- Be aware of potential cultural differences
- Having a small sweater you can throw in your bag for hot days is a good idea if you will be visiting churches because you will need to cover up
- Have at least one nicer outfit in case you go to a nice dinner or something else where you need to dress up
✔ Passport + Visa
✔ An umbrella (it rains!! Get a small one you can fit in your purse or backpack)
✔ Outlet adapters (you absolutely need these; buy them before you come)
✔ headphones (this isn’t really a must have but then again what are you doing without some type of headphones when you travel a lot or have a long walk to class)
✔ Makeup/skincare (I would recommend bringing whatever makeup and skincare products you use here because not all of the same brands are available but if you want to save space and are open to trying new products then maybe get them here. For me, it didn’t make sense to buy all my makeup here because I use fairly expensive products and that is something I would bring on any trip. The one thing I didn’t bring that in some ways I feel like I could have was shampoo and conditioner. I am a bit picky with brands so I just found it challenging to find exactly what I was looking for here and it would have just saved me time and left me space in my luggage for when I go home if I brought some. Some skincare may be cheaper here; check out pharmacy TikTok for details)
✔ Medicine — in my opinion this is a must have because you are not going to want to run to the pharmacy when you wake up feeling absolutely horrible. I would bring some over the counter medicine. If you use Nyquil or Dayquil bring that because they don’t have that here. I also think anything that might be a bit nerve wracking to find with the language barrier like eye drops or contact solution. You also might want to bring Tums if that is something you like to have on hand.
✔ Small purse — bring a small purse so you have something to bring when you go out clubbing (yes they bring bags here) or just to dinner with friends. You aren’t going to want a big bag and honestly probably won’t want something super casual like the Lululemon belt bag (although I love this for travel!!)
✔ School bag — I personally used a big tote purse which I recommend because I also was able to use it when I was just walking around the city and traveling and you don’t have to worry as much about pickpocketing. I would recommend one with a zipper though!!
✔ Fanny Pack type bag: I think if you are a guy this is a must have because you likely aren’t going to carry around a purse so you will probably want some type of fanny pack or crossbody bag for when you are traveling. I also think having a fanny pack type bag can be a nice to have for girls. I brought my lululemon belt bag which I used mostly when doing outdoor activities or when I needed to be more active because I preferred my small purse but it was nice to have.
✔ Travel bag — I recommend finding a travel bag that fits under the airplane seats. Most students fly Easyjet or Ryanair so I would look up the measurements of those bags. Otherwise you need to pay for overhead bag space. I would recommend whatever you get is a backpack/duffle bag type of thing not a roller bag. I like the Baboon to the Moon bags. I actually bought the medium before I came to Milan. I love that bag but I think I really needed the small one to fit under plane seats (it worked perfect for trains and is the equivalent to a small roller overhead bag). I ended up buying a bag at a store called Scout in Milan because buying the bag would be the same price as paying for overhead space on one flight. My friends also found good travel backpacks on Amazon. I would be careful about trying to squeeze slightly too large bags in because it can be stressful and the price you pay at the gate to check is much larger.
✔ Portable charger — This was my absolute lifesaver. My phone battery is terrible and cannot last me the whole day while traveling. I always kept this in my purse and it is an absolute must have. I like this one because it already has a cord connected and you can charge it at the same time as you charge your phone.
✔ Any prescription medication, contact lens, etc. — Bring enough for the entire semester
✔ Hair brush
✔ Laptop or iPad + charger
✔ Hair elastics
✔ Toothbrush + toothpaste (could buy here but you might not want to have to worry about it when you first arrive)
✔ Any personal hygiene items you may normally bring to university: tweezers, nail clippers, razors, etc.
Nice to Have:
✔ Reusable water bottle (I got a brita one, super nice to have for travel)
✔ Tampons (I would recommend bringing tampons if you are particular with brand, they are expensive here, have limited options, and often don’t have applicators)
✔ A speaker (I got a small cheap travel speaker off Amazon)
✔ Travel sized bottles for toiletries. Would recommend the empty ones you can refill (helpful for weekend trips)
✔ I brought a small towel/beach blanket type thing for picnics/beach trips etc. (this was a nice to have but also took up a decent amount of space
✔ Euros (I recommend getting some before you come just in case but you can easily take out more here so don’t worry. I also rarely use cash but have been in situations where I absolutely needed it so it is good to have just to be safe)
✔ Zicam, Vitamin C — good to have to try to help you prevent getting sick
✔ Small packs of tissues, hand sanitizer, wet wipes — I like to have these things to carry around with me and have definitely used them all
✔ A journal to write all your abroad experiences in — I am terrible at journaling but have forced myself to do it here and I have such fun stories that I think I will be happy I wrote them down
✔ If you already own a cute hat and scarf and have space to bring it then do it.
✔ Hair styling tools — personally I brought my straightener and curling iron from home and I am so glad I did. You need to check that they have universal voltage which you can look up online. If I didn’t bring hair tools I definitely would have bought them here but it would have been kind of a waste because I don’t need them at home
✔ Airtags for your luggage - this is particularly useful when you initially arrive because you will want to be able to see where your checked bags are but can also be nice to keep in a purse or something like that
✔ Deodorant - I had heard the deodorants in Italy are just not the same as the US so you may want to pack enough to last you the whole semester
✔ Small padlock - useful if you will be staying in hostels because a lot of them have lockers for you to lock your luggage but you need your own lock
✔ A sleep mask - wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this but so nice for the long plane ride and for staying in places like hostels
✔ School supplies
✔ Hair Dryer
Things I Wish I Brought:
- More sweaters and long sleeves
- One more pair of jeans
- A casual lightweight jacket (until I bought my leather jacket I had nothing good for this)
- A travel backpack that fits under plane dimensions (bought one here and my other one is good if I am willing to pay for overhead space or am taking a train)
- A t-shirt to sleep in
- Another pair of sweatpants and 1 more sweatshirt
- Hat and scarf: It gets colddd
Things I Wish I Left at Home:
- There are a few tops I have never worn here and I would say they are the more colorful dressy tops. I have a bright pink bodysuit I should have left at home. Also a lilac top that is so cute but it isn’t the most comfortable and feels more spring/summer.
- Clothing with specific washing instructions: I have found the washing machines to be much less forgiving here and I have ruined some of my clothes. I would not recommend bringing anything that needs to be dry cleaned. Be careful about bringing clothes with super specific washing instructions and just consider how much you actually will do your laundry.
- Beach cover up
- Some of my bikinis: I love bikinis so I always love packing a lot for trips but I really only needed one maybe could have done two since I like to have options
Things I Am Glad I Didn’t Bring:
- Wedge sandals
- A backpack for school
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Hi! I'm Paige Giordano. I am a junior marketing major at Santa Clara University. I am originally from the Boston area. I am studying abroad in Milan, Italy fall semester of 2023. In my free time, I enjoy working out, reading, cooking, and fashion.