Wondering what to wear to dinner in Italy? Experiencing a true Italian dinner in Italy has to be top of any Italian bucket list. But many people worry about dress codes in restaurants in Italy. In this guide we will round up the expected Italian dress code for dinner, what not to wear and other guidance on what to wear in Italy at night.
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Do restaurants in Italy have a dress code?
For the majority of restaurants in Italy there isn’t a strict dress code. However you may have seen in the news recently that Zendaya and her entourage were turned away from a restaurant for not dressing appropriately.
Now instances of dress codes being enforced in Italy are rare but if you are going to go to a very high end restaurant then it is worth checking the restaurant website for dress codes.
However generally speaking if you want to be respectful and not look out out of place the following things should be considered:
What do you wear to an Italian dinner – what’s the difference between an osteria, trattoria and ristorante?
When you are thinking “What do you wear to an Italian dinner” the first thing you need to check is if you are visiting an osteria, trattoria or a ristorante.
These are the 3 main types of restaurants in Italy and will be the things that influences what you wear to dinner more than anything else. So what is the difference between them all? Let’s consider the osteria first.
An osteria is the most casual type of eatery in Italy. Therefore what to wear to dinner in Italy in an osteria will have a more casual dress code than the other types.
A ristorante on the other hand is a much more formal restaurant and therefore will have the most formal dress code of all the Italian restuarants.
A trattoria on the other hand is a more local and seasonal restaurant and sits between the two in my opinion.
What to wear to dinner in Italy – basic rules
As a general rule of thumb on what to wear to dinner in Italy is that Italians will tend to dress for dinner and will dress up more than their British or American counterparts.
But it is worth noting that Italy is a large country. As each of the areas and regions of Italy will have its own cuisine they will also have their own dress code rules.
Without overly generalizing you can expect that:
What to wear for dinner in Milan
Milan tends to be the most fashion forward area of Italy and as such they may dress up for dinner than in other regions. For more information on what to wear in Milan check out this post.
What to wear to dinner in Rome
Obviously Rome is the capital and as such is the busiest region of Rome. Generally speaking the dress code of Rome restaurants tends to be more smart casual than other regions of Italy. Be sure to check out our what not to wear in Rome guide for more information.
What to wear to dinner in Puglia
As with any beachier places I would say there will be more casual in their dress codes that other places. However if you are going to a ristorante or out for a fancier meal the dress code will obviously more formal.
Puglia has one of the most famous restaurants in Italy in the cave restaurant which definitely does has a dress code. Grotta Palazzese in Polignano a Mare Puglia. This is one of Italy’s most exclusive restaurant which is set in a cave on the seafront in Polignano.
The dress code at this restaurant stipulates that shorts and sandals may not be worn by men for the dinner seating. For this restaurant we would suggest boat shoes, chinos or linen trousers and shirts for men and maxi dresses or linen trousers and a blouse for ladies coupled with a pashmina or a cardigan as it can get chilly in the grotto.
For a more in depth guide on what to wear in Puglia check out this post.
What to wear for dinner in Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Again Naples is coastal, but is perhaps the city that is the most casual of all the areas in Italy. Therefore you are likely to see more jeans here in the Winter than any other place in Italy.
What to wear to Dinner in Venice
Venice is definitely a city that is affected by the weather especially the wind and rain. Italians in Venice will tend to dress for the weather for dinner however this doesn’t mean they will be any less stylish or smart. For more information on what to wear in Venice and what not to wear in Venice check out this post.
Other things that affect what you wear for dinner in Italy
On top of the region you are traveling to, the biggest thing that will affect what you wear for dinner in Italy is obviously the weather.
The summer in Italy is hot hot hot but the winters can get very cold so be sure to dress for the weather no matter what time of year you are visiting Italy.
Additionally it is worth noting that in cities such as Rome where space is of a premium many restaurants’ tables will spill out into the streets. In fact my favorite places to eat dinner in Italy are in restaurants with piazza tables where you can watch the world go by.
Al fresco dining is big in Italy so you will definitely want some layers in case it gets chilly if you are having an Al Fresco dinner in Italy.
Personally I never go out to dinner in Italy when dining al fresco without a pashmina. Click here to shop pashminas.
I personally would not advise you to wear anything man made for dinner in Italy. It can still be hot in Italy in the evening in summer and something breathable is the best choice.
Linen and cotton are firm fabric favorites in Italy but you could add lace or a bit of glitz for an evening outfit in Italy.
What not to wear to Dinner in Italy
Although not strictly enforced I would say there is a definite Italian dress code. As such I have put together the following what not to wear guides:
And this obviously affects what to wear for dinner in Italy. However the headline of what not to wear for dinner in Italy can be summed up as
- Flip flops – these aren’t good for walking in any Italian city with their cobble stones and uneven streets.
- Beachwear – In Italy Beachwear is reserved for the beach. Even if you are in one of the beach resorts in places like Puglia it would be considered rude to wear your swimwear to a restaurant. More casual clothes at beach restaurants is fine but it shouldn’t be swimwear.
- Distressed denim – this one isn’t a rule per se but is a recommendation to be more in keeping with the locals. Many people worry that you can’t wear jeans in Italy but this is not true. However you will find that locals stick with dark denim that is more fitted as opposed to distressed or ripped jeans.
- Athleisure – Athletic wear is something reserved for doing sports in Italy. So leave the yoga pants and leggings at home rather than wearing them to a restaurant.
What to Wear to dinner in Italy for Women
A Flowy Dress
Obviously is depends on the season on what type of dress you wear and how many layers you need but a dress is perfect attire for a dinner in Italy.
A maxi dress in summer would be perfect but if you are going to somewhere very fancy a LBD (a little black dress) would be perfect also.
Skirt and Blouse
If dresses aren’t your thing don’t panic. Dresses are not a prerequisite for what to wear to dinner in Italy. If skirts and blouses are more your thing then instead pick a nice skirt of any ;length with a pretty blouse to match.
Trousers / Pants
Trousers are also fine for women for dinner in Italy. I personally wouldn’t recommend jeans as people do tend to change for dinner and go for something more smart casual than casual.
I always like a pair of black pants or tailor trousers that can be paired with a blouse.
High heels are a no no and are definitely on my what not to wear in Italy list. However if you want to add some height for an evening outfit I recommend pairing your outfit with a nice pair of wedges that won’t get caught in the cobbles.
My number one travel accessory in Italy no matter the time of year you are visiting is a Pashmina.
They are great as they can be an extra cover if you are visiting a church in Italy and aren’t dressed conservatively enough and are great for day to night transitions.
But more importantly if you are having an al fresco dining experience in Italy it is an added extra layer if you get a bit cold while dining outdoors.
If you are visiting Italy in Autumn or Winter then you will defintiely want extra layers for your look as it can get cold. Be sure to have a dressy cardigan or a blazer with you when dining in Italy outside of Summer.
What to Wear to dinner in Italy for Men
In my opinion you can never really be overdressed for dinner in Italy even for men.
Jacket and Tie
IN this spirit it would be perfectly acceptably for a man to wear a jacket and tie to dinner.
If you are visiting in Summer a linen jacket would be most appropriate but in winter go for a thicker fabric such as tweed.
Shirts are big in the male Italian wardrobe. Short or long sleeves, either would be acceptable for men eating dinner in Italy
MEn in Italy don’t tend to weather t shirts so much for dinner especially bright colored and highly graphic ones.
If you want to wear a t shirt in Italy I recommend sticking to monochrome or dark colors with no graphics or even better a polo shirt which is a good midway point between a t shirt and a shirt.
Trousers / pants
You won’t tend to see men in Italy wearing shorts to dinner. If you are a man looking for what to wear in Italy for dinner your best bet is going to tailored chinos or at worst a very dark pair of tailored jeans.
Men in Italy tend to wear nice shoes. I would recommend picking a pair of leather shoes for dinner in Italy but be sure not to pair them with white socks. The horror.
FAQs on what to wear to dinner in Italy
Can you wear jeans to dinner in Italy?
In answer to can you wear jeans to dinner in Italy I would say it really depends on the type of restaurant. You may be able to get away with it in an Osteria but I would try and avoid jeans personally when thinking about what to wear to dinner in Italy.
Italians change for dinner so it would be good to have something smart casual for your dinner rather than overly casual jeans.
What to wear to Italy to dinner in Summer?
For Summer dining in Italy we recommend selecting an outfit such as a nice maxi dress, paired with some jewelry (for information on how to pack jewelry for travel check out this post). Otherwise a blouse and a skirt or linen trousers are appropriate.
To learn how to pack linen without wrinkles check out this post.
What to wear to Italy to dinner in Winter?
Although peak season in Italy is summer, visiting Italy in the Winter months is truly a special experience. But obviously you won’t be wearing the same things to to dinner.
We recommend wearing either heavier weight trousers and a blouse or jumper/sweater. Anything with lace or sequins is also fine for evenings in Italy.
Or my personal favorite thing to wear for dinner in Italy in Winter is a sweater dress / jumper dress paired with thick tights, ankle boots and a smart coat.
What should men wear to dinner in Italy?
While most of this article has been concerned with what to wear for dinner in Italy for women, we now turn our attention to the boys.
Jeans are acceptable in most establishments (though may be too hot in summer). Just be sure to pick a pair that is smarter, more tailored and darker in color to be more in keeping with locals.
However a better pick is chinos or linen trousers paired with a shirt and smarter shoes.
Please note: it is uncommon to see an Italian man wearing shorts to dinner in Italy.
What do you wear in Italy in the evening?
If you are wondering what do you wear in Italy in the evening I would consider where it is you are eating i.e. an osteria, a trattoria or a ristorante.
On top of that however it is worth noting that many places will do al fresco dining even in the piazzas of cities like Rome. Therefore be sure you ahve enough layers and won’t get chilly when dining outside.
What do you wear for aperitivo in Italy?
While this guide primarily deals with what to wear for dinner in Italy, we thought it would be also worth looking at some other nightime activities such as aperitivo.
Aperitivo is the consumption of a drink and perhaps a light snack before dinner. Often the snack is complementary when you purchase a beverage and you will often have to stand for it. Or if you want a table you may have to pay a supplement.
Aperitivo is often done once you have completed your sightseeing for the day or is held as people leave work for the day. But definitely before dinner, which in Europe and Italy specifically tends to happen later in the day than in the US.
Generally speaking if you are going for Aperitivo before dinner as a tourist it is worth dressing for dinner first and heading straight to the restaurant from drinks. Therefore we recommend picking something smart casual.
What to wear for la passeggiata?
La passeggiata is another typically Italian tradition of which there is no US counterpart. Basically la passeggiata is an evening stroll.
It is usually held every day between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. On weekdays you will see lots of work colleagues and friends engaging in la passeggiata however on a weekend you will also find families taking part.
Traditionally people will do la passeggiata on pedestrianised streets and piazzas. In the South and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia you will find passeggiata happens year round however in more Northern cities it will be more popular in Summer.
However what should you wear for passeggiata? Generally speaking it is best to dress for the weather at your destination to be comfortable doing la passeggiata. However the most important thing to wear for la passeggiata is comfortable walking shoes as it involves lots of walking over uneven terrains and cobble stone streets.
What is your favorite thing to wear to dinner in Italy? Leave us a comment
Are you traveling round the rest of Europe? Why not check out our other city dinner guides