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Some of the most frequently asked questions when visiting Rome and the Vatican include how to dress when visiting churches in Rome, and throughout Italy:
Throughout the chilly and cold late fall to early spring months, worrying about what to wear to a church is never an issue since long sleeves and pants are the norm for the cool Mediterranean wintery weather in Italy.
But come hot summer months where tank tops and shorts are worn by many if not most visitors, the question of proper church attire pops up quite frequently.
You don’t have to dress fashionably or wear your Sunday best, you just have to follow these simple requests.
Churches (especially Vatican's St Peter Basilica) are oftentimes thought of as tourist attractions on many visitors' must see list, but they’re first and foremost sacred religious places where proper dress codes must be observed.
While some lesser known churches sometimes overlook modesty transgressions (but why take the chance that you’ll be refused entrance), don’t even try to sneak past the fashion police at the Vatican St Peter’s Basilica.
Even if you make it through the Vatican St Peter Basilica security line with sleeveless tops and knee showing pants and skirts, you won’t make it past the guards near the church entrance. Hundreds of people are sent back out each day, even if they waited in the security line for an entire hour baking in the sun, or they’re with a large group and this is their only chance to see the basilica. Sob stories and pleas fall on unsympathetic ears.
The Vatican is very strict at enforcing the dress code for entering Saint Peter's Basilica, and you can clearly see the signs posted in the piazza where people stand in line to pass through the security check.
You'd be surprised that sometimes even the Pantheon turns away visitors wearing tanktops and/or shorts. You never know, so you it's best to arrive appropriately dressed at any religious venue you wish to visit.
If you are visiting the Vatican Museums, the same dress code applies for entering the Sistine Chapel, so it’s best to arrive prepared.
You can still enjoy your summer attire and enter churches with a little planning in advance. Even if you think you won’t be visiting any churches, remember that there are nearly 1,000 of them in Rome so it’s quite tempting to enter some churches for their impressive architecture, frescoes, and famous paintings. With their cool interiors, churches also offer a much welcomed respite from the hot summer days of Rome.
Capris and over the knee skirts and dresses are comfortable to wear in the summer and they are perfectly acceptable in churches.
A simple light scarf or shawl to cover bare shoulders (and possibly cleavage if you are wearing a low cut top) is sufficient.
If you prefer to wear above the knee skirts and dresses, you may bring with you a spare pair of tights or leggings that cover the knees that you can wear under your dress or skirt. Just be sure you find a restroom to change in and out of them. At the Vatican there are public bathrooms on both sides of the square. Otherwise, even a sarong wrapped around the waist is perfect over skirts or shorts.
If you are not fashion conscious convertible pants are great to quickly switch from shorts to long pants.
Sandals and jeans are perfectly fine.
Men’s knees need to be covered too.
Light pants made of natural fibers are comfortable to wear in the summer without worrying about violating dress codes.
But if you prefer to wear shorts in the summer, a couple of simple solutions are convertible pants where you can switch from shorts to long pants as needed, or bringing along a spare pair of trousers you can pull over your shorts.
Sandals and jeans are also acceptable.
Hats are customarily removed inside churches.
Be sure to follow these simple tips on how to dress when you visit churches in Rome, Italy (and Vatican!) on our Rome in A Day Tour, Rome in 2 Days Tour, and Rome in 3 Days Tour.
We hope this information helps make your visits to Rome’s many churches a very enjoyable experience.
Thank you for reading our travel blog. For more information on private tours of Rome and beyond, as well as Airport and Port Transfers, please visit our RomeCabs website.
Do you have any travel dress code or fashion tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.
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Thank you very much and we look forward to seeing you soon in Rome!
~The RomeCabs Team
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