What to Pack for the Vatican: Dress Code, Tips and Suggestions

What to Pack for the Vatican: Dress Code, Tips and Suggestions

“Entry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens is permitted only to appropriately dressed visitors,” says the Vatican official statement.

Vatican City follows a rigid dress code. Like any other religious sites in the world, the Vatican authorities expect its visitors to respect its system of rules and regulations. The Vatican is the official seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Thereby, we recommend adhering to the ancient institution’s stipulations when visiting or touring the Vatican.

‘Appropriately Dressed’: Decoding the Term

Sleeveless clothing, low-cut dresses, miniskirts, shorts above the knees and hats (on men) are not allowed within the ‘holy and sacred’ areas of the Vatican City.

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Whether you are heading to the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica or any of the other small churches or chapels in the Holy See you need to follow the dress code. The key is to cover your shoulders, balls of the knees and stomachs, and this applies to both men and women.

What to Wear?

Sleeved Blouses and T-Shirts

Vest tops, tank tops, spaghetti-strapped tops or any revealing garments are an absolute no-no when visiting the Holy See.

So, what to wear during the summer months?

Without exposing your cleavage or shoulders, you can try T-shirts, shirts and sleeved blouses. You can even opt for sheer blouses; they keep you cool while being covered.

The wise word is ‘dress modestly’, especially when you are wearing translucent materials.

Many women (and sometimes men) will bring a shawl to throw over their shoulders when entering the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. A shawl will allow visitors to wear non-sleeved tops where possible, yet have the ability to cover up quickly when needed.

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In winter, you naturally tend to cover yourself up, hence no worries.

Linen or Cotton Skirts and Trousers

Fret not; though there are restrictions on clothing, you can still stay cool and savour the religious masterpieces of the Vatican. For that, during the summer months we suggest lightweight trousers or ¾ pants made of cotton or linen. This will allow air to flow through your clothing in the often crowded and hot Vatican Museums.

Jeans are allowed in the Vatican but they are not recommended in the summer months as the heavy material can make you sweat and feel uncomfortable. Therefore, skirts are a good idea but stay away from miniskirts or anything that ends above the knees.

If you do choose to wear shorts, it is very important that the cloth falls below the ball of the knees. In recent years we have seen visitors bringing zip on pants which can easily be attached when entering holy places within the Vatican.

If you arrive to the Vatican without the appropriate clothing not to worry as the many local vendors surrounding the Vatican walls do sell shawls, t-shirts and even light-weight painters pants to help you cover up before entering.

Shoes for Vatican City Tours

Shoe types are not explicitly mentioned in the Vatican dress code however you do need shoes to enter the Vatican. Open toed shoes or sandals are allowed but we stress that your footwear should be comfortable as you will be on your feet the majority of the time when visiting the Vatican. Due to lack of support we suggest staying away from flip-flops and heels. Don’t try to be fashionable, leave your stilettos at the hotel and wear sneakers,your feet will thank you for it at the end of the day. Flat shoes are highly recommended for tours of the Vatican.

Tips and Suggestions

  • When visiting the Holy See, if possible, do not bring your suitcases, luggage, medium and large backpacks or any other large containers with you to the Vatican. On account of their sheer size, the Vatican staff will not allow these items inside the exhibition spaces. The same is applicable for large tripods, non-collapsible umbrellas, laptops, glass bottles and containers as well as pocket knives. If you have any of these items with you, you will be asked to check your belongings into the Vatican clock room and baggage deposit. The deposit is safe and free of charge however we suggest avoiding this process when possible as you will have to return to the entrance of the Vatican Museums to collect your items at the end of your visit. If you are to join a tour of the Vatican then the tour will finish at St. Peter’s Basilica which is roughly a 25-30min walk from the entrance of the Vatican Museums and baggage deposit.
  • Small backpacks and purses are allowed in the Vatican however we suggest that you put only essentials in the bag. For example, a bottle of water, camera, a light scarf, cardigan or wind breaker. They may come in handy inside the vast Vatican hallways.
  • Bottled water is highly recommended when visiting the Vatican as there are limited places to buy water or find drinking fountains. As long as your bottled container is not made from glass, and has a resealable lid, you are able to bring it with you when visiting the Vatican.

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Tips and Suggestions when visiting the Vatican with children.

  • Snacks in the Vatican. When visiting the Vatican you will be on your feet the majority of the time so you may need to refuel your body with food and sugars, especially if you have children and are touring the Vatican with your family. The Vatican does have a small cafe bar towards the end of the Vatican Museums which offers sandwiches, snacks (cookies, granola bars, etc.) as well as water, coffee, juice, sodas, even beer and wine. If you are travelling on a budget, or just like to be prepared then it is possible to bring your own snacks into the Vatican. However, the snacks must be sealed in some sort of bag or container  (ziplock or store bought) and can only be eaten within certain areas of the Vatican. Do not sit down in the Sistine Chapel and take out your bag of trail mix, this is highly frowned upon and will most likely result in expulsion. Generally, it is allowed to eat or snack in any of the outdoor areas of the Vatican however it is important to be respectful of your surroundings and to dispose of any packing or left over food appropriately in a nearby trash can.  To be on the safe side, we suggest asking the approval from a Vatican guard or your tour guide before having a snack.
  • Strollers and prams are also permitted in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel and are highly recommended as it will be the best way for your family to tour the Vatican with young children. Visiting the Vatican can often be exhausting for adults, yet alone children so if you are bringing your stroller to Italy, then bring it with you to the Vatican as well.
    When entering St. Peter’s Basilica, strollers and prams are not permitted however there is a specially designated area where you can leave your stroller when visiting the Basilica.
    With all of this said, double and tandem strollers are not allowed as they occupy too much space.

We hope that this article will help you prepare for your time at the Vatican. For more such interesting updates, follow us on Vatican Tours and sign up for the Vatican museum tour today.