What to wear to the Vatican

What is the dress code at the Vatican?

“Every place has its own dress code!” We’ve learned this from our parents since we were kids. Although we wanted to rebel against it and dress as we wished, we knew deep down inside they were right. Just like we don’t wear wedding gowns to an informal gathering and we don’t show up to the beach wearing sweaters, we don’t enter Vatican City ignoring its dress code, either. If you’ve decided to visit Vatican City on your next trip to Rome, it’s essential that you present yourself in this sacred place (and any other church) wearing appropriate clothing. Keep in mind that if you don’t comply with the dress code, you’ll be denied access to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

What should women wear at the Vatican

You must cover your arms, shoulders and back. Therefore, tops or shorts are not suitable. If you’re planning on wearing a dress, make sure it isn’t sleeveless. If you didn’t pack any clothes that fit the above description, we suggest you cover your arms and shoulders with a scarf or a shawl. In case you don’t have these either, you can head to the entrance of St. Anna and purchase a scarf there.

Remember that if you’re wearing a skirt, dress or shorts, they must cover your knees– hence avoid low-cuts at all costs. If you’ve packed hats in your suitcase, remember to to leave them at your accommodation as they are not allowed in Vatican City. Fortunately, there is no rule regarding footwear. However, since you’ll be walking quite a bit, we recommend you wear comfortable shoes. Shoes like sneakers are both fashionable and comfortable and can be a good choice. Here’s a quick recap on what you can wear to the Vatican:

  • T-shirts instead of tops
  • Trousers or long skirts
  • Shorts and skirts that cover your knees
  • Scarves instead of hats
  • Comfortable walking shoes instead of high heels or flip-flops

What should men wear at the Vatican

The Vatican’s dress code also applies to men. According to the rules, you should not wear sleeveless shirts or shorts. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should wear a suit, you can still wear informal clothes. Just remember that you cannot wear clothing with offensive phrases or graphics. Our recommendation is you wear a shirt that covers your shoulders plus a pair of trousers. In general, the Vatican’s dress code is much easier to comply with in winter rather than in the hot summer months. That’s why we suggest you’re extra careful about the material of your clothing, which could make the humidity easier or impossible to tolerate. For instance, linen and cotton are perfect choices to wear at the Vatican or elsewhere in Rome. To sum up, make sure to wear these:

  • T-shirts
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Trousers or jeans

What Diplomats Should Wear to Visit the Pope

Furthermore, Vatican City also has strict dress code regulations regarding visits to the Pope from diplomats. But we should also mention that these regulations have been eased after Pope Francis. According to tradition, women who visit the Pope should wear black clothes that completely hide their body parts. Furthermore, they should also wear a scarf or lace shawl to cover their hair and shoulders. The black color in the Catholic Church signifies virtue and humbleness and only a few queens, princesses, or diplomats can wear white clothes before the Pope. For instance, Charlene, Princess of Monaco, enjoyed such privilege, while Cherie Blair, wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, opened herself to criticism after wearing white clothing before Pope Benedict XVI.

What NOT to take with you to the Vatican

There are other rules you should consider before your visit to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. For instance, you cannot take animals with you, with the exception for guide dogs for the blind or partially-sighted. Using camera tripods, talking on mobile phones, smoking, and taking snacks, foods or alcoholic beverages are also prohibited. We recommend you pay enough attention to these rules so as to have a pleasant and memorable visit without any interruptions. You can find more useful information about what you can take to the Vatican here. 

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