I've heard from friends who have been to Rome that you must cover up when you visit the Vatican as they have a strict dress code.

What does "cover up" mean? I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem in Winter but we are off in July. What kind of clothes would be suitable for women and men in summer?

  • A quick tip for every woman who like to visit the Vatican or every italian church: you could use a vest/singlet, but use a shrug when you have to enter. So you do not have to exit from hotel with a long-sleeved shirt.
    – user8146
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 14:05
  • 1
    @Franco By shrug do you mean shawl ?
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 16:48
  • 2
    @Simon No, a shrug has sleeves whereas a shawl doesn't.
    – AakashM
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 9:27
  • 2
    @AakashM Thanks for clarifying (never heard the term before)
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 10:05

3 Answers 3


From Saint-Peter's Basilica site:

Infographic showing in the top half a man and woman wearing sleeveless tops and miniskirt/shorts, respectively, with a red No Entry sign; and in the bottom half, two women and a man wearing short-sleeved tops, a knee-length skirt, knee-length shorts, and long pants, respectively, with a blue Enter sign

Per the sign, both men and women must wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees.

  • Thanks, this is exactly what I was after. Unfortunately it does mean that I have to wear trousers for a day but I'm sure I can manage it. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 13:04
  • shorts are fine. the key is to have your shoulders covered.
    – rs79
    Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 13:11
  • 9
    @rs79 - shoulders and knees. Anyway, San Pietro, as any other church, is not that warm inside.
    – mouviciel
    Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 13:18
  • If you were normal surf shorts and not extra tight shorts you should have problem to get into. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 15:33

I'm Italian and I visited Rome as a tourist myself about one year ago.

The image which mouviciel so usefully linked is self-explanatory, but it is not true for Rome or Vatican City only, all the churches in Italy have something similar being displayed IF they are regularly visited by tourists (otherwise, the same rule holds but there is no specific warning, as the people who go there would know).

Men can surely enter a church wearing a pair of knee-length, loose pants (no need to be wearing long trousers), but sleeveless tops or T-shirts, tight sports shorts and similar items are not accepted. The same is true for women, who should not be wearing mini skirts, short pants or sleeveless tops. I forgot to say that low necklines or thigh slits in skirts would not be accepted either, nor would it be accepted to have part of your underwear showing, as is frequently the case with young people who wear their jeans very low at the back.

Italy is a Catholic country where until recent times women would cover their heads when in church, whereas men had to remove their headcovers and go bareheaded. It's a matter of decorum which still holds. It might sound out of place, but it is not much different from having to remove your shoes when visiting Asian temples and mosques (where a dressing code is also implemented and where women have to cover their heads).


There's an article on the Daily Mail that covered (heh) this when it was released.

From the article:

'Inappropriately dressed' visitors to the Holy City have been told to cover up by Swiss Guards or face a ban.

From this point, shorts skirts and bare shoulders are not allowed.

The guards drew aside men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them that they were not dressed properly.

Some female visitors were obliged to buy shawls and scarves from nearby hawkers, while men had to wander off to the nearest shops to buy long trousers.

  • Both man and women can carry a shawl and/or sarong and cover up just before entering.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 19:44

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