Including the bag I carried every day, my go-to swimsuit, and a dress that earned me tons of compliments, starting at just $18.

Picture it: You’re zooming across the picturesque Lake Como in a beautiful boat, wind in your hair, mountains in the background with multi-million dollar homes dotting the coastline. This was me recently — my Italian dreams had come true. The picturesque Varenna-based resort of Hotel Royal Victoria was our first stop, before my group and I hopped over to the other side of Lake Como (by boat, of course!) to stay at the Grand Victorian Hotel in Menaggio. Both beautiful, both chic as can be, and both the perfect backdrop for a million photos to be taken. 

As a carry-on-only gal, I had my work cut out for me to pack appropriately for the weather (which would oscillate between warm and summer-like to rain-dotted and gloomy) and to pack appropriately for Instagram. Looking back, I can definitely say I could have left some things at home (sorry, random mini skirt), while other things I was more than happy I threw into my bag at the last minute (hello, linen blazer that saved my life several times and two-piece set that doubled my wardrobe). Here are the 15 items I’m so happy I packed.

Related: I Cruised the Caribbean on One of the Most Expensive Ships Ever Built — Here Are 14 Items I’m So Glad I Packed

Oversized Striped Shirt

Siliteelon Button-down Shirt


Buy on Amazon

A slightly oversized striped shirt quickly became my favorite thing I packed — I wore it as a cold-weather transition outfit for travel, underneath a sweater for an extra layer, over a tank top as a light “jacket”, and over my swimsuit while visiting the spa (for no over-the-head wrangling with wet hair). It truly was the shirt that kept giving. While mine was from Storets, you can also snag this stunning button-down from Amazon-loved brand Siliteelon that's $26. 

Flowy Linen Pants

Bloggerlove Wide-leg Linen Pants


Buy on Amazon

A pair of linen pants works in any destination, but they really come in handy at Lake Como. Not only do they make comfy bottoms for the long flight, but their versatility allows them to be dressed up or down as needed, especially when the weather is chillier than expected. If you're spending the day by the water, their lightweight, flowy material allows them to double as a swim cover-up that you can wear around town with the right top and shoes. 

Versatile Slides

Olukai La‘i Slides


Buy on Zappos


Buy on Nordstrom

From pool to spa to boat to dinner, these slides were a godsend. Super comfy with a slightly molded footbed, cushioned support, and traction, they’re also quite stylish — the black matched with everything I packed, and the tortoise shell buckle added a little bit of oomph (without clashing). They’re also water-friendly, so they dry right off, and they fold up compactly in a carry-on. 

A Sophisticated Two-piece Set

PrettyGarden Two-piece Sleeveless Vest and Shorts Set


Buy on Amazon

On this trip, I realized a suited vest makes the ultimate blouse; I wore a black vest more times than I can count (okay, I can count them) — I paired it with a black satin skirt (more on that later), a pair of jeans on its own, and then later under my black blazer. It really helped elevate a look with very little effort, and provided a ton of style range for one packed piece. Even the women strolling in Bellagio and Menaggio were already aware of this trend!

While my go-to vest was actually part of a set with pants from Target (and unfortunately isn’t sold anymore), this summery two-piece set at Amazon will help you channel that effortless Italian elegance. Plus, it comes with a matching set of shorts that you can wear together with the vest or on its own for more outfit possibilities.

Casual Mini Dress

Everlane Linen Shirt Dress


Buy on everlane.com

My favorite Darling wrap dress toed the line between casual and dressy perfectly, and I could dress it up or down depending on the occasion. The collared neck and buttons gave it a classy vibe, while the tie waist gave my curves some definition. I could wear it buttoned all the way up with a sweater over top and with boots or sneakers for an al fresco lunch, or cinched tighter and with heels for a more nighttime look. If you're not a fan of long sleeves in summer, add this Linen Shirt Dress from Everlane to your cart; it fits the bill with its flirty length, relaxed fit, and is available in five colors. 

Supportive Flats

Rothy's The Espadrilles


Buy on rothys.com

Much to my surprise, I saw plenty of brown and black low-heeled boots walking around Lake Como, which are much needed for the slightly hilly and sometimes stony terrain and I'm happy that I brought my trusty Timberland Chelsea Boots. Now that the weather is warming up, a pair of trail running sneakers like these sleek Keen shoes or the well-tractioned Hoka Speedgoat 5s will keep you steady (and you can wear them around town since they look like everyday sneakers).

But, when you're strolling around town and want to sport fashionable footwear, supportive flats like Rothy's espadrilles are your best bet. They already have that coveted European look, and they're equipped with arch-supporting, cushy footbeds for all-day walking comfort. 

Trendy Swimsuit

Blooming Jelly Self-tie High-waisted Bikini Set


Buy on Amazon

The Italians take their beachwear very seriously, so I knew I would have to step up my swimwear game for this trip. I was influenced by a friend who posted a picture of herself in this gorgeous bikini set and it was the perfect Lake Como bathing suit, as it was classy while still being sexy, and was super comfortable to wear. I actually wore the same suit underneath my vest one day, with the flower popping out, and everyone loved it. For something with a bit more coverage but still has that I-own-a-villa-in-Italy vibe, this monochrome Blooming Jelly Bikini Set needs to be on your radar.  

Black Silk (or Satin) Skirt

Zeagoo Satin Maxi Skirt


Buy on Amazon

This satin skirt rolled up into my compression cube like a dream, taking up no space at all, and gave me a chic base layer for my outfits. I wore it with my black vest, with a cream tube top, and (almost) wore it as a tube dress pulled up (but ultimately went with a different dress option, though I would have worn it the next night had I stayed longer). I loved that it was so easy to pair with pretty much every top I brought, and provided enough dressiness for dinner, while still being easy enough to wear to the breakfast buffet. 

Stylish Crossbody Bag

Crojuyi Crescent Shoulder Bag


Buy on Amazon

You can’t go wrong with a little black bag, and I loved that mine could squish into the inner corners of my carry-on or hang out in the bottom of my personal item without too much consequence — I just reshaped it after landing. Plus, with an inexpensive bag, you’re not scared about something happening to the exterior as much. This one is perfect for day-to-night so you only have to really bring one bag — which is exactly what I did — and it didn’t stand out among the locals (a very good thing). 

Breathable Linen Blazer

Open Edit Linen Blend Blazer


Buy on Nordstrom

I usually bring a jacket of some sort (denim or leather), but for this trip, I wanted something that had the weight of a jean jacket with the coolness (and versatility) factor of a leather jacket. Enter: a sleek linen blazer. I packed a black blazer made of tweed-like fabric on my trip, but this version will be much more breathable and work into your summer wardrobe easier.

It's perfect for layering during the day when it is chillier than expected, and for wearing at night to dinner over a dress. It's the ideal length to drape over your shoulders or to wear full-on over a vest or lacy tank top. I wore a similar blazer on a boat over a black vest with a scarf tied around my neck, and it was the ultimate outfit for fighting the chill off the water while still looking put-together. 

Effortless Two-piece Set

Zesica Short-sleeve Pleated Skirt Two-piece Set


Buy on Amazon

The compliments on this Amazon set alone made it worth the purchase, but I absolutely loved that I could wear it as a “dress” or as a skirt set (showing more skin by pulling the top up a bit on the midriff), and also wear each as separate pieces entirely — it was like several outfits in one. The cool blue hue was a nice pop of color in my sea of neutrals, and the stretchy material meant I was comfy and ready for the next pasta dish and spritz. I was also eyeing this elegant short-sleeve maxi skirt set from Amazon, and I might need to add it to my closet for the rest of my summer trips. 

Floral Evening Dress

MakeMeChic Floral Square-neck Maxi Dress


Buy on Amazon

Everyone — and I mean everyone — was wearing florals and maxi dresses in Lake Como, ready for their closeup. I was no exception to the rule. This body-hugging style was a great evening dress for a tasting menu dinner with wine and so many delicious things (if you’re in Varenna, please head to Visteria for the amazing views and truly some of the best food I had in Lake Como). I loved how stretchy it was, and while taking a photo of a chic Italian woman outside the hotel, she told me she loved my dress and owned something similar. I’d call that a win. Those who prefer flowy silhouettes over more form-fitting styles will want to grab the MakeMeChic Floral Square-neck Maxi Dress, which has a similar look with its smocked bust, self-tie straps, and stunning pattern choices.  

Roomy Personal Item

Calpak Luka Expandable Laptop Tote


Buy on calpaktravel.com

Was I wearing this all the time? No. But when flying to Milan and then traveling by car to Lake Como, this expandable tote was the best thing I brought with me, hands down. Chicer than your average backpack while still being totally practical, it fit so much and had great padding for the winding and twisty turns that led us to the lake. And thanks to its expandable bottom, I didn’t have to struggle between hotel changes, while the top pocket let me keep my passport and wallet within easy reach. 

Everyday Sunglasses

Anine Bing Otis Sunglasses


Buy on aninebing.com

I wore these Anine Bing sunglasses pretty much every single day — they were the perfect shades for casual outfits, dinner outfits, and everything in between. With a slight wayfarer shape and slim profile, they were statement-making without being too over-the-top. I loved how they added just the right amount of sleekness to my outfits, while also being super practical. (You can’t go to Lake Como and not bring sunnies.) 

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