It’s always a big concern for American travelers…will we look like tourists? How should we dress and act so we "fit in?"
Part of the concern is safety, I do believe. No one wants to be a target. But part of it also stems from, well, wanting to look like you belong in the place you’re visiting.
So, I came to believe…no uber casual clothes, NO WHITE TENNIS SHOES (which I don’t wear anyway)…don’t stand in the middle of the road studying your map, and so on.
Perhaps the dress code business would have been more of an issue in warm weather, but in late February, it really wasn’t. I saw plenty of women wearing jeans. Now, you will not see Italian women dressed like most of the people I’ll see when I go to Kroger’s later today – including me. There is a sense of being "put together" rather than "thrown on." And there were a couple of important accessories that distinguished the Italian women from the rest of us:
Scarves and boots. Most Italian women went out with both – loved seeing them perched on their motorcycles dressed in that way. To really fit in, that’s what you need – a scarf that could, if spread out, double as a shawl, tastefully thrown around your shoulders, and some great leather boots. Big earrings quite often, as well.
As I said, though, the summer might be a different story…
As for not wanting to wander with maps and guidebooks in hand – give up.
First off, if you try to do Rome without a map..you’re sunk. It’s hard enough with a map.
Secondly – if every person I saw in Rome who was holding either a map or a guidebook (usually the Eyewitness Guide, in any number of languages) was suddenly Raptured…all that would be left would be shopkeepers and the Pope. Honestly. Even outside the areas that you’d expect to find tourists – there we were, usually 2 out of every 3 people you’d see – at least – , holding maps, clutching guidebooks, looking alternately confused and awed.