Are Flip-Flops Actually Banned On This Popular Italian Island? Here's What We Know

In the last few years, news outlets have been warning people traveling to Capri, Italy, to leave their flip-flops at home. These articles claim that the island bans this form of footwear and that travelers caught wearing them may face prosecution or large fines. Now, as an Italian-American who lived in Italy for several years, I recognize that Italy has some pretty weird rules and regulations. For example, one Roman bylaw forbids round goldfish bowls because their small size is apparently cruel for the fish. Welcome to Italy: a world where even goldfish have the right to la dolce vita.

But Capri's supposed flip-flop ban didn't sound quite right to me, even though I'm well aware of Italy's sometimes strange laws. So I undertook a little investigation. The first thing I did was WhatsApp my friend C, who has lived in Italy for the past 10 years and frequently bops around the country. C told me that when visiting Capri a few years back, she and her companion wore flip-flops all day long, changing into heels only in the evening. While they were strolling the streets of Capri in their "banned" footwear, no locals stopped them or gave them any Italian side eye (a truly dreaded thing). Since C knows Italy and avoids Italian side eye whenever she can, I took this as a compelling piece of evidence that Capri doesn't actually forbid the footwear. 

The inside scoop on Capri's footwear ban

Taking my investigation a step further, I called the central tourist office in the city of Capri to get the inside scoop on shoe bans. What they told me is this. Many years ago, when clogs were all the rage, tourists wearing these heavy wooden shoes were making quite a ruckus clomping around on the cobblestone streets in the historic city center. It was for this reason that the city instituted a ban on wooden clogs, but according to my source, this never extended to flip-flops. This information jibes with what I found in the Frequently Asked Questions section of "Wooden clogs are banned (because they are too loud on the cobblestone streets)." Now you've heard it straight from the horse's mouth! 

So you won't be publicly shunned or fined, then, if you show up to Capri wearing your favorite pair of Havaianas. But here's the thing: You might want to skip the flip-flops anyway, because they're not the best shoes for exploring the island. While they might be just fine for hanging out at a pool or beach, they're not ideal for walking long distances, especially on uneven terrain, which you'll find on many of the island's old streets and partially paved pathways.   

More reasons not to wear flip-flops on Capri

Take, for example, the 3.4-mile Sentiero dei Fortini, a partially paved trail that runs between the Punta Carena lighthouse and the world-renowned Blue Grotto, an otherworldly sea cave with glowing azure water. For amazing treks like this one, you'll want a good all-around travel shoe, such as one recommended by travel experts like Rick Steves, or even a true hiking shoe. You should look for a walking shoe with plenty of support that combines features like breathability, comfort, and durability, which will help prevent blisters, muscle soreness, and worse. Believe me, I know — I wore flip-flops my first summer traveling through Italy and ended up with a serious case of plantar fasciitis, an extremely painful inflammation of a ligament on the bottom of the foot.

Another reason not to wear flip-flops on Capri: You might lose them on the island's famous chair lift to the top of Monte Solaro, which rises 1,930 feet above the glittering Mediterranean. Here, you'll have the most magnificent panoramic views on the island. This is an experience not to miss, but shoes that aren't securely attached to your feet can fall off on the 12-minute ride, as evidenced by the orphaned shoes scattered all along the chair lift route. If you do happen to be wearing flip-flops, make sure you take them off and hold them in your hand for the duration of the ride.