My first trip to Europe: France, Italy, Spain – Tips and What to do!

Back to life. Back to reality. It has been almost a month since being back, and I still can’t get used to the fact that we are back home from our 3 week trip. It is crazy how one day I am in a part of the world and the next day I am on the complete opposite side. Since the beginning, I knew that this trip was going to be a trip to remember.

We were a big group. I went with my parents, my two sisters, their husbands and my nephew. So we were 7 and a half lol. This trip was so memorable for every single one of us.

Our first stop was Paris, France. What a great way to start our trip. It was one of the most expensive out of our whole trip, but we loved every minute of it. Our stay was 2 and a half days and 2 nights. We landed in the afternoon, and as soon as we got there we wasted no time and headed straight to the Eiffel Tower. We first went to our hotel to drop of our bags, had a quick dinner and it was go time. This was definitely a bucket list moment for all of us. We didn’t go up the tower, but just looking at how it lights up so beautifully was a dream come true. And this was just the beginning.

 

We spent the next two days exploring the city, from the Sacre Coeur Basilique, the Notre-Dame, Louvre museum, and others. We moved around using the metro or uber. But for our tours we decided to purchase the Big Bus which made a stop at every single one of these places. You also have to experience the food, and of course, macarons. I loved every second in Paris. The city reminded me a lot of New York, with its rushed traffic, people rushing to and from work, tall buildings and high fashion.

 

Our next stop was Italy, the country I was really looking forward to the most. It has to be one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. The place where you can enjoy some freshly baked pizza, guilt free. We got to visit Venice, Rome, Naples, The Amalfi Coast, Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre. In that same order too.

Venice was the first one we visited, which was definitely a very romantic place. I was very excited to experience my first time here. From the beautiful buildings, the canals overlooking the gorgeous scenes, and the gondola ride. I had gone on a Gondola ride before, but it was while visiting in Vegas. There is nothing that compares to getting on a Gondola in Venice. It was very charming.

 

It was a bit cold and foggy during our visit, but we were still able to enjoy a lot. We spent 2 and a half days and 2 nights in Venice. We also had tons of gelato, despite how cold it was.

 

The best thing about Venice is getting lost in the alleys, believe it or not. We enjoyed this part because it led us to some of the most beautiful canal views and buildings.

And then came Rome. I have to admit, my mind was blown in Rome. We spent a bit longer than 3 days. We spent 2 full days touring the ancient ruins, the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and many others. It is so amazing to see how the ancient history it is still standing. Everywhere you looked was mesmerizing. All you can think about is how beautiful the architecture is and how beautifully detailed and colored the paintings are. It is definitely an inspiration.

I wasn’t too happy with our hotel or the city itself, but I loved being able to experience the places we visited. Of course, we also tried the delicious food, we had tons of pizza and pasta. In Rome we moved around on foot and also by taxi. They also have the option of the metro and bus.

From here we headed to Naples, which was our pit stop to visit the Amalfi Coast. Originally we weren’t going to stay in Naples, but it was recommended to us to stay here if we were going to the coast. We only spent a full day here before heading to the coast the next day. But this was still enough to get a sense of the city. We walked around the city without a set itinerary, in search of the best pizza in Italy, which we found. I have to say, the pizza was to die for. It is definitely a crazy city and you have to be very careful with pickpockets, but it is still beautiful.

The next day we started our tour to the Amalfi Coast. Although I would’ve loved it for it to be warm weather so we could jump in the water, it was still breathtaking. Wow! What a place. You have the choice of traveling the area on the bus, or by car, but we decided to do it with a private tour, to avoid getting lost and so we could enjoy the most of it. I fell in love with the views. We stopped by Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi Town. We walked around the towns, but mostly enjoyed the ocean views. This is definitely a must!

Next, Florence. My favorite out of all the places we visited during our whole trip. We arrived here late at night and stayed for another 2 and a half days. Out of all the places we visited, this one was the one that felt the cozyest to me, and where we felt the safest. It had some of the most amazing views too.

One of the main things I loved about Florence, other than its amazing views, the architecture, fashion, culture, and loving people, was that everything is within a few minutes walk. So I highly recommend to ditch any plans you may have of using the bus, or car, unless you’re not able to walk for long periods of time. It is such a beautiful small city. We visited many places here, like the Galleria dell’Accademia where you can find the famous Michelangelo’s David, the Mercato Centrale, Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral and Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Boboli Garden and others.

Definitely spend your time exploring Florence. It quickly became my favorite after only a few hours here.

From here we left early to Pisa, where we only spent a few hours. It was a super quick one, but we were still able to enjoy the highlights of the city. Of course, we had to visit the leaning tower of Pisa and take the famous picture with it.

Our next stop was La Spezia, which was actually our stay to be able to visit The Cinque Terre. We didn’t really get to enjoy La Spezia much, only at night for dinner.

For our second day here, we took our day trip to Cinque Terre. From our stay, we purchased a day pass to all 5 lands, which allowed us to hop on and off the train as many times as we wanted to.

Cinque Terre is a lot like the Amalfi Coast. It overlooks the water of the Lingurian Sea, and it has some of the most amazing views you can ever experience. Walking around the towns is also breathtaking. The five lands are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They all left me speechless.

From here, we had an early train ride back to France, but this time we were visiting Nice. This was another place that we didn’t really have in mind to visit, but I am glad we did because it was super cute. We decided to make the stop here because it was going to be Thanksgiving Day for us, and we didn’t want to spend the day on the train on our way to Barcelona which was the next place we were going to.

But I am glad we made the stop. Nice is a small city but is full of charm. You are able to shop around on the main boulevard while making your way to the beach. We were able to enjoy one of the best meals here out of our whole trip. This is also a great place to rent a bike and enjoy a ride up and down the coast.

Our last stop was Barcelona, Spain before heading back to Paris. By this point, I was exhausted. Little did I know that Barcelona was going to be the place where we were going to walk the most. We arrived to Barcelona at night, so we didn’t have much to do, but to go to a nice restaurant for a nice dinner. We enjoyed some tapas and Paella.

We then spent the next two days exploring the whole city. When I say the whole city, I mean it. We walked around all day, about 8-10 miles, but it felt like 100. You do have the choice of taking transportation, but we decided to just walk. We definitely underestimated the amount of walking we would do.

But despite that, I loved Barcelona. There is soooo much to do here, that the 2 full days we spent here were only a teaser. From La Sagrada Familia and many other of Gaudi’s creations, to the beautiful plazas, the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, and Park Guell. Everything was just beautiful. I wasn’t expect to love Barcelona as much as I did.

After here, we headed back to Paris and left the next day back home.

Overall, I love every single second of our trip. We did experience some under the weather moments, a stomach virus and even some bed bugs, but that’s just part of the experience. I highly recommend for everyone to do this trip. It was worth every single penny.


Here are some things you should know about your first visit to Europe:

Tip # 1: Visit during slow season. We were able to enjoy a lot because we didn’t have to wait in long lines. We visited in November, which was a bit colder than expected, but I hear that late September/October, or late March/April are great times to visit as well, less traffic and good weather. Also, keep in mind that things may cost you more when you go during summer time.

Tip # 2: Do not squeeze too many things in. If you have the time, great. Do it! But if you are going during peak season, or won’t be purchasing any tours, then try to schedule your time for transportation. Also, leave some space for spontaneous things.

Tip # 3: Prepare snacks for the way. Try to purchase them at markets near your hotel. This will save you tons because it will help you avoid buying something to eat in every corner. Do enjoy the local food, of course. We tried to always get a hotel that included breakfast, and prepared something for lunch, so that all we had to really sit down for was dinner. We were able to save money and time this way. We also waited to ask the locals what they recommended for us to eat, instead of looking for restaurants online. Avoid any restaurants near tourist places.

Tip # 4: Look for a place to stay that is close to the train station (if you are going from city to city), or local metro for easier transportation and less walking. Get familiar with the map of the area you’ll be staying in and places you’ll be visiting. Get familiar with the metro routes.

Tip # 5: Contact your Bank before leaving, to let them know that you will be making purchases in a different country so that they don’t block your card. Also, ask if they charge you for using your card, if they have any fees, to see if its more convenient to only use cash. You should still carry a certain amount in cash.

Tip # 6: Try to purchase your tickets early, and when I say early, I really mean early. We bought our plane tickets almost a year ahead of time, and the train tickets (from city to city) we purchased months in advanced. Same with the place you’ll be staying and any tours that you will be doing. Trust me, this will help you save A LOT. There are also tickets in each country which allow you to skip the lines at most of the museums.

Tip # 7: The TripAdvisor app was a big help before and during our trip. In finding where to stay, where to eat, and even the places to visit. Also, download the app maps.me. And we purchased a lot of the things we needed for our trip, like our Travel Power Adapter , through Amazon .

Tip # 8: Try to pack light. We went in the fall, so we had to carry lots of jackets and boots, which made it harder for us. We had to carry our heavy bags everywhere, up and down the trains, stairs, it was crazy. Even when you take a taxi somewhere, you may still have to walk with your bags, plus elevators are rare in most places. This was definitely our workout during the whole trip.

Tip # 9: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES AND CLOTHES. I can’t stress this enough.

Tip # 10: Lastly, be aware of pickpockets, or people asking you to sign anything, to look at something. Keep your bags tight while walking or taking the train or escalators. Don’t let anyone help you with your luggage, and watch your bags while on the train. Don’t sign any petitions.


Train to NaplesTheres just so much to consider and see when you are planning a trip, which is what made me want to share my experience with you.

Well, I hope that this post helps you during your next visit to Europe. And if you do follow it, or take any tips from here, please write me. I want to know how it went for you. Don’t forget to visit the post for each one of the places I visited, to see the exact itinerary we followed.  

Get ready for lots of walking, lots of eating delicious food, and lots of WOW moments. Have fun!!

Do you have any other places you liked during your visit? Any questions or comments?


Here are the recommended Itineraries for my trip:

3 Day Trip to Paris France – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Venice – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Rome – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Naples – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Amalfi Coast – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Florence – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Pisa – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Cinque Terre – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Nice, France – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Barcelona – Tips and What to do

 

A day in Cinque Terre – Tips & What to do

Overlooking the waters of the Ligurian Sea, the Cinque Terre has quickly moved to one of the top of Italy’s must see attractions list. Cinque Terre are five villages that fall within the boundaries of Cinque Terre National Park. The area is beautiful, and the views even more. This was one of the main reasons why we had to include this spot in our 3 Week to Europe

A few years ago the villages were relative unknown, but through the past few years, the word has been out and now everyone is trying to get their little slice of this paradise.

We visited the Cinque Terre as a day trip from La Spezia. Many people do this as a day trip from Pisa, but while doing our research, we found that it was more convenient for us to stay a night in La Spezia, which is known to be the starting point to get to the Cinque Terre. Plus, La Spezia is a pretty nice quite town, where you can find great stores and restaurants. There are also other towns where you can stay, that are not far from the Cinque Terre. It’s is just a matter of finding what works best for you when it comes to your stay.


One Day Itinerary

We arrived at night to La Spezia from Pisa, which allowed us to enjoy a quick stroll through the town and had a quick dinner.

The next morning, we purchased a day pass that granted us unlimited access to the trains linking the five towns. There is a train every hour leaving each town, so you are able to visit all and spend some time at each one.

We started our trip at Monterosso al Mar, the northernmost town along the coast. It is known to be the largest and most accessible town out of all five. During the summer you will find lines of rentable beach umbrellas and inviting waters. We visited during November, so the water was a bit cold, but we were still able to enjoy the beautiful views.

We were hoping to hike the trails to go from one town to another, however they were all closed. We weren’t able to find out if they were temporarily closed, or permanently. What we do know is that they were closed due to a landslide. You could only partially go on the path, enough to see great views. Before your visit, you can research if they have reopened the paths.

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After walking around the town for a little while, we hopped back on the train and made our way to the second town, Vernazza. Vernazza is perhaps the most photographed town in the Cinque Terre. A few years ago, the town was buried in layers of mud, nearly destroying the town. But today the city has rebounded and, if it wasn’t for the informational posters once you arrive there, you wouldn’t even know about it.

The town is now perfectly clean and you’re able to enjoy its beautiful painted houses around the harbor and its crumbling castle that overlooks the town.

 

Once again, we hopped back on the train and headed to the next stop, Corniglia. Due to a miscalculation of time, we didn’t actually have time to see anything more than the Corniglia train station. We did not count the amount of time it would take to get to the actual town. From what we found, it was about an hour walk from the train stop. If you are planning on staying for longer than a day, or if you go during the summer when the days are longer, then you can definitely take the walk to enjoy the town.

Our next stop was Manarola. This town has a secluded area for swimmers, perfect for sunbathing and diving into the water. Manarola is one of the smaller villages. It also offers one of the best picture perfect view of Cinque Terre.

After enjoying its beautiful views, we headed to our last stop, Riomaggiore, where we were able to enjoy the beautiful sunset.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to La Spezia, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner and then it was time for bed. From here, we were taking an early train to Nice, France the next morning.

Bye La SpeziaAlthough we only spent a day here, we enjoyed all 5 towns and did not feel rushed. But if you have some extra time, or visit for more than one day, definitely take your time walking around the towns. Also, if you’re visiting during warmer days, don’t forget to strip down to your swimsuit, jump into the water and let yourself be enveloped by the cool and refreshing sea.

Watch this video to see more of our trip to the Cinque Terre.


Things to know about your trip to the Cinque Terre:

Tip # 1: Visit during slow season. We visited in November, so we were able to see a lot because the crowd wasn’t too busy. However, if you visit during peak season, you will find a bigger crowd. The only downside of visiting during slow season is that you won’t be able to jump in the water.

Tip # 2: Get your day pass for the train, and don’t forget to validate them. This is the biggest piece of advice I can give you. Avoid a nervous drive between the towns! 

Tip # 3: Make sure you start your day trip bright and early, that is why I would recommend to stay at La Spezia since it’s only a few minutes to the first stop.

Tip # 4: we brought some snacks and our own lunch to be able to enjoy all 5 towns, but if you have more time, you can get something to eat at one of the amazing restaurants.

Tip # 5: Although it wasn’t such a big problem here, be aware of pickpockets, or people asking you to sign anything, to look at something. Keep your bags tight while walking or taking the train.

Tip # 6: The TripAdvisor app was a big help before and during our trip. In finding where to stay, where to eat, and even the places to visit. Also, we purchased a lot of the things we needed for our trip, like our Travel Power Adapter, through Amazon.


Similar to the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre is quickly becoming a tourists favorite because of its beautiful coastal scenery. I hope that this day itinerary in the Cinque Terre helps you during your next visit. Cinque Terre did not disappoint. Take your time to enjoy your walk, find a comfy spot to sit, relax and just enjoy the views at each one of these amazing towns.

To be honest, the Cinque Terre is an area that deserves more than a day to explore, but even in just this one day, it is enough to make you fall in love with it.

I hope that this itinerary helped you get an idea of things that you can do during your visit to the Cinque Terre. And if you do follow it, or take any tips from here, please write me. I want to know how it went for you. Don’t forget to read my Europe Trip post to read more about my whole trip and the other places we visited in Europe. Who knows, maybe you follow our same 3 week route.

All in all. Cinque Terre was more that what I imagined it to be. I had a fantastic day exploring them. Would I return? Are the views worth it? My answer is a simple, HECK YES!! It is just too beautiful not to. Photos cannot do Cinque Terre justice. It is a truly magical hidden gem!

Cinque Terre


Here are the recommended Itineraries for my trip:

3 Day Trip to Paris France – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Venice – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Rome – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Naples – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Amalfi Coast – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Florence – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Pisa – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Cinque Terre – Tips and What to do

1 Day Trip to Nice, France – Tips and What to do

2 Day Trip to Barcelona – Tips and What to do