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

 

The perfect 2 days in Florence – Tips and What to do

So after going around Italy for a few days, we finally get to Florence and I can confidently say that Florence is one of my favorites so far. Our whole trip was 3 weeks long, and if I would’ve known how much we were going to like Florence, we would’ve definitely stayed a bit longer. Of course, in two days you won’t be able to see everything, but you will definitely be able to enjoy the highlights of this city with no rush. You can actually read my First Time in Europe to learn more about my whole trip and all the other places we visited. 

Florence is also a great base city if you are planning to travel to Pisa for a day, which is what we did. As well as some other towns that are less than two hours away. Sienna is another town that you are able to travel to from here. Next time I visit Florence, because I will definitely be back, I will be taking a day or two to visit Sienna, and of course to spend more time in beautiful Florence.

If you are going during high season, keep in mind that most places will be super crowded, so expect to find long lines. We went in mid November, so it wasn’t too crowded, but it was a bit colder than expected. You do have the option to purchase a City Pass to skip some of the lines.


Day 1

Ponte Vecchio Views

We arrived in Florence by train from Naples after visiting the Amalfi Coast. We got there pretty late so I won’t be counting this as our first day.

David

The next morning, we had a quick breakfast that was provided by the Hotel. We didn’t waste any time, and started our route right away. We started our route visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David. If you only visit one museum in Florence, make it the Academy. We had purchased skip the line tickets, which weren’t really needed for the season that we went. There was no line. You can also choose a tour to walk you around the Gallery. We chose not to at this point. It wasn’t crowded so we had time to walk around and enjoy the art. After doing the obligatory gawking at the David, we walked a few more minutes and continued with our exploring.

From here we walked to the Piazza San Marco, where you’ll find the Museo San Marco and the Basilica. We spent a few minutes inside the Basilica, but opted out of visiting the Museum.

San Marco Bas

The Mercato Centrale was just a few minutes from here so we decided to head there. I have to say that this was the most organized market I have ever seen. It has become one of the most popular tourist market in the city. Here you will be able to find everything you are looking for. From the best leather you could find, to tasting pasta, pastries, vegetables, cheese, wine, and more.

After spending quite some time here, buying souvenirs and tasting some of the amazing food, we headed to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, which is where the famous Duomo is situated, the Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistry. But before getting there, we passed by the Medici Chapel. We sat down outside for a few minutes to have a quick-lunch that we had prepared.

Once arriving at the Cathedral, it was just beautiful. This is the most iconic sight of the city. We went inside the Cathedral, but you also have the choice of walking up the stairs. We opted out of that one because a few of my family members have heart problems, and you aren’t able to go up if you do. It is over 450 steps, so you could only imagine. But you can get some amazing views of Florence from here. We spent quite some time here, just walking around, and even tried one of the local pizzerias in this area.

San Maria Plaza

We continued our walk and found ourselves at the Piazza Della Signoria, where you can find a replica of the David, the Fountain Neptune, among other amazing statues.

Piazza de la signoria

Our walk then lead us to the Ponte Vecchio, last remaining original bridge,. We walked along the river back to our hotel and had dinner at  a restaurant that was close by.


Day 2

We started our second day a bit later this time. We spent some time enjoying our breakfast before heading on our exploring ventures. This time around, we decided to take our time walking to our next destination, we wanted to enjoy the beautiful city. We even made a quick stop at a local vegan restaurant to try their smoothies.

Our first destination for the day was the Boboli gardens. This is a peaceful outdoor space in the city. You do have to pay to enter but it is definitely worth it. You get one of the most amazing views over the city and some beautiful tree-shaded paths. It is also a great spot to stop for a while and just enjoy. Take a picnic, read a good book and relax. We definitely took our time walking the garden, a few hours to be exact.

By the time we were done enjoying ourselves there, we were hungry again. So we decided to walk down the Ponte Vecchio and enjoyed some of the local pizza and Gelato. Be aware that the prize might be a bit higher around this area.

Spend some time exploring and prepare to discover hidden gems. You can then end your day at Piazzale Michelangelo, which is also another great spot for beautiful views of Florence. It’s a bit of a long walk there, so you can take a taxi or the bus. Aim for the sunset views.

We the headed back to the hotel to prepare our bags since we had an early train the next day to Pisa and La Spezia/Cinque Terre.

Watch this video to see more of our trip to Florence.


What you should know about your visit to Florence:

Tip # 1: Visit during slow season. We were able to enjoy a lot because we didn’t have to wait in long lines to go into these places. 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. Florence is a great place to get lost in, walking around through and enjoying the views.

Tip # 3: Prepare snacks. We bought tons of coffee and hot chocolate during our walks because it was super cold, but they were so delicious that we didn’t mind the extra expenses. However, do prepare some snacks and water for when you are out. This will save you tons because it will help you avoid buying something to eat in every corner. 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 also waited to ask the locals what they recommended for us to eat, instead of looking for restaurants online.

Tip # 4: Like I mentioned at the beginning, look for a place to stay that is close to the train station, so that you don’t have to walk around much with your bags. Get familiar with the map of the area you’ll be staying in and places you’ll be visiting.

Tip # 5: It is also recommended that you 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 we purchased months in advanced. Trust me, this will help you save A LOT.

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, we purchased a lot of the things we needed for our trip, like our Travel Power Adapter, through Amazon.

Tip # 8: Lastly, 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 or escalators.


Ponte Vecchio SittingLike I said, there is always more to see, so just do some more research and see what else you would be interested in. But take your time to enjoy Florence. You can visit the Uffizi Gallery, as well as the other museums, churches, and palaces. 

Well, I hope that this itinerary and tips for Florence help you during your next visit. 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.

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.

I will definitely be coming back to Florence. There are tons of things we didn’t have time to see, and I would love to visit.

Florence Day 2


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