Madrid > Barcelona > Venice > Florence > Rome
What a whirlwind adventure! Our trip was all the things - fun, amazing, exciting, beautiful, tiring, thrilling, filling, packed, but most of all unforgettable.
I wish I had some magical trick to share about how two twenty-somethings could afford a 10-day trip to Europe. No, my parents did not pay for it... No, I didn't win a contest (I wish!).
Our secret, we work in the travel industry, which comes with awesome perks like flying standby for free. We also saved and budgeted.
For 10 days, we walked (a lot), ate amazing food, saw beautiful cityscapes and enjoyed a little time off from work. Unfortunately, I don't have any standout stories. The entire trip was equally as exciting and fantastic. The best way to share the details is by answering some of the most popular questions I have received since returning.
Europe Trip Q&A
What was your favorite city?
Marco and I both enjoyed Florence the most. It may have been the beautiful weather, our bike tour, staying at an adorable local flat or seeing the Pope. We just had the best experience. From the people to the food to the Tuscan landscape... it just didn't get any better.
I also enjoyed Venice. When we arrived there was a thick fog that had settled in. It gave the entire city a very mysterious, but romantic feeling. We stayed in an adorable hotel along a canal called Hotel Hesperia. We walked down the foggy docks to a pizza place recommended by the front desk. We found ourselves drinking a delicious 10 Euro bottle of wine and ordering too many courses of Italian food.
The next morning, we woke up early to walk to the main docks and Piazza San Marco. I guess since we were there in November, the city was not crawling with tourists. We saw kids heading to school, store keepers opening their shops and boats carrying cargo through the tight canals. I loved seeing the locals busy about their day in such a magical place.
What is the best thing you ate?
Italian food is heaven on earth. I may be biased because I am obsessed with carbs - pizza, pasta, you name it! So naturally, Italian food struck my fancy. One thing I fell in love with was every afternoon we would take a break from touring and find a cozy cafe to sip Italian cappuccinos and eat chocolate croissants.
But, to answer the question my favorite meal was at an adorable restaurant on the south side of the river in Florence. My best friend Alex recommended it. What a find! It was delicious! Besides a huge meat and cheese plate, wine and house-made bread, we got mussel linguine and truffle oil gnocchi. We finished the feast off with gelato, of course. It was DELICIOUS.
What was your favorite site?
I have been to Rome in the past. I was thrilled to return. Being surrounded with such history is hard to wrap your mind around. I love seeing the Roman ruins and the layers of thousands of years built right on top of one another. My favorite site in Italy was the Colosseum. We also saw the Familia Sagrada in Spain, which was breathtaking.
Where did you stay?
We did three apartment rentals and two hotels. We used HomeAway and Airbnb to find the apartments. We stayed at Hotel Giuliana in Rome and Hotel Hesperia in Venice. We tried to stay at accommodations under 80 Euros a night and it was very easy to find a clean and safe options.
Did you do any tours or activities?
We kept the tours and activities to a minimum since we were trying to tour the cities cheaply. However, we did do a bike tour in Florence and Rome. I highly recommend bike tours! After walking for endless miles seeing the city via bikes is the best way to mix-it-up. You see the back streets, get a private guided tour and see the most important historical spots in the city. We used Italy Bike Tours. They also do Segway tours if you're into that kinda thing.
Would you recommend your trip to others?
Yes! It was fantastic. I would say, however, that doing five cities in 10 days was a lot. We wanted to squeeze as much as we could into the trip. But, I would suggest that less is more. Taking time to see each city is worth it. Marco and I plan to spend time in surrounding, smaller towns next time. That is when you can really immerse yourself in the culture and relax.
I do think every one of these cities has something special to offer. Even though we enjoyed Italy more than Spain (mostly because we are foodies), Spain has plenty of culture, nightlife, museums and history to offer.
Did you take lots of pictures?
Yes! A few hundred to be exact. Here are some of my favorites :)
Always, Maddi B.