Boom! Two years later, my cousin Dani is back and ready to take on Europe again. This time we were much more wiser and prepared. Last time we basically went around Europe for 6 weeks, hitting London, Austria, and Greece…and so much more. I thought we did a great job then, but I think I can say we topped that trip.
This time around we decided to hit Malaga, Northern Spain/Southern France, Barcelona, Ibiza, and Italy. We thought it would be a tamer trip, which at some points it was…but we still managed to get into some trouble together.
We first started with some good ‘ol American sport-A Unicaja basketball game! There was just as much crowd yelling as a futbol game and popcorn!
We pampered ourselves at the hammam, or tradition Turkish baths, including a 30 minute massage! While I was working, Dani went to the beach, shopping, wandered around eating all the cheese pizza in Malaga. We did many day trips on the weekends, to Nerja, where we saw the famous cuevas, or caves, and lounge at the beach. We even managed to score tickets to see the caminito del rey, which was this old hiking trail that the government basically HAD to rebuild because too many people were trespassing.
Dani was even able to meet up with her bestie Grace, and we had a blast! Grace came down to Malaga, and then we headed off to celebrate Dani’s birthday in Ibiza and Barcelona! We only had 1.5 days in Ibiza so this was the plan:
- Find a bar to take celebratory drinks
- Go to the airbnb (best deal ever-right on the beach!)
- Get supplies and the tickets to da club
- Live it up!
We did Ibiza how Ibiza should be done, and then as all the famous people do we took the 30 minute ferry to the next island, Formentera, where soak up the rays as we nursed our hangovers. Now this is the island that Beyonce and Jay-Z go to-so you know it is legit. Some suggestions for next time: bring your driver’s license-you can rent a moped or car which is the best way to get around the island. We ended up just taxi-ing it which was expensive, but worth it. It is the same in Palma Mallorca, it’s so much easier to rent a car to see the whole island.
Then as quick as we came, we were off to Barcelona! We had a ton of site-seeing to do and to celebrate Dani’s birthday! Oh, and Michaela and I had a date night with our BFF, Adele. We, of course, saw the Sagrada Familia and even splurged a little to climb the towers (which I highly recommend!). McGrimmley’s, I know you are reading this, a reminder: McGrimmley family reunion Barcelona 2025 to finally see the church complete. We also did a tour of the old Gothic Quarter where we were staying. And yes, there was plenty of time for some famous Catalan cava and the purrrrrron (Dani had a taste of this back at the romería during her first visit).
Just in case we hadn’t already done enough, we had out BIG trip to Italy planned. As in we had out meal times figured out so we could eat as much, pizza, pasta, and gelato as possible. This wasn’t my first time to Rome and Naples, I was lucky enough to go my first year. Which meant that it was a do-over for all the things that didn’t happen the first time (AKA getting pizza at the same place Julia Roberts ate at in Eat. Pray. Love. in Naples). We had about 4 days in Italy which meant that we had to be pretty go about scheduling our tours, trains, etc. As always, I suggest booking tickets to see the important sites a head of time. We also did the Rome pass, again, which is such a money and time saver. You are able to enter 2 museums (there are SO many and the Colosseum and Palatine Hill count only as 1), and you get to jump the line at those sites! It’s worth it just for the Colosseum.
This time around, we did tour with Viator tour company (I’ve used them many a time before!) for The Vatican. It was more expensive than the tour The Vatican offers, but it was a group tour with a guide who literally knew EVERYTHING about The Vatican. The tour was 3.5 hours, which might be too much for some, but the place is JUST that big. Some quick facts we learned:
- Papa Fran doesn’t live in the papal quarters, he lives in the visitors apartment (which, to be honest, has to be very luxurious as well). That is because Papa Fran believes in living simply.
- The Vatican museums extend over 9 miles. It is believed that it would take you 4 years to complete the circuit even if you spend merely 1 minute admiring each painting! (hence why the tour is so long)
- Michelangelo was chosen to paint the Sistine Chapel because the painter Rapael wanted him to fail at it. Remember, Michelangelo wasn’t a painter at this time, so Rapael wanted to tarnish his name for revenge. hahahahah that obviously blew up in Rapael’s face. Michelangelo also got his revenge by painting famous people of the time in “hell” in parts of the ceiling.
- You aren’t suppose to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel because a company in Japan paid for the copyright, and are the “only” ones who can come and take pictures.
We also made the rounds to see the other sites of Rome: The Spanish steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Borghese Gallery, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill. We took a surprise tour of the Pantheon-literally we were walking up to it and a guy asked us if we wanted a tour, and he literally brought us to the tour!
In between you can trust us that we ate until we were past full. We came up with our eating schedule: pizza and beer, pasta and wine, gelato, repeat. I have to admit that we didn’t really research places to eat, we walked around looking at peoples plates and decided based on that. It worked out pretty good, I don’t think there was a terrible plate we had.
Then we were off to Naples to stuff our faces with the most delicious pizza! Just as I did last time, we booked our train tickets on ItaliaRail and was able to search for the cheapest tickets. We stayed at the sister hostel of the one in Rome, La Controra Hostel Naples, which I recommend if you can’t find a decent airbnb. Now what is the first thing you do in Naples? YOU EAT PIZZA!
Just as Julia Roberts did in Eat. Pray. Love. we went to the same pizza place, waited a a ridiculous amount of time to devour the BEST pizza on our lives. This place is called Pizzeria Da Michele, and it is the oldest pizza place in Naples. You have to get there at like 6 PM to not have to wait, but it’s probably the most authentic Italian place you can go-the waiters refuse to speak to you in English. And they only serve 2 types of pizza, Margarita, and Margarita with EXTRA MOZZARELLA! I’m seriously getting hungry just thinking about this pizza.
Ok, so I had to go get a snack because those pictures made me so hungry. The next day we were up early to head to another one of my favorite sites: POMPEII!!!!!! We took the commuter train and in 30 minutes we were there! We decided this time to take the tour that is offered at the ticket building, and it was pretty reasonable! Instead of walking around like “what is this old ruins?” the tour guide could tell you that it was an old butcher’s shop. Of course when we went, there were like a million other people, but we did get a little taste of Ancient Rome when a guy started singing Opera in the theater. We also got to see that there brothel during that time too.
After we got our dose of history at Pompeii, we headed back to Naples to eat at the 2nd oldest pizza place, and it was just as good! Then we took a tour of the underground Naples [insert creepy music]. Basically these underground tunnels were discovered when the city was trying to build the metro, and is now why the Naples metro is soooooo far underground. Basically what they discovered were old Roman ruins that Modern Naples built on top of- A part of the tour is actually going into people’s house that they discovered ruins (usually in the basement)! Later in time, the underground tunnels were used as a water system, and men had to literally risk their lives to make sure the water supply was functioning. Finally the last time the tunnels were used was during World War II were people would take refuge from the air bombings. Some people even moved their beds down there to stay for periods of time! Now the underground city is used for tours, but also for science experiments mostly dealing with plant growth underground.
Naples was good to us, it probably helped that the pizza is amazing. I don’t think we could have done any better on the trip. Except for another trip to Da’ Michele for more of that heavenly pizza. As always it was a blast showing Dani one of my favorite countries and sharing the history that I love so much. Having her come and visit again was the highlight of my year! And yes, we already have plans for ROUND 3- Oktoberfest!!!!!
Once we were back in Malaga, it was time for Dani to head back to the States, and then it was time for me to head back to MN for the summer! After only have two weeks in MN last summer, I was ready to take advantage that I was going to be there until October! Y’all have to wait just a tad bit longer for those adventures!