London & Italy (May 2014)
[Day 1] Newark International Airport (NJ, USA) -> Heathrow International Airport (London, UK) [Day 2]
[Day 2] London -> Dover Castle Hostel and Bar Hostel +++ – above a bar so bring earplugs, otherwise great location equidistant to everything
Buckingham Palace: As you may have seen in the movies, Buckingham Palace is the huge palace for the Queen. The front gates are usually locked so you will have to peek inside. You will usually see at least 2 guards standing tight unless it is time for the changing of the guard.
Houses of Parliament: Parliament is the equivalent of a legislative body that creates and discusses laws to be reviewed for approval. This giant structure is also the feature of many movies along the Thames River.
The London Eye: Besides being located alongside the river, this Ferris wheel is slightly bigger than the ones you may find at the amusement park. You may find the views spectacular should you choose to ride it.
Tower Bridge: The tower bridge is a drawbridge that occasionally withdraws to allow over-sized ships to pass. Otherwise, it allows pedestrians and vehicles to pass through.
Duomo: In general, churches are known as duomos but the one in Milan is the famous church that holds “The Last Supper” painting which is only available to visit on certain days of the week. Make sure to cover your legs with something or they may not let you inside.
[Day 4] Venice -> Florence via Tren Italia
Venice (UNESCO): This world famous town is the basis of many Shakespeare masterpieces. Get lost in the narrow pathways in this city on water. The canal is greenish-blue due to the pollution lately but that should not prevent any enjoyment. Enjoy daily excursions to neighboring islands like Burano or Murano to discover arts such as architecture or glassblowing. Every year the water level rises a little so make sure to visit before you cannot anymore.
[Day 5] Florence
Statue of David: Apparently there are 3 Statues of David, the biblical figure of his time, of different sizes in this city. See if you can find all three. One if located in a town square, one is located in a museum. Where could the third one be?
Duomo: As mentioned before, duomo refers to a church and this one is just as big and grand as ones in other major cities.
Piazzale Michelangelo: Another genius during his time Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel roof which you can see today in the Vatican City museum tour. This plaza or town square was named after this famous historical figure.
Ponte Vecchio: Of the many bridges, in the world, this set is shaped like colorful residences which is quite unique. As an aside, one of the best gelato places in Florence is on a neighboring bridge parallel to Ponte Vecchio.
Pitti Palace: You can walk the winding, hilly streets of the city to arrive at this huge palace and garden. Italy itself is a work of art so no less is expected from this attraction.
[Day 6] Florence -> Rome Alessandro Downtown Hostel ++++ via Tren Italia
[Day 7] Rome, Vatican City
Colosseum: Mentioned more times in class and movies than one would like, the Colosseum was a sporting arena for Roman Gladiators. Nowadays it is a tourist trap with many trying to separate you from your money. Buy your tickets at the Roman Forum to skip the long lines here, a little known secret. Enjoy the ancient ruins of Roman times.
Piazza San Pietro, St. Peter’s Basilica: The church and square in the front are part of the Vatican, the attraction everyone must see at least once. You can climb to the top and see all of the Vatican and Rome. Stay inside and watch the different masses and church figures scurrying around.
Vatican City: The lines for the museum are horrible and conditions crowded, maybe even more so than in China. Expect to wait at least 1.5 hours even if you arrive 1.5 hours before opening. The easier way to bypass the lines is to join a tour group or buy tickets online. Going through the museum is the only way to see the Sistine Chapel so prepare yourself. If you travel with others, you will lose each other so just arrange a meeting place for later.
Fontana di Trevi: Plenty of money is being tossed into this fountain. Do not forget to make a wish before you part with your Euros.
Pantheon, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: Most of the famous structures in Rome are under renovation so be prepared for the worst. These structures still offer great views.
[Day 8] Rome -> Fiumicino International Airport (Rome) via Terravision bus -> Newark International Airport