Ridgefield students visit Prague, Rome, and Munich

Waiting to board a sunset cruise on the Vltava River in Prague are: First row: Rachel Tomasetti, Katherine Weiner, Julia Palmiotto, Luke Barrientos, Luke D’Antonio, Santiago Brionnes, John McLoughlin and Dmitri Volkov. Second row: Hannah Seward, McKenna Carroll, Olivia DeStefano, Ali Caiola, Jordan Benedict, Tristen Connelly, Ava Craig, Symone Hayes, Brett D’Alexander. Third row: Sydney Giordano, Katie Flynn, Kyra Davis, Nina Bigelow, Nina Kropas, Bridgette Hogan, Cameron Farrow, Mark Radigan.

This past July, a group of students from Ridgefield and the surrounding area visited four countries in Europe as part of an independently run trip with EF Educational Tours.  The trip started in Prague where everyone visited the Prague Castle, then explored the Old Town Square with its many shops and food vendors.  After walking across and shopping on the Charles Bridge, where many artisans sell their wares, the group rented paddle boats on the Vltava River. The day ended with a sunset cruise along the river.

The next stop was Munich.  After a somber morning at the Dachau Concentration Camp, there was a lunch stop at BMW World.  Students sat inside some cars to take photos while others tried their hands at a lifelike driving simulator.  Later, a walking tour began in Marienplatz, the center of Munich since 1158. The Glockenspiel in the tower of the new city hall chimed at 5 pm and re-enacted stories to the amusement of many.  Students explored the city during free time which included going to museums, shopping, and taking a dip in the Eisbach river in the Englischer Garten, which is one of world’s largest public parks.

Neuschwanstein Castle, built by Ludwig II of Bavaria, was another site visited in Germany.  This spectacular castle, the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, sits on a rugged hill high above the village.  After climbing the hill to gain access for a tour, students had a few hours free to cool off in a nearby lake.  In the nearby Tyrol region of Austria, the group overnighted in a hotel with serene grounds and hiking trails to round out the evening activities.

Three of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Verona, Italy which was the next stop.  Boasting more than Juliet’s house and balcony, the city possesses an ancient amphitheater, fortress, a spectacular church, and many restaurants and shops. This was also where everyone got their first of many Italian gelatos.

Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance.  The impressive Duomo built by Brunelleschi looms over the city in a quiet but commanding way.  Everyone went inside for a visit and some went back for a full mass later in the day.  Students climbed 414 steps each way in Giotto’s Bell Tower, went in museums, bartered at the San Lorenzo market, wandered across the Ponte Vecchio, and walked in the footsteps of Michelangelo.  Each road and alley was more charming than the previous one.  

A group of Ridgefield students prepare to throw pennies in the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The final stop was Rome.  Students had a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, threw many coins in the Trevi Fountain, ate lunch in Piazza Navona, climbed the Spanish Steps, and went inside the ancient Pantheon. In nearby Vatican City, visits to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica were enjoyed by all.  The day was finished off with another gelato stop but this time from a gelateria that boasts 150 flavors.  

In addition to seeing great sights, participating in fun activities, and learning about different cultures, students also learned to be independent in situations that were new to them.  Luke D’Antonio said, “It was a wonderful trip, and the experiences we had taught us things we will use throughout our lives.” Mark Radigan agreed.  “The trip was mesmerizing, every country, every city we visited has left an imprint in my mind, with information and memories I’ll never forget.”

For more information about international travel opportunities in your area for both students and adults, email [email protected]

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