This is my first trip in 2008 after my Xmas vacation in Canada and the US.
As a prelude of my diary, just briefly explain my university life. I really need this break after so many things happening in my work and personal life, including my health condition – suffering from a shoulder pain which forced me to attend physiotherapy session for several occasions. I am struggling to move on with my research after several revisions of the techniques to be employed in my PhD research. After working on it for more than 2 years, it seems that it is endless negotiations with my supervisors on what to do for the rest of the remaining months of my program which is due in October. Hopefully, I will be approved for extension for 6 months, so I can submit my thesis by April 2009. With this 6-day trip to Italy could somehow unwind and revitalise my enthusiasm to write, have direct focus on what to do and move on to completion of my PhD program.
As a preparation for this trip, I have to secure the necessary requirements for the Italian visa or the Schengen visa (entry to EU members, except UK and Ireland). Generally, for non-EU citizens and living in Northern Ireland, the visa is issued in Edinburgh which takes 3 weeks to process via the Consulate General in Belfast. An appointment with the Consulate General to assess the application and will be forwarded to Edinburgh office.
The supporting documents for the visa applications are follows: valid passport, ID photo, confirmed flight and accommodation details, letter from the university and current bank statement.
There several choices to book the flight on-line from Belfast to Rome. The flights are offered by Easyjet, Ryanair, Bmi and Aer lengus. I chose Aer Lengus (Irish carrier) having a direct flight to Rome from Belfast International Airport. Ryanair is much cheaper but needs to depart from Dublin and it will requires me to have an Irish visa! Aer Lengus started their new hub (central office) in Belfast late last year after so many years of operation in Dublin. In terms of accommodation, I decided to book with Hostelworld.com and luckily I got affordable places to stay (both in Rome and Florence) for the whole duration of the trip. My flights and accommodations were sorted out prior to my visa application. Finally, I got my visa 2 days prior to my departure, after calling the Embassy for updates to ensure that I have it a day before my departure and granted with one entry and limited days to stay.