Between the mouths of the Po and Piave Rivers, Venice is a city of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. To get there, one must take a water taxi, which also means it is highly unlikely one will be in a car accident while visiting the city.

Instead of cars, there are boats maneuvering everywhere, and the Grand Canal is as busy and bustling as any waterway on earth. Everything arrives by water, packages and produce piled high inside the shallow boats waiting in line to dock and unload. I got a particular chuckle out of one boat laden with brown paper packages sporting a familiar brown and gold color scheme. On its low side was painted

But of course, one cannot visit Venice without taking a gondola ride, and Anselmo arranged a great price for those in our group who chose to see a little of the city by water. Unless you pay extra for a private gondola and singing boatman, six people normally share the ride. The boat is expertly maneuvered by a single oar, both propelling and steering the craft, and our 40 minute trip received a definite thumbs up.

After the side excursion, I wandered the squares, enjoying gelato, of course, and observing all the wonderful ambiance of a world with only foot traffic!

Public toilets, however, are few and far between, and cost 1.50 euros to use, the most expensive on our tour. While our bus most often stopped at free facilities, .50 and 1 euro rest stops were commonplace. Some included actual seats, some did not.

Murano glass is quite the sought-after souvenir, and I fell in love with a delightful pair of deep lavender earrings with Swarovski crystals top and bottom. Earrings are a great souvenir, pack easily, and I bought them on the spot. I also bought several refrigerator magnets and some porcelain Venetian theatre masks. Let the buyer beware! Many of the tourist trinkets sold here are actually made in China! I made sure mine were not!

Back on the mainland, I signed up for another dinner experience off the beaten path. Allegedly “just a short drive,” it took our new driver, Romolo, about an hour and a half to find it. Having previously taken a water pill to alleviate some of the swelling in my over-walked ankles, we arrived none too soon! By that point, I was missing Andre something fierce, but rules are rules and he had driven his quota for this trip.

The dinner was “beef or fish,” and I ordered the fish. Unfortunately, fish in Italy can mean many things, as I had already learned in Sorrento, and soon a large plate of fried squid was placed in front of me. Now, I happen to enjoy calamari appetizers, so this surprise wasn’t a problem. Others, however, were dismayed at the unexpected local definition of “pesci.”

Our trip back to the hotel was much shorter than the trip going, and I was grateful to fall into bed that night, regretting that the Italian portion of the tour had come to a close so quickly.