In Venice, I stayed at the Hotel Primavera, just outside of the main island in Mestre. It was less than a 10 minute bus ride to town and less than half the cost of any hostel in downtown Venice (this is the most expensive city I've visited so far). The concierge informed me that I'm the first American that he's heard pronounce "gratzie" correctly. I'm quite proud of that, since we had just spent the last week trying to figure that out. Also how to respond to "prego" when someone in a store uses it to greet you. We never figured out the answer to that one.
I spent the first afternoon exploring on my own, where among other things, I discovered an impromptu concert in San Marco Square from a choir who was travelling, and a book launch party in a used book store (I love bookstores).
I ate Tiramisu next to the Grand Canal that evening in Rialto. Since it was a little late and I had enough trouble navigating Venice in the daylight, instead of walking, I took the vaporetti back to the hotel where I met my roommates.
They were two lovely girls, from London who were stopping here before visiting the Greek islands. We swapped stories and they gave me a whole list of things to do and places to go in London later. We explored the winding streets and canals together the next day and spent quite a bit of time riding around on the vaporetti (boat busses, far more economical than gondolas), and shopping. It seems like it must be a requirement that anyone who works on the vaporetti must be an attractive male around age 25. I think its a good rule.
Nearly every store in Venice sells Murano glass (made in Venice) or carnival masks of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Also made in Venice is Fragolina, a strawberry flavored wine. Strawberries are my favorite, and fragolina is delicious.