All I remember about Venice was the gelato.

Two, no, three scoops of velvety stracciatella and coffee flavored heaven piled high atop a crunchy waffle cone, every bite floating over my tongue like a cloud. And the pizza! The pizza was pretty life-changing, too, even if it was thin-crust. (Give me Chicago-style deep dish any day, unless I'm in Italy.)

Then there were the masks—hundreds of them, of all different colors and intricate designs—hanging from store ceilings and placed strategically in shop windows, staring you down as you crossed the narrow lanes and swerved through strangers. We finally gave in and bought each a one (red wire for me, gold papier-mache for Kristen) and wore them to a fancy masquerade feast with the rest of the group.

But before that, a (seemingly) drunk Italian man in a striped uniform steered us through the canals of Venice by gondola, rowing oar in one hand and half-empty beer bottle in another. It was something else, that gondola ride—enchantingly romantic, with the beautiful views and a mid-afternoon breeze and curious onlookers crossing bridges above—almost as wonderful as the gelato.