* Arriving by bus, boarding a vaporetto and travelling the length of the Grand Canal before arriving at our hotel, marvelling the entire way. Just like the pictures!
* Our first evening meal in a cheap and friendly bar/restaurant we found by chance. Two free rounds of drink to entice us to wait for a table (sparkling white wine on tap, which greatly impressed our party). Nice plates of steaming tagliatelle with greens. Four desserts between three of us – one was a gift so that we could sample the cream-and-biscuits delicacy. There was a big birthday celebration at a long table nearby, with lots of thirty/forty-somethings with one child between them – typical spoiled but charming little Italian prince. A cake with candles was brought in with darkened ceremony, to the sound of 'Happy Birthday' in Italian. We very improperly drank sparkling wine with our meal and spent the first of several merry evenings.
* On our restaurant-hunt, as we explored silent darkened lanes, we suddenly came across a random alley with a heaving bar, an explosion of drunken student types milling inside and out, trying to accost us in the narrow alley, staggering and calling: 'I love you! I love you!' in their best English.
* The horror of being bitten by mosquitoes in such cold weather and so early in the year.
* On a wet night my friend was overjoyed to see two Venetian rats – fat rats they were; presumably gorged on refuse and canal-dirt.
* Being ogled by the police. Three carabinieri (military policemen) staring in the window of Florian's at us, loitering and laughing. Then peering around the other side of a column. Then sauntering behind us when we set off on our way. We speeded up to escape (did we have something odd splashed on our faces? surely being female wasn't unique around here), passing another cafe where we noticed the jazz pianist and the double bassist both staring out through the glass and grinning suggestively at us while bobbing their heads and playing their instruments. Perhaps women really were thin on the ground around St Mark's??
* During our gondola ride, the sight of a well-built young gondolier appearing suddenly on a little quay overlooing the narrow canal, and just posing there in his hat and stripes.
* The rather spooky experience of ascending the campanile of San Giorgio, where a silent and solemn monk whizzed up and down in a fast and noiseless lift. Exactly as my father remembers from 40 years ago.
* Being perversely disappointed at not seeing the sinking city's stacked duckboards in use.
* Teenage schoolboys play-fighting in the street, but stopping as we nearly walk into them, eyeing my friend up and down and promptly flashing her a dashing all-Italian grin.