On the afternoon of our first day in Venice the concierge at our hotel (the Metropole) asked if we'd be interested in having dinner in a palace. Not sure what to expect, we said yes. He presented us with a printed invitation and instructions on how to meet a group of fellow American tourists gathering that evening in a cafe off the Piazza San Marco. There we met the others and our hosts, who turned out to be representatives of the city's tourist agency and hotel association.
When the 20 Americans, selected at random from the city's hotels, had assembled, we walked with our hosts a short distance to a lovely 16th-Century palazzo. In a formal dining room we were served an exquisite dinner that featured Venetian cuisine and wines.
Our group included a number of Californians, along with others from New York, Boston, Florida and New Mexico. Our hosts explained that with the reduced number of Americans traveling abroad this year, their associations arranged such dinners two nights each week this summer, each for a randomly selected group of 20. Everyone in our group agreed that such a way of saying "thanks for coming to our city" would be long remembered by all of us.
JAMES W. RAGSDALE