Luxury For Free

How I parlayed my airline, hotel and credit-card points into a totally first-class trip to Italy--and how you can too

The captain of our sleek vaporetto motorboat deftly steered us to the private dock of the Hotel Gritti Palace. After our first-class flight on Delta Air Lines, my wife and I were rested and looking forward to celebrating New Year's at this world-renowned palazzo located on the Grand Canal in Venice. In minutes, we were comfortably ensconced in our spectacular room overlooking the canal, replete with Frette linens, Ginori porcelain, thick cotton robes and towels in the pink-marbled bathroom and an immense, multicolored Murano glass chandelier in the bedroom. There was also a chilled bottle of Ferrari sparkling wine (one of...

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