A delightful bike and boat tour in Italy: Blending nature, culture and fine cuisine, this leisurely bike and barge tour along the waterways of the River Po offers more than just a taster of Northern Italy. It explores celebrated cities of art, one of Europe’s prime Nature Reserves and a wealth of tucked- away rural hamlets along the route, rewarding our daily rides with authentic regional dishes back on board. From the glory of Venice, the lagoon leads us to colourful Chioggia. Next up, the natural wonders of the Po Delta, famed for its birdlife. Then Adria, once a key roman port, and onwards to Ferrara and mantua – once major states crowned by the Italian Renaissance.
TOUR PROFILE: This bike tour is largely along the flats of the Po plains, and the daily stages vary from 25 to 55 km – mostly on tarmac cycle paths along rivers and canals, or quiet country roads. The barge is moored at night and typically sets sail after breakfast, meeting up with the bikes in the afternoon. Some parts of the itinerary are undertaken by barge, to allow easier access onto cycling paths or simply to enjoy the cruise.
We welcome you aboard your new home-from-home from 4.30 p.m. onwards, and then regroup for the introductory briefing – at 6.30 – with your tour leader, skipper and crew, along with a first refreshing aperitivo. After dinner we can stroll into town and savour the historic centre at its most evocative: Benvenuti a Mantova!
A day dedicated to the discovery of this little visited cultural gem, its three picturesque "lakes" formed by the Mincio, and its surrounding countryside – once a City State ruled by the Gonzaga family and now considered by many as Italy’s "Sleeping Beauty". This afternoon we meet our Mantuan guide for a walking tour of the historic centre, and enjoy the rest of the day in town, at our own leisure.
After breakfast, we set sail from the "lakes" of Mantua and cruise through the lush wetlands that lead to Governolo Lock, where Mantua's River Mincio flows into the Po. Here, we saddle up and follow the broad sweeps of the levee towards Ostiglia, renowned for its medieval fortress and fierce fighting in 1945, as the Allies drove Hitler's forces back. Next: Bergantino, home of the distinctive Museum of Fairground Rides and its collection of street organs, all expertly restored (and thunderous!). This village is also in the heartland of Grana Padano – the arch-rival of Parmesan – and a visit to the local cheese factory, sampling some well seasoned Grana, is de rigueur. We catch up with our barge in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.
This morning we cross the Po and ride southwards through a patchwork of farmland, orchards and hamlets, as far as Ferrara. Under its ruling family, the Este, this city state attracted architects, artists and scholars for centuries, pioneering town planning principles that have been emulated worldwide ever since. To this day, Ferrara University ranks among the best, and the town is dubbed the ''Cycling Capital of Italy". A private bus and trailer then take us back to our floating hotel in Adria, an ancient Roman port once washed by the sea which bears its name. Adria is also renowned for its Etruscan and Greek heritage. An after-dinner walk into town for a well-earned grappa or gelato is in order.
After a short cruise, we cycle into the delta of the life-giving Po. This unique wetland is the prime reserve in Europe for herons and home to a sizeable colony of flamingos. Weather permitting, as we continue towards Chioggia, we can also enjoy a break at a fine-sand beach nearby for a dip in the Adriatic – not forgetting a hot savoury piadina! Chioggia is also known as “Little Venice“, a colourful fishing hub. The overnight takes place on the Island Pellestrina, just in front of Chioggia.
Venice beckons, but first another world altogether: Pellestrina, the first of two islands we traverse today – a humble and tranquil fishing backwater, picturesque as ever with its cottages, boats and nets. A short island- hop by ferry lands us on the Lido. Fashionable in high society ever since the Belle Époque, the Lido di Venezia is now home to the International Venice Film Festival and its galaxy of stars. We will also visit a historic glass factory on Murano island, with a glassblowing demonstration by a master artisan. After rejoining our barge, an unrushed cruise in front of St Mark’s square takes us to our final destination. After dinner we can savour Venice at night, now free of the crowds and at her most romantic: Benvenuti a Venezia!
After breakfast – and perhaps following a wander off the beaten track with your tour leader – we all meet up with our Venetian guide for a tour through the historic centre. Christened La Serenissima ("The Most Serene"), the Venetian Republic held sway over much of the Mediterranean (and beyond) for centuries – both as a military power and a beacon of culture, her explorers reaching as far as China and Newfoundland. After your guided tour, you have the afternoon free to enjoy the city at your own pace.
Departure or Extension
After an adventurous voyage via the Rhine and Danube Rivers, and the Black and Adriatic Seas, she was reconditioned and relaunched, in 2009, for her first season in northern Italy. 36m long and 5.4m wide, the barge can accommodate 21 passengers in 10/11 cabins, all en-suite and with low beds. Also benefits from a restaurant/lounge bar (with a free Italian coffee machine) and a generous sundeck, which is ideal for lounging under the canopy as well as bike storage, plus free wifi and iPad. All common areas are air-conditioned, and all cabin portholes can be opened for fresh air.
Capacity: 21 persons
Dimensions: 36m x 5,4m
Water rod: 1,60m – Air: 3,90m
10 twin cabins of approx. 8m² (one can be used as a triple cabin). Each cabin
has low beds, an own shower / WC and a porthole. All common areas are air-conditioned and the cabins
gets the climated air from the corridor.
Bed sizes: 1,90/2,0 m x 0,75 / 0,80 m
There is an air-conditioned living room with 5 tables and seating for up to 23 guests.
› 1 Sundeck
› Self-service coffee and tea machine
› free Wi-Fi
42’’ flat screen in the lounge for Videos
› storage area for bicycles
Modern and highly appointed river barge, launched in 2011. Cruises between Mantova and Venice, following the lush Mincio, the majestic Po and its canals, and into the Lagoon of Venice. 41m long and 7.5m wide, the Ave Maria can accommodate up to 40 passengers in 17 single/double/triple/quad cabins, all en-suite. Also benefits from a spacious restaurant/lounge bar with panoramic windows (and free Italian coffee machine), two sundecks, bike storage, free wifi and iPad. All common areas and cabins are air-conditioned.
Capacity: 40 persons
Dimensions: 41m x 7,5m
Water rod:: 1,05m – Air 4,05m
4 Superior twin cabins of approx. 11 m² (3 of them can be used as 3 or 4 cabin – 2 bunk beds) on upper deck 10 Standard twin cabins of approx. 11 m² (3 of them can be used as a cabin for 3 persons) on lower deck3 bunk beds (can be sold as single cabin) on lower deck, approx. 7,5 m²Each cabins has big windows (some of them can be opened), comfortable low beds, own shower / WC and air condition.
Bed sizes: 2x0,80 m. Every double bed can be used as a single bed.
Air-conditioned lounge, size: 11 x 7,5 m, splitted in two areas:Restaurant (33 seats) und Lounge (up to 28 seats)
› 2 sundecks
› storage space for bicycles (approx. 40 bikes)
› 2 computers with Internet
› free Wi-Fi in the common areas
› 55’’- flat screen TV in the lounge for videos
› self-service coffee and tea machine
› Hair dryer – available on request
This tour offers the possibility to cycle alone or together with the guide in the group. When you book the tour, please tell us which variant you will book (guided or individual)
We have Unisex-bicycles in different sizes, equipped
with 27 Shimano Deore gears.
Each bike is equipped with pannier, water bottle, lock, handlebar bag or card holder (only for individual). Each couple gets a repair kit (only for individual). Due to limited space on board, only a few of you own bikes are allowed. Due to the increased transport costs of the bikes in Venice, it is not recommended to take part in the trip with your own bikes.
Due to organisational reasons, weather conditions or provisions issued by local authorities, the itinerary may be subject to some changes before and/or during the holiday. Issues with high and low water, as well as logistic obstacles such as officially ordered - previously not announced - repair work on locks or bridges can modify some of the daily stretches or overnight stays and may even request a transfer by bus. These decisions are only taken by the barge’s captain.
The tour route can also be booked in reversed version from VENICE to MANTUA!
Do you need further information? Or do you want an offer? Just let us know: