Guided/Self-guided Bike and Barge / Original tour

Web code IT010

Italy / Mantua-Venice

Aboard Ave Maria

Blending nature, culture and fine cuisine, this leisurely bike and barge tour along 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, rewarding our daily rides with authentic regional dishes back on board. The tour starts in Mantua – in its heyday a major city state crowned by the Italian Renaissance – progresses to Ferrara and culminates in Venice. Along the way: Adria, once a key Roman port; the natural wonders of the Po Delta, famed for its birdlife; and colourful Chioggia, gateway to the Venetian lagoon. Finally: the glory of Venice herself.
  • Day by Day

    map

    1. Mantua
    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!

    2. Mantua round tour (35 km)
    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.

    3. Mantua – Zelo (50 km)
    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.

    4. Zelo – Ferrara – Adria (50 km by bike + 60 km by bus)
    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 passeggiata into town for a well-earned grappa or gelato is in order.

    5. Adria – Po Delta Nature Reserve –  Island Pellestrina (40 km)
    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 palce on the Island Pellestrina, just in front of Chioggia.

    6. Island Pellestrina  – Venice (30 km)
    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. 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!

    7. Venice
    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.

    8. Venice
    Departure after breakfast.

     

     

    The programme has been planned to feature navigation along the Fissero/ Bianco canal, which runs parallel to the Po river and connects Mantua to the Adriatic Sea. 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 boat’s captain.

     

  • Route profile

    Total Length: 205 km
    Total vertical up: 20 m
    Terrain: 95% tarmac, 5% unpaved

    This cycling 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 boat 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 boat, to allow easier access onto cycling paths or simply to enjoy the cruise.

     

    Easy cycling in mostly flat areas, with only few short climbs and descents. Little effort required, suitable for most people.
    The tour is also suitable for children. If the child one day does not want to cycle, he/she can stay on board  with one of the parents.

     

  • How to get there

    Mantua is connected with the following airports:
    Verona: 45 km, Venice: 120 km, Treviso: 130 km, Bergamo: 150 km, Milano: 180 km.

     
    TRAINS
    For further information on timetables and prices you can consult the following website: www.trenitalia.com.

     

  • Accommodation and meals

    AVE MARIA

    Modern and highly appointed river barge, launched in 2011.

     

    Take a virtual tour and watch our photo gallery!

     

    The barge Ave Maria is equipped with:

    • 4 Superior Double cabins (three of these can accommodate up to 4 persons adding 2 bunk beds) above deck, approx. 11 m2;
    • 10 Standard Double cabins (three of these can accommodate up to 3 persons adding 1 bunk bed) below deck, approx. 11 m2;
    • 3 bunk bed cabins (also available as Single cabins) below deck, approx. 7.5 m2.


    All cabins enjoy sizeable windows (the ones in the Superior cabins can also be opened), comfortable low beds, en-suite facilities, air conditioning ans safety box. Bed/bunk size is 2.00 x 0.80 m. Most of the double beds can be separated into two single beds.

    The air-conditioned living area measures 11 x 7.5 m and is divided into two parts:
    the Restaurant (up to 33 seats) and the Lounge (up to 28 seats).

    Extra features:

    • 2 sundecks
    • Free hot drinks machine (including Italian ground coffee)
    • Free wi-fi in the common areas
    • Large 55” screen in the lounge for video
    • Dedicated bike storage (for approx. 40 hanging bikes)
    • Hair-dryers (limited number) available on request
    • Complimentary courtesy kit: soap, shower gel, shampoo, shower cap

     

  • Bikes and accessories

    Girolibero’s Citybikes are available in various sizes in unisex models. At the moment of booking, you can choose from the following bikes:

    • Unisex Citybike
    • E-bike


    Features:

    • aluminium frame
    • mudguard
    • rear rack
    • comfort gel saddle
    • anti-puncture Schwalbe tyres
    • ergonomic bicycle grips
    • Speed Lifter system


    You can also rent children’s bikes and devices:

    • Child seat: it is suitable for a maximum payload of 22 kg (0-4 yrs).
    • Child trailer: with one seat and suitable for children who cannot ride a bike (0-4 yrs). The child trailer is designed for a maximum payload of 30 kg. More info on www.croozer.com.
    • Follow-me tandem: a clever latch system enables the child's bike to lock firmly onto the tail of the adult bike as and when necessary (4-7 yrs). Adjustable only for the kids bike wheels size 20". The maximum weight of the child can be 27 kg. More info on www.followmetandem.co.uk
    • Child bikes: bike frames with 20” and 24” wheels

     

     

    Please note that child seats, child trailers and follow-me tandems can only be mounted on unisex City bikes 27-gear Shimano Deore.

     

    Accessories

    All rented adult bikes are equipped with:

    • 1 cycle computer  
    • 1 Ortlieb one-sided saddlebag
    • 1 water bottle (0.75 l)
    • 1 combination bike lock
    • 1 helmet suitable for head circumferences from 54 to 61


    Only for self-guided:

    • 1 front bar bag or 1 map holder
    • 1 repair kit per cabin: 1 spare inner tube, glue, patch, a pump, 2 allen keys and tyre levers


    All our helmets have a certification mark according to the DIN EN 1078 (CE) European norm.

     

  • Accompanying material

    The Information Pack (one per cabin) includes:


    Girolibero Greens booklets:
    1) Travel Guide with valuable information about the history, artistic heritage, landscapes and natural treasures of the areas visited on the tour. Plus: local events, some great anecdotes, suggestions on how to make the best of an extended break along the route, and tips on local wining and dining.
    2) Detailed Maps of the itinerary: in colour and scaled 1:75.000/50.000, an altitude profile chart and maps of any historic city centres you would visit.
    3) Roadbook describing the cycling route, stage by stage. Great on its own or in conjunction with the maps.

     

     

  • By your side

    Welcome briefing

    At your arrival on Saturday at 6.30 p.m., just before dinner, you will meet the tour leader and the crew. Every evening after dinner the guide will present you the cycling program of the following day.
    This tour offers the chance to choose if pedalling alone or with the whole group, following the tour leader. When booking the tour please specify the option chosen.
    If you want to cycle independently, you are free to do it by following the roadbook and maps you have been given. In case of an emergency you can contact the tour leader over the phone. If you change your mind during the week and you want to join the guided tour, please inform the tour leader the evening before.
    If you choose the guided option, the tour leader will be always present during breakfast and dinner and will cycle with you every day.

     

    Tour leader

    Our tour leaders are carefully selected and rigourously trained by Girolibero. They are all multi-lingual, and speak at least English and German. Smart, entertaining, caring and endlessly enthusiastic, they have a true passion for sharing their love of the outdoors, people, culture and local food. Thanks to a deep knowledge of the territory, they can give you useful hints and help you appreciate the place you are visiting. Of course they love cycling and will be happy to give you some advice about how to correctly use the bicycle gears and whenever necessary they can fix your flat tyre. As we like to say, our tour leaders are CDO (Controlled Designation of Origin), a real traveller’s ticket to discover the land with ease and to live an unforgettable active travel experience.

     

    Staff support

    For the whole duration of your bike tour, you can contact us:

    • office +39 0444 1278430 from Monday to Friday 8:30-13:00 and 15:00-18:30
    • Ave Maria boat phone number every day 8:00-20:00. The number will be specified in the Final Tour Details.
  • 10 Client reviews
    • Dale

      Departure 11-18 May 2019

      Online from 17 June 2019

      Great time. Wonderfully knowledgeable guides with fine sense of humor.
    • Susan

      Departure 2018

      Online from 02 April 2019

      "We so loved doing Mantua to Venice last October, and fun to relive it via the drone, I just loved Choggia, and riding along Pelestrina and Lido islands, that is a part of Venice tourists seldom see and we were so lucky to spend a couple of days languishing in the Venice lagoon on the beautiful Ave Maria! Thank you to our wonderful guides for many treasured memories!

      The food we ate was of outstanding quality, authentic Italian, and we loved our 2 chefs’ engagement with us explaining the origins of the dishes, and making our own pasta was a fun filled highlight of the trip!"
    • Anna

      Departure 04-11 August 2018

      Online from 25 September 2018

      Una delle vacanze piu' divertenti della mia vita! Straniera in casa propria, ho visitato luoghi interessanti, migliorato il mio inglese ed essendoci in media 35-36 gradi e' stata anche vacanza per misurare propria capacità fisica!
      Consiglio a tutti gli italiani che vanno all'estero per parlare inglese di modificare visione: lasciate che l'inglese venga a voi!:))
    • Veronika

      Departure 2017

      Online from 03 July 2017

      Dear Team!
      We where looking for the Flamingos!... First we saw nothing! Later at the day, we saw many real life flamingos. But we has so much fun, to make the people flamingos!
      The trip was very great! From the first until the last day!!!!! Thank you very much!!!! We will come again!!
      The trip was from Mantua to Venedig 10. Juni 2017 to 17.Juni 2017.
      And the best of all was Ronny, our guide!!!
      Greetings
    • Zoe, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 14 April 2017

      We have just returned from one of the best holidays ever - a week aboard Ave Maria Mantua to Venice.
      The professionalism of the staff was second to none, the boat immaculately tidy and well kept.
      The cabin although small was very clean and comfortable with everything you needed. we had magnificent weather, cycling and ice creams! The delicious food was prepared fresh each day and served by the wonderful 'boys' with great humour, they worked so well as a team and seemed to be having as good a time as us - my only disappointment was despite all the cycling I came back heavier than when I left!
      Already booking our next trip with Girolibero - an exceptional company.
    • Philippe & Mary, Canada

      Departure 2016

      Online from 07 November 2016

      We just returned from a bike and barge holiday in Northern Italy, on the PO River and Canal, and Veneto delta, on board the AveMaria, a former dredging barge expertly converted to a small special-purpose tourist ship. This was also our wedding anniversary holiday!

      We were thirty-six (36) people, from six (6) countries, including twelve (12) seniors from Ottawa, Canada, and a crew of four (4), including two (2) Italian chefs, one of whom was also a sommelier, plus our guide, Hein, a retired diplomat, who gave expert daily briefings and was a great raconteur, and who did his best to spare nobody with his very entertaining stories.

      We lived on the ship in well-designed cabins, took our breakfasts and dinners on board, and packed a picnic lunch, then rode 50 km per day and met the ship in the next port down river.

      The dining room had a great Italian coffee making machine, and it was very well used at breakfast and dinner. The cappuccino was excellent and popular will all. In the entrance hall to the barge, there was a water machine, offering delicious chilled fresh water, including frizzante, my favourite. We topped our water bottles up each morning.

      Each morning, after a good one to two hour ride, Hein made sure the first stop was at a local coffee bar or trattoria which he referred to as Café Pipi, so we could unload the morning coffee. If there was no such establishment available, then Hein would look for the alternative, which he called the Green Door Café, just turn right through the green door, continue on past the apple tree, and there you are.

      On the morning of the second day of biking, I hit some gravel and took a tumble, hit my head (I was wearing helmet, which was damaged, but saved me), elbow, shoulder, hip, and was cut up and badly bruised. It felt like a rotator cuff injury, but turned out to be less serious. I had to take a day off from biking, but got back on the bike the following day.

      The Italian meals and wines served on board by the two stellar chefs were simply delicious! We learned some wonderful new Italian recipes, including an Italian seafood soup, cioppino, also spaghetti con vongola, also a delicious white chocolate dessert with delicate small fruit in a flavourful ricotta.

      The chefs made a wonderful dessert for Mary and I to share one evening for our wedding anniversary on the ship.

      The tours of small cities, such as Mantova and Ferrara showed the ancient fortress cities of Northern Italy, dominated by powerful families, who operated land holdings and trading centres, which came together in 1871 to form the country of Italy, with the help of the visionary military leader, Garibaldi. The guide named the influential families of each city state, and how they operated. Italy was the last major European country to form up as a country per se.

      We also visited local industries, including a Parmesan cheese making factory, and a vongola processing plant. There are huge dairy herds in northern Italy devoted to producing milk for cheese making. The Veneto district has a huge production of mussels and vongola which are exported widely. We also visited fish processing plants, and retail fish markets. Our guide noted that 60% of the daily landed fish cash at one major local port simply disappears into thin air. These fish are likely not recorded and disappear into the local cash economy.

      We had a full day tour of Venice with our guide and another professional guide, beginning with St. Mark’s Square, and extending through a network of streets and lanes to the Rialto Bridge area, full of tiny shops, and some very upscale fashion shops. Then we returned to the ship for our final dinner and final briefing as a group. We had made many new friends and exchanged email addresses.
    • Arnulf, Deutschland

      Departure 2016

      Online from 05 September 2016

      Hallo Frau Sandra,
      zu Ihrer Frage, wie mir die Tour auf der Ave Maria gefallen hat und ob ich alles das, was ich sehen wollte, auch organisatorisch geschafft habe:
      Es war eine wunderschöne Reise mit Rad und Schiff von Mantua bis Venedig. Wir haben so viel Schönes gesehen und auch meine Sonderwünsche gingen bis auf einen in Erfüllung. So konnte ich in Zelo früher losradeln und hatte mehr Zeit für Ficarolo und die Stellata.
      Mit der Reiseleitung verstanden wir uns sehr gut. Der Kapitän, Marco und Luisa - alle waren sehr nett und hilfsbereit, führten uns sehr gut und gaben uns unterwegs viele wertvolle Informationen. Auch individuelle Sonderwünsche
      integrierten sie mit ein. So konnte ich zusätzlich innerhalb der Tour von Mantua nach Zelo über den Po zur Stadt Revere radeln und mir diese ansehen.
      Herrlich waren dann meine anschließenden Tage in Venedig mit seinen malerischen Brücken, Kanälen, Kirchen, Palazzi und
      Inseln Giudecca, Muarano, Burano und Torcello.
      Intensiv genoss ich auch die Aussicht von den beiden Campanili di S. Marco und S. Giorgio Maggiore auf Venedig, die Stadt der 100 Inseln ...
      Es war eine wunderbare Reise...
      Vielen Dank an Gileribero für die schöne Woche per Rad und Schiff und liebe Grüße an Marco und Luisa, den Kapitän und Frau Anna, die mir vorher ausführlich geschrieben hatte, wie das mit meinem eigenen Rad in Venedig per Privat-Transfer zu handhaben ist - so ging es dann auch mit Marcos Unterstützung.
      Im Anhang noch einige Fotos, die ich bisher nur zu einem Bruchteil sichten konnte. Bis ich alle (mehrere 1000) durchgesehen habe, wird es noch einige Zeit dauern. Sie können die an Marco und Luisa weiterleiten (deren Internetadressen ich nicht habe) - ich glaube, die beiden freuen sich darüber.
      Herzlichen Gruß
    • Marianne, Deutschland

      Departure 2016

      Online from 05 September 2016

      Liebe Maddalena Dal Porto,

      wir hatten einen wunderschönen Urlaub mit der Ave Maria von Mantova nach Venezia und sind ganz begeistert und erholt zurückgekommen. Die Crew war supernett und unser Reiseleiter Helmut war ausgesprochen fürsorglich, umsichtig, zuverlässig und hat sich sehr engagiert um alle gekümmert. Auch die Auswahl der Sehenswürdigkeiten (Stadtführungen, Karussellmuseum, Käsefabrik, Naturschutzgebiet, Badestrand ...) war sehr gut und abwechslungsreich ausgewählt.

      Vielen Dank auch für alle Ihre Benachrichtigungen und Sendungen, wir haben uns von Girolibero sehr gut vorbereitet und versorgt gefühlt.
      Vielen Dank für alles!

      Herzliche Grüße
    • Marc & Mahzel

      Departure 2016

      Online from 21 July 2016

      Hi Maddalena,
      We would like to express our thanks for such a fantastic experience we had on this bike & barge trip with Girolibero.
      The facilities and bikes were great; and the route fantastic - especially arriving into Venice!
      The whole crew were exceptional - Captain Luciano, Chef Guiliano and his assistant Irene, engineer Enrico and our great guides Marco and Licia. A great credit to your organisation!

      We look forward to undertaking future trips with Girolibero
      Regards
    • Gloria, Canada

      Departure 2016

      Online from 30 June 2016


      I must send congratulations to Tamara Veenendaal and let you know that she is the best person you have! She made our trip so memorable and wonderful. She was professional but also so personable. Her knowledge of the region was excellent and when she was not certain of the answer- she was sure to find it within hours! I know our complete group has nothing but praise for Tammy. I would not hesitate to sign up for more of these trips as long as Tammy was our leader!
      The rest of the staff was also excellent.
      I have nothing negative to say since the accommodations, the service, the cuisine, the bikes, the “rest stop entertainment”, the staff, the route, even the weather (for the most part) were exceptional!
      I have definitely recommended this adventure tour to anyone who will listen!
      Thank you again. And please forward congratulations to Tammy and the staff

      Have a great day!

Tour details

 

from 990 €

8 days / 7 nights, boat Ave Maria

Tour type:

Guided / Self-guided

 

Price per person

990 € standard double cabin value season

 

Departures

SA 30.03, 13.04, 27.04, 11.05, 25.05, 8.06, 22.06, 6.07, 20.07, 3.08, 17.08, 31.08, 14.09, 28.09, 12.10, 26.10.2019

 

Included

  • 7 overnights
  • Full board (breakfast, dinner and a self-made packed lunch)
  • Coffee and tea and other hot drinks on board
  • Sheets and towels
  • Courtesy kit
  • Daily short cleaning and mid-week cabin cleaning service and towel change
  • Bike helmet
  • Travel Guide, Maps, Roadbook
  • English speaking tour leader within an international group
  • Second tour leader with a minimum of 25 people
  • Guided visit in Venice and Mantua
  • Visit of a cheese factory with tasting of typical Grana Padano
  • Visit of Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum
  • Harbour charges
  • Bus transfer Ferrara-Adria

 

Not included

  • Beverages on board
  • Museums, fees and extras in general
  • Ticket for public transportation in Venice and lagoon (we suggest the ACTV 72h-ticket, 40 €)
  • Tips
  • Everything not included in the section “Included in the price”

 

Supplements

350 € standard season (13.04 - 24.08 and 19.10.2019)
550 € high season (31.08 - 12.10.2019)
140 € superior cabin
300 € single cabin
50 € special diet (gluten-free and vegan diets)

85 € Girolibero bike
195 € E-bike
85 € child trailer

Additional free accessories for children on demand:
- Child seat
- FollowMe-Tandem (to connect parent’s and child’s bikes)

Extra nights in double/single room with breakfast*:
45/75 € 3* hotel in Mantua
from 85/125 € 4* hotel in Mantua
65/90 € 3/4* hotel in Mestre
from 90/150 € 3/4* hotel in Venice
*local taxes to be paid on site

 

Reductions

100 € bunk bed cabin (below deck)
250 € 3rd/4th adult in the cabin

Children reductions:
100% 0-2 years
50% 3-6 years
30% 7-10 years

Discount only applying if child is occupying 3rd or 4th bed in the cabin. 4th bed only available in the superior cabins.

 

Good to know

This tour offers the chance to choose if pedalling alone (taking advantage of a very detailed route description) or with the whole group, following the tour leader.

At Girolibero we believe in rewarding our customers: choose the most beautiful pictures or a video of your holiday, you can win a travel voucher worth € 300!
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