Guided/Self-guided Bike and Barge / Original tour

Web code IT012

Italy / Venice-Mantua

Aboard Ave Maria

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 city states crowned by the Italian Renaissance.
  • Day by Day

    map

    1. Venice
    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 savour Venice at night, now free of the crowds and at her most romantic: Benvenuti a Venezia

    2. 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.

    3. Venice – Island Pellestrina (30 km)
    Leaving Venice behind after a gentle cruise in front of St Mark’s square, our cycling adventure starts on the Lido, the first of two islands we traverse today. 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. A short island-hop by ferry takes us into another world: Pellestrina, where we ride past the picturesque cottages and boats of this humble fishing backwater. We rejoin our barge just in front of Chioggia – a bustling and colourful fishing hub known as “Little Venice”.

    4. Island Pellestrina – Po Delta Nature Reserve – Adria (40 km)
    We open the day with a stroll through Chioggia, followed perhaps by a visit up the millennial clock tower – the oldest in the world – for some breathtaking views. Weather permitting, we can also bask in the sun at a fine-sand beach nearby: a dip in the Adriatic, a hot savoury piadina – and you are well and truly local!
    Then onwards into the delta of the life-giving Po. This unique wetland is the prime reserve in Europe for herons and home to a colony of flamingos. We moor for the night in Adria, a key Roman port, once washed by the waters of 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 – Ferrara – Zelo (35 km by bike + 35 km by bus)
    After a short cruise we saddle our bikes and, following the Po through farmland and hamlets, we reach 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 take us back to our floating hotel in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.

    6. Zelo – Mantua (50 km)
    This morning we head for the village of Bergantino, home of the distinctive Museum of Fairground Rides and its collection of street organs, all expertly restored (and thunderous!). But first things first: we are in the heartland of Grana Padano – the arch-rival of Parmesan – and after visiting the local cheese factory, we enjoy a degustazione of sharp and seasoned Grana, washed down with a glass of Valpolicella.
    After our customary picnic lunch, we leave Bergantino and follow the river to Ostiglia, famed for its medieval fortress and the fierce fighting that took place here in 1945, as the Allies and partisans drove Hitler's forces back. We ride on and rejoin our barge at Governolo Lock, where Mantua's River Mincio flows into the Po. Veering north, we cruise through the lush wetlands that finally emerge into the glorious "lakes" of Mantua.

    7. 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.

    8. Mantua
    Departure after breakfast.

     

     

    The programme has been planned to feature navigation along the Fissero/ Bianco canal, which runs parallel to the Po 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: 190 km
    Total vertical up: 30 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 the boat with one of the parents.

     

  • How to get there

    Venice is connected with the following airports:
    Venice: 10 km, Treviso: 30 km, Verona: 110 km, Bergamo: 240, km Milan: 310 km.

     

    Trains
    For further information on timetables and prices you can consult the following websites: 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 partially opened), comfortable low beds, en-suite facilities, air conditioning and 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 area
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 11 Client reviews
    • Rita

      Departure 2018

      Online from 25 June 2018

      We just spent a wonderful week on the Ave Maria with Fabio and crew—what a trip—great food, wine, company, riding, bikes, sites—everyone was so helpful. Highly recommend—we are looking at our next Girolibero trip already!!
    • Barbara & Neil, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 09 October 2017

      We just wanted to say how much we appreciated the professional and supportive way you made it all so simple. We thoroughly enjoyed our cycle and the crew on the Ave Maria were really super too.

      We’re hoping to return to Italy for another cycle trip soon and we will certainly be considering booking with Girolibero.
    • Helen, Belgium

      Departure 2017

      Online from 03 October 2017

      Good morning Maddalena,

      this message to let you know that we enjoyed very much our Holiday with your company, the staff was really exceptional and we have some great souvenir on live on the boat and especially the food.
    • Richard, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 31 July 2017

      First, we were literally staggered by the welcome we received, as two tired English approached the 'Ave Maria', an hour before the official time to board, and were greeted by Irene, as warmly as if we had been members of her family! By the end of the holiday at Mantua we realised that our first impressions of Irene, had been considerably enhanced: she is a formidably, competent, calm and consistently reliable person / team leader. However she is not one to be messed with! We saw how well she handled a lackadaisical ticket office at Mantua railway office etc.

      Daniela, the other and more senior tour leader, now enjoying a week's well earned break back at her home, at Vicenza, is a real gem. She and Irene, rode with us on every cycle ride, leading, and where necessary smoothing out any small problems. They each went to great lengths to make our holiday the success it undoubtedly was .

      .. I believe everyone of the 40 guests would have felt much the same.

      Additionally, it was a refinement to add to the overall enjoyment that the other passenger/ cyclists were so nice. These were Americans ( including some well behaved teenagers), Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, as well as English. Sadly, there was no Scot. We all got on well.

      My one regret was that I was unable to tell the CEO of the company, our collective gratitude for building a company, acquiring the boats, the staff, then in devising the routes and brilliant maps that we were issued with. He did visit the 'Ave Maria' a day before we arrived in Mantua, and met several people, but sadly I was not one of them...

      I have not mentioned the Captain of the 'Ave Maria': Riccardo. He really 'leads from the front', and was always to be seen helping out: everything and everyone. An astonishing act of leadership...
      My last job, long, long ago, in the British Army was instructing /assessing Officer Cadets. Riccardo, the Captain of the Ave Maria, would had he been one of 'my' cadets have revived a fine report from me!

      The route taken by the 'Ave Maria' exceeded our expectations, massively. So, too did the daily cycle rides, and the variety of places we we so ably shown around. My wife and I are well travelled. NO holiday has been better resourced from every angle. So, thank you all at GIROLIBERO! And, yes, we have been to Italy before.

      We would definitely like to travel next year with 'Girolibero ', especially if you would have the tour from Venice to Porec GUIDED. I wonder WHETHER they might consider this? Please do!!

      Many thanks
    • Pietro

      Departure 17-24 June 2017

      Online from 29 June 2017

      Una buona vacanza per chi ama la natura particolare del Delta del Po, pedalando su un percorso facile toccando città famose, con un buon albergo al seguito e mangiando bene.
    • Annie & Thierry (Brussels, Belgium)

      Departure 2017

      Online from 30 May 2017

      We spent a fantastic week on the Ave Maria. The tour is beautiful, including visits of Venezia of course, but other nice less-known towns, and superb river landscapes.
      The boat is incredibly comfortable, with all modern equipment, quiet terrasse, large dinner lounge. Food was excellent and let us taste a wide variety of italian dishes and wines.
      The tour is easy, with short stages and no elevation, but we could extend it every time we wished, with precise explanations and good maps provided every day.
      Our tour leader Tamara made the week unforgettable, with an enthusiastic atmosphere, offering us many opportunities to personalize the tour.
      All this surrounded by the super professional organization of Girolibero, for the material, the accommodation, the transfers…
      A great experience !
    • Mandy, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 05 May 2017

      I just had to drop you a line to say how much Sarah and I enjoyed out trip. It was fantastic in every way. The Ave Maria is a terrific boat and I loved sailing on her especially into Venice on a beautiful evening.

      We wanted to compliment Alain and Mikkela on their never ending energy and enthusiasm for the trip and the the entertaining way they worked together, professional but friendly. I don’t think I have laughed so much in a long time The visits they organised were very interesting and informative and apart from one day they organised the weather pretty well too. They are great ambassadors for your company. It seemed to me that the whole team worked well together and I must compliment the two chefs whose food was outstanding. I loved the fact that they used produce from the places we passed through so imaginatively.

      None of us wanted to leave the boat on Saturday but sadly we had to and that is a testament to the enjoyment of the whole trip which I am wholeheartedly extolling to all my friends and colleagues who I hope will book with you in the future.

      Also thank you for our wine which we enjoyed immensely.

      Please make sure our praise goes to the team because without them our trip would have been a whole lot different!

      With kind regards
    • Alessandro

      Departure 08-15 April 2017

      Online from 03 May 2017

      Esperienza entusiasmente! Pur essendo italiani e residenti in Veneto, merita pedalare in questi affascinanti territori ricchi di natura e opere d'arte. Bellissima la compagnia, animata da guide esperte e simpaticissime e da personale di bordo e cuochi insuperabili!! Ottima l'organizzazione e la qualità del tutto!!
    • Joanne & John

      Departure 2016

      Online from 03 November 2016

      We are very happy that we selected Girolibero for our vacation. We are even happier that we had the team of Hugo & Tamara and all the rest of the crew. We were constantly amazed at the anecdotes, information, tours and teamwork. We will probably do another tour with Girolibero in the future.
    • Alberto

      Departure 30 July - 06 August 2016

      Online from 11 October 2016

      Credo che su questo tipo di viaggio ci sia nulla da consigliarVi.
    • Larry, Canada

      Departure 2016

      Online from 09 June 2016


      We had a great time on the boat/barge. Everything was first class, the food was amazing & the staff were fabulous. Not a single complaint.
  • 1 To combine with

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 6.04, 20.04, 4.05, 18.05, 1.06, 15.06, 29.06, 13.07, 27.07, 10.08, 24.08, 7.09, 21.09, 5.10, 19.10.2019

 

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-Zelo


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 € Electro-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.

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