Join Italy’s longest river on its final journey to meet the Adriatic Sea – it’s a bike and boat tour with real Po-tential! Start with the island city of Mantua, just north of the great River Po in the middle of the River Mincio and cruise and cycle along the waterways to that most famous island city of all time, Venice. A visit to Mantua and Ferrara - both undiscovered city gems of the Italian Renaissance and designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites – together with the lush green landscapes and flamingo lagoons of the fertile Po Delta create the perfect prelude to that colourful carnival city of grand canals and gondolas. Make the comfortable, small barge, ‘Vita Pugna’, your floating home and pedal out on all sorts of gentle, scenic, circular or linear routes under the Italian sun. The cycling is self-guided, but following a tour leader is also an option if you prefer. Either way, everything is yours to discover at your own pace, from cheesy secrets of Grana Padano, colourful fairground carousels and celebrity-favoured beach resorts to herons in their hundreds and Adria’s ancient roots as a sea port.
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Is on board the barge, Vita Pugna in an outside-facing 2 bed cabin with private facilities and a porthole which opens for ventilation. The barge can accommodate up to 21 passengers and has 10 cabins. Full details about the barge including layout plans are available here. We are pleased to discuss details on request.
The fertile ‘fruit basket’ lands of the Rivers Po and Mincio and Renaissance city wonders of Ferrara and Mantua; Chioggia and the stylish beach resort islands of the Laguna di Venezia and Venice itself in all its gondala-filled glory – visit them all from Italy’s beautiful waterways and you’re in for a refreshing treat! Relax on board your floating accommodation and watch the world bustle by as you enjoy a gentler pace. Cycling takes the form of easy day rides along water-side cycle paths or small country roads. Highlights also include the Cà Roman nature reserve and the Po Delta and the one-time port of ancient Adria. The cycling on this tour is optional. Cycle routes are self-guided or if you fancy switching off just that little bit more, guided rides are available.
A guided tour option is available for the cycle rides on this tour. If you would prefer this to self-guided touring, please request this at the time of booking.
Due to navigation conditions, the exact details of itineraries / embarkation points may be modified at the discretion of the boat’s Captain. Some sailing during breakfast and /or the evening meal may take place to ease exit from town moorings or to shorten river cruise stretches. All cycling itineraries are optional. If you wish to take a day out of the saddle to relax on board, you are most welcome. All overnights are on board your floating accommodation, Ave Maria. Details of the transits to the next destination are outlined in the itinerary below but may be subject to change.
Day One – All aboard in Mantua!
Arrive in Mantua (Mantova) - the city of three islands - and discover your floating hotel, the stylish Italian barge ‘Vita Pugna’, moored by the banks of the River Mincio. The crew are ready to welcome you on board and show you your cabin from 4.30 pm, but there’s plenty of time to go for a wander before supper and get a glimpse of this ancient city surrounded on three sides by water, home to countless Renaissance palaces and Romeo’s supposed place of exile, according to Shakespeare’s famous play. Over dinner on board at 7, there’s a chance to meet the ship’s crew and have trip briefing, then relax with a drink to admire the view from the deck or enjoy another stroll through the city as it begins to sparkle into the evening.
Overnight mooring - Mantua.
Day Two – Magnificent Mantova (Mantua) - circular tour
Once a city state ruled by the powerful Gongaza dynasty, Mantua is one of Italy’s hidden gems, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and water-side city dominated by three lakes formed by the River Mincio. Take a bike tour today along lake-side routes, through parks and nature reserves to get a glimpse of the ancient forest which once covered the Po Valley. Discover Marmirolo and take a detour to discover Soave, before heading back towards the Porto Catena gateway for a guided tour of Mantua’s magnificent Renaissance treasures around the historic centre. Don’t miss the Piazza Sordello, the Palazzo Ducale, the cage tower (Torre della Gabbia) and cathedral. If you prefer to enjoy a longer day of beautiful cycling on flat terrain, why not choose a circular two wheeled trip through Mantua to Grazie, home of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Grace, and Rivalta, coming back through the nature reserve of the Mincio Valleys, before joining the guided city tour in the late afternoon.
Overnight mooring – Mantua.
Miles 24 Kms 40
Day Three – Time for a gentle spin & something a bit cheesy
Start the day with a relaxing cruise down the beautiful River Mincio to the town of Governolo where the river flows into the Po and forms Italy’s largest inland river basin. The lock here was once a key staging post for local navigation and it’s the place where you’ll take to your bike and pedal off down the lush banks of the River Po to discover Revere, worth a brief detour to see its old town centre and Ostiglia with its a medieval fortress and ‘floating’ mill. Just a short pedal-push away, Bergantino will put you in a different sort of spin. Discover the museum of carousels here, home to fairground organs and colourful displays which make for one bright and beautiful helping of Italian flamboyance and nostalgia. A final pedal leads to another tasty little stop – at the ‘Grana Padano’ cheese factory, then it’s along the Canal Bianco to the at the sleepy little village of Zelo where Ave Maria is moored and its crew making preparations for a well-deserved, post-cycling supper.
Overnight mooring – Zelo.
Miles 30 Kms 50
Day Four – Pedal to the Palazzi – Ferrara, City of the Renaissance
Start the day back on the bike, heading off along the Canal Bianco again, then winding your way to cross the great Po at Ficarolo en route to Ferrara, a Renaissance gem whose majestic, broad streets are simply brimful of palazzi. The ancient city state attracted renowned architects, artists and noblemen for centuries and the result is breath-taking. Don’t miss the city walls or the stucco and fresco work on the Palazzo Schifanoia; the Casa Romei, perhaps the city’s best-preserved Renaissance building; the National Picture Gallery in Palazzo dei Diamanti; the great moated castle of the Este dynasty built in 1385, plus the outstanding city hall and the 12th century cathedral façades.
Copernicus was a graduate of the university here in 1503 and these days, it’s still at the forefront of encouraging talent with its string of festivals from busking to hot-air ballooning. Enjoy and indulge your senses and perhaps even try the delicious local fruits from the market or Salama da Sugo - a sweetly spiced soft salami served almost like haggis with mashed potato! Make sure you’ve still got room for supper on board though, as there’s no more cycling to be done today to work it off, unless you really fancy it! From Ferrara a coach transfer (included) takes you on to the ancient one-time port of Adria in the province of Rovigo. The remains of this Roman and Etruscan stronghold now lie beneath a modern city, but its legacy lives on in its connections with the nearby Adria-tic Sea. Don’t miss the old and new cathedrals and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Adria for some fine insight into its rich history.
Overnight mooring – Adria.
Miles 30 Kms 50
Day Five – Through colourful worlds to a taste of bright island life
A day of colourful contrasts today, with bike and boat taking it in turn to lead you to new discoveries. Barge Vita Pugna starts the journey with a cruise to Porto Viro where two wheels are just perfect to get out and explore the lush, nature-rich worlds of the Po delta. This is definitely a day to have the binoculars at the top of the panniers: it’s no surprise that the fish breeding lagoons of the ‘Valli de Pesca’ are Europe’s prime place to spot heron, but they’re also home to a colony of flamingos too. The landscapes here are beautiful and haunting; flat and fertile; certainly a place to stop and reflect a while.
From the mouth of the River Adige whose cool waters have flowed all the way from the Dolomites, it’s time to follow the Po-Brondolo waterway towards the Laguna di Venezia where the scene of colourful beaks and plumage are replaced with the brightly painted fishermen’s cottages of ‘Little Venice’ - the busy, but beautiful port of Chioggia.
Overnight mooring – Chioggia.
Miles 24 Kms 40
Day Six – A spot of island hopping to vibrant Venezia
This morning Chioggia’s bustling fish market is a must now that you are ‘firmly floating’ on Venice’s islands along the Adriatic coast. There has to be time of course to visit the town’s impressively ancient clock tower (reputedly the oldest in the world!) and enjoy some awesome views, before barge Vita Pugna cruises across to the Pellestrinan quay. Take to two wheels to explore the wonderful wildfowl paradise of the Cà Roman nature reserve - an area where the expanding delta is a haven for migrating birds, a legacy of the 1911 construction of a coastal protection dam. Leave the fortified island of Pellestrina from Santa Maria del Mare on a short boat ride across to Lido di Venezia, home to pine forests and beautiful beaches as well as the classically cultured seaside resorts, made fashionable over the years by artists. Nowadays, it’s a real magnet to the rich, famous and celebrity crowd as the home of the Venice Film Festival. Be sure to cycle round to see the beautiful Art Noveau buildings; get a feel for the place where Thomas Mann set his novel classic ‘Death in Venice’ and stop a while by the sandy beaches to take in delicious Venice views - best enjoyed with a well-deserved ‘gelato’, of course!
Finally there’s a pedal along the 18th century ‘murazzi’ sea defence built by the Serenissima Republic of Venice which ruled the roost right across the Mediterranean for centuries. The impressive path leads along for you to find barge Vita Pugna moored in Malamocco, then back on board there’s a trip to remember as you cruise in style across to the marina in Venice. Nothing beats experiencing Venice from the great lake and waterways, but perhaps you’ll promise yourself a gondola ride too for the morning?
Overnight mooring – Venice.
Miles 18 Kms 30
Day Seven – Scoprire Venezia! – A grand day of discovery in Venice
A tour with a local guide sets the scene this morning, so you can get the most out of your grand day out exploring this fascinating collection of ‘campi’, ‘calles’ and canals. With over 100 islands, 150 waterways and 400 bridges, it’s a real labyrinth with an architectural wonder around every corner and a carnival of colour at any time of the year. Once everything has been put in context, this unique and ancient capital just becomes an even more amazing survivor, justly deserving its designation as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy the rest of your day at leisure – what will it be? St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace with a coffee by the Canal Grande? A peek at the Canaletto’s, Veroneses, Titians and De Vinci’s famous ‘Vitruvian Man’ in the Galleria dell ‘accademia? A roam around the Rialto and look at the luxurious living of merchants past at the Riva degli Schiavoni?
Overnight mooring – Venice.
Day Eight - Depart after breakfast
Following your final breakfast on board your floating home, you might choose to spend a little longer exploring the picturesque amazing plazas, alleyways and canals of Venice before your onward journey or jumping on the train back to Mantua. Please note that the train fare to Mantua is not included in the price of the tour.
Extra nights in hotel accommodation can be booked to allow more time to explore Venice at your leisure.
Programme of activities included in the price:
Guided visit of Venice and Mantua
Visit / Entrance to Grana Padano cheese factory near Bergantino in the Po Valley
Visit / Entrance to the Fairground Museum in Bergantino
The bus transfer from Ferrara to Adria (Day 4) is also included.
Fancy a day out of the saddle?
If you’d prefer to skip a day’s cycling, you are welcome to relax on board the barge Vita Pugna.
Once you have decided on the ideal Cycle Break in England or Europe, please fill out your details on our booking formProceed to Book
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