Venice, Ferrara and Mantua – three architecturally awesome cities; each one designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; one do-before-you-die classic and two truly unsung jewels of the Italian Renaissance. Explore them all at your own pace on a really relaxed bike and barge adventure along the Venetian lagoons and waterways around the Rivers Po and Mincio. Make the comfortable, small barge, Pugna Vita, 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. Either way, everything is yours to discover from the cheesy secrets of Grana Padano, colourful fairground carousels and celebrity-favoured beach resorts to colonies of flamingos, herons in their hundreds, Adria’s ancient harbourland roots and the wonders of UNESCO World Heritage city site, Ferrara.
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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.
Venice and its stylish beach resort islands; the fertile ‘fruit basket’ lands of the Rivers Po and Mincio and Renaissance city wonders of Ferrara and Mantua – 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 include the ‘floating’ carnival city of Venice with all its fine art and architecture treasures; Cà Roman nature reserve and the Po Delta; the one-time port of ancient Adria; Renaissance city, Ferrara, majestic former stronghold of the Este dynasty and Mantua, home of the Gongaza dynasty, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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 Venice!
Arrive in Venice and chances are you’ll have been on the water by ‘Vaporetto’ even before you meet your floating hotel, the Dutch barge, Vita Pugna. The crew are ready to welcome you on board and show you your cabin from 4.30 pm, but there’s plenty of time before supper to wonder at the frescoes of renaissance palaces, stroll out across a bridge or two or simply sit and sigh at the spectacle from the comfort of a pavement café, with a celebratory glass of prosecco in hand. There’s a chance to meet the ship’s crew and have trip briefing over dinner on board at 7, then who can resist just a little bit of evening exploring as the lights of Venice give this magical and unique city even more sparkle.
Overnight mooring - Venice.
Day Two – Scoprire Venezia! – A grand day of discovery in Venice
Let a tour with a local guide set 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. With everything put in context, this capital of the ancient Serenissima Republic of Venice which for centuries ruled the roost right across the Mediterranean, 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 Canalettos, 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 Three – A spot of island hopping
Along the lagoon to Chioggia today, but first a chance to experience Venice from the water with a cruise in front of the Piazza San Marco, out towards island number one – Lido di Venezia. At Malamocco, take to two wheels along the 18th century ‘murazzi’ sea defence built by the ‘Serenissima’ to explore Lido, lined with classically cultured seaside resorts, made fashionable over the years by artists and now a real magnet to the rich, famous and celebrity crowd as the home of the Venice Film Festival. 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!
Beautiful beaches, pine forests and short ferry boat ride to Santa Maria del Mare sees you exploring fortified Pellestrina. Pass little boats and fishermen’s cottages to reach 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. Meet back with Vita Pugna moored on a Pellestrinan quay to cruise onwards to ‘Little Venice’ – the island of Chioggia with its charmingly colourful fishing harbour. With its impressively ancient clock tower (reputedly the oldest in the world!), it’s the final place on today’s discoveries list, but its fresh fish is bound to be one extra discovery on the dinner menu tonight.
Overnight mooring - Chioggia.
Miles 18 Kms 30
Day Four – Haunting landscapes & historic ports
A day of fish and flamingos! This morning Chioggia’s bustling fish market is a must to really get a taste for this part of Italy as you prepare to explore the region of lands reclaimed from the sea. Your encounter with the ‘land of water’, a web of canals great and small, starts along the Laguna del Lusenzo. Cycle through fertile flat lands growing the finest fruit and veg, past pine woods and little villages around these delta plains of the River Po. Follow the ‘Via delle Valli’ towards Porto Viro, past the fish breeding lagoons of the ‘Valli de Pesca’, home to a colony of flamingos and somewhat unsurprisingly to Europe’s prime place for heron spotting.
From Porto Viro, it’s back on board the barge for a cruise further inland along the Canal Bianco 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 24 Kms 40
Day Five – Pedal to the Palazzi – Ferrara, City of the Renaissance
Start the day with a breakfast cruise along the Canal Bianco to reach Bosaro where you can jump on your bike to cycle across the River Po, leaving the Veneto region for Emilia Romagna. Heading on along riverside paths through farmland and lovely rural hamlets, discover the rich ‘fruit basket’ of this region, centre of the fruit trade for apricots, peaches and nectarines; kiwis, apples and pears. But an even finer feast awaits in Ferrara, a Renaissance gem whose majestic, broad streets are simply stuffed with palaces. The ancient city state attracted renowned architects, artists and noblemen for centuries and the result is breath-taking.
Don’t miss 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 trying the Salama da Sugo (a sweetly spiced soft salami served almost like haggis with mashed potato!) – there’s no more cycling to be done today unless you really fancy it. A coach transfer (included) takes you back to meet the barge at the sleepy little village of Zelo where you might just want to sit back on deck, gazing out over the waters of the Canal Bianco and reflect on the treasures of the day.
Overnight mooring – Zelo.
Miles 21 Kms 35
Day Six – A colourful museum & something a bit cheesy
An appointment-packed morning of cycling from Zelo which will give you a taste of great things for a start. Sample the one and only ‘Grana Padano’ hard cheese at a factory then push those pedals on to Bergantino, where the museum of carousels will put you in even more of a spin. With its fairground organs and displays, it’s a really colourful and nostalgic experience, but the banks of the River Po are calling and there are many more enchanting discoveries to be made. Ostiglia is full of rustic charm and Revere with its old town centre is definitely worth the short detour. Meet up with Vita Pugna Maria in Governolo, shortly after the River Mincio joins the great Po, and put your feet up in your cabin or relax on deck as she cruises along to the ancient city of Mantua, Romeo’s supposed place of exile, according to Shakespeare’s famous play.
Overnight mooring – Mantua.
Miles 30 Kms 50
Day Seven – 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 Eight - Depart after breakfast
Following your final breakfast on board your floating home, you might choose to spend a little longer exploring the historic buildings of Mantua before setting out on your return or onward journey. Please note that the train fare to Venice (Mestre) is not included in the price of the tour.
Extra nights in hotel accommodation can be booked to allow more time to explore Mantua at your leisure or even enjoy visits up to the magnificent and passionate city of Verona or beautiful Lake Garda.
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 to Zelo (Day 5) 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 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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