ITALIA: how can one explain why this is such a great country to travel through? Is it the continuation of enchanting villages, roman remains, historic old city centers? Or the people, friendly and charming? Or the food: am I addicted to their primo and secundo piatto and dolces? Probably it’s all of those in a unbeatable combination on this great bike&cruise trip.
So if you are looking for a great way to visit this region and would love to visit Venice…this is the way to go. If you are looking for an excellent bike ride on paved and signed paths: look further on this website or somewhere else. Italy is not especially made for bikers, but the guides do a great job on taking the best possible ways to cycle on quiet country roads, unpaved agricultural roads and along the shores. Italy is certainly not about the mileage or the high pace…it’s about immersing in local culture, taking the time for visits and walks. Looking at the fresh fish at the daily market, talking to the fisherman at the shore. AND enjoying relaxed bike rides going from one place to the next.
This presentation is a personal impression after joining this tour October 2017.
Saturday: arriving in Mantova (Mantua)
Mantova or Mantua is known for the architectural legacy of the Renaissance Gonzaga rulers, who built the Ducal Palace. This imposing building houses the Bridal Chamber, decorated with Andrea Mantegna frescoes. The Gonzagas also built the Te Palace, known for the Chamber of the Giants, where every surface is painted with mythological scenes. Go and have a look at this impressive painting.
The crew of the ship will 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 you can stroll into town and savour the historic centre at its most evocative: Benvenuti a Mantova!
Sunday: Mantua bike ride 35 k
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 a “Sleeping Beauty”. A cruise on a local barge lets you discover a waterscape rich in birdlife, lilies and other aquatic flora. This afternoon you meet our Mantuan guide for a walking tour of the historic centre, and enjoy the rest of the day in town, at your own leisure.
Monday: Mantua to Zelo bike ride 50 k
After breakfast, the ship will 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, you 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 the must-do!
Tuesday: Zelo - Ferrara - Adria bike ride 50 km
This morning you 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 takes you back to your 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.
Wednesday: Adria - Po Delta Nature Reserve - Chioggia bike ride 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! Also known as “Little Venice”, the colourful fishing hub of Chioggia is a great place to “go local”, and what better way than by making your own bigoli for dinner? This quintessentially Venetian type of pasta is at its best when made fresh, and a delicacy served with a creamy baccalà sauce.
Thursday: Chioggia/Pellestrina - Venice bike ride 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 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 Venetia!
After breakfast – and perhaps following a wander off the beaten track with your tour leader – you 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.
Time to say goodbye: after a breakfast it is time to leave.
If you are looking for a top class ship, 5 stars where the IRIS gets 4 star (from me, the owner of the IRIS), the Ave Maria will be perfect.
Spacious cabins, whole ship well designed, a feast for the eye. You will share this ship with 35 guest approx. The service is great, the food is amazing.
Another picture of this beauty!
On my tour I was a guest at the Vita Pugna. This ship has room for approx. 18 guests. It’s an old ship, and it has it’s limitations in space and privacy. The crew makes up for this big difference, the food and service is as great as on the Ave Maria, so it still worked for me! But I know you might be disappointed if you expect a ship like the IRIS or the Fleur, so I must be clear to manage your expectations: this is a old barge, everything works and is clean, but you have to compromise here. The tour is great though…and there is a front deck to enjoy the sailing!
I have not added the dates of the Vita Pugna on the website and neither the prices. In general the price of the Vita Pugna is around 80% of the price of the Ave Maria. Please ask for a up to date offer!
One of the cabins on the Vita Pugna
8 days/7 nights on board
Full board (breakfast, dinner and a self-made packed lunch)
Coffee and tea and other hot drinks on board
Sheets and towels
Daily short cleaning of the cabin
Travel Guide, Maps, Roadbook
English speaking tour leader within an international group
Second tour leader with a minimum of 25 people only aboard Ave Maria
Guided visit in Venice and Mantua
Visit of a cheese factory with tasting of typical Grana Padano
Visit of Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum
Bus transfer Ferrara-Zelo / Ferrara-Adria
Boat excursion in the Nature Reserve of the Mincio Park
Beverages on board
Museums, fees and extras in general
Ticket for public transportation in Venice
Tips Everything not mentioned in the section “Included in the price”
Single supplement 300 euro
Superior cabin 140 euro per person
85 € Regular bike
195 € Electro-bike
15 € helmet
Extra nights in double/single room with breakfast*:
45/75 € 3* hotel in Mantua
from 85/125 € 4* hotel in Mantua
65/85 € 3/4* hotel in Mestre
from 90/150 € 3/4* hotel in Venice
*local taxes to be paid on site
100 € bunk bed cabin (below deck) – only Ave Maria
250 € 3rd/4th adult in the cabin
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 (Ave Maria).
Cancellation policy for individual bookings:
– 10% up to 90 days prior to departure date
– 40% from 89 to 60 days prior to departure date
– 60% from 59 to 30 days prior to departure date
– 85% from 29 to 7 days prior to departure date
– 95% from 6 to 1 day prior to departure date
– 100% on departure day and no-show