Self-Guided Walking Tours & Biking Tours

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Bike and Boat Tour Italy: Venice to Mantova


  • Two nights on-board in Venice, that most romantic of cities
  • Exploring Venice, Ferrara and Mantova, jewels of the Italian Renaissance
  • The tranquillity and birdlife of the Po Delta Nature Reserve
  • Authentic regional cuisine, both simple and refined
  • Easy cycling on flat cycle paths and quiet country lanes

Experience Venice, Mantova and Ferrara, each a jewel of the Italian Renaissance, on an easy-going bike and barge cruise from Venice to Mantova. Cruising from Venice through the Po Delta Reserve you will experience the tranquillity, nature, beauty and birdlife in a unique way.

Your adventure starts with two nights on-board in Venice. You will explore Venice with a local guide who will help you discover Venice, a city of timeless beauty. Take in St Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal, the Torre del Orologio, the Bridge of Sighs or just relax with a cappuccino and watch the world float by.

On day three you jump on your bikes, island hopping to Chioggia a bustling and colourful fishing harbour known as little Venice. Your journey then takes you on cycle paths and quiet country roads through the Po Delta Nature Reserve. A UNESCO World Heritage site made up of vast wetlands, woodlands and forests, which is home to over 300 species of birds including the pink flamingos at the Salina di Comacchio, the old salt works.

Ferrara, a beautiful city, half mediaeval, half Renaissance, is the next highlight of your trip. Alternating between bike and boat we soon reach Mantova, a little visited cultural gem, with its three picturesque “lakes” formed by the Mincio, and its surrounding countryside.

Trips depart every Saturday from Venice on either the Ave Maria, a premium boat with a capacity of 40 guests or Vita Pugna, a traditional Dutch barge that sleeps 21 guests. Our floating hotels are feature fantastic food, comfortable cabins, great service and large public spaces.

You can choose to cycle either with a guide as part of the group or on a self-guided basis with the help of our detailed route books. Your bike and boat trip includes 7 nights on-board in ensuite double/twin cabins on a full board basis, bike hire, guided or self guided cycling and guided tours of Venice and Mantova.

DAY 1:
Arrive Venice and Embark

Arrive in beautiful Venice, where the boat will be waiting for you at the “Vento di Venezia” Dock on Certosa Island. Your cabins are available from 4.30 p.m, but you are welcome to drop your luggage prior to this and explore Venice. Your welcome meeting with the tour leader and the crew is scheduled at dinner-time, at 7 p.m.

Overnight: On-board in Venice

DAY 2:
Discover Venice.

Today you will have a full day to explore Venice. In the morning a local guide who will help you discover the capital of the ancient “Serenissima Republic of Venice”, which held sway over much of the Mediterranean (and beyond) for centuries.

After that you have the afternoon to soak up the timeless beauty of Venice or explore its islands. Perhaps taking in St Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal, the Torre del Orologio and perhaps the Bridge of Sighs.

Cycle: 0km

Overnight: On-board in Venice

DAY 3:
Venice to Chioggia

Cruising out of Venice at a gentle pace, we start our bike and boat adventure on the Lido, the first of two islands we explore today.

Fashionable with the artists and aristocracy of 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 takes us to Pellestrina, where we cycle towards the Ca’ Roman nature reserve, past the fishermen’s cottages and boats. Here we re-join the barge and sail to Chioggia. A bustling and colourful fishing harbour known as “Little Venice”.

Cycle: 30 km, ascent 0 m.

Overnight: On-board in Chioggia

DAY 4:
Chioggia to Porto Viro-Adria

A morning stroll through Chioggia’s fish market is recommended and, time allowing, a visit up the millennial clock tower – the oldest in the world – for some breath-taking views.

Our cycling resumes southbound, into the delta of the Po River. This unique wetland park is the prime reserve in Europe for herons and home to a colony of flamingos.

We overnight in Adria, an ancient Greek port once close to the shores of the sea which bears its name, also renowned for its Etruscan and Roman heritage.

Cycle: 40 km, ascent 0m

Overnight: On-board in Porto Viro-Adria

DAY 5:
Adria to Ferrara to Zelo

After a short cruise we mount our bikes and, following the Po through farmland and hamlets, we reach Ferrara. Under its overlords, the Este family, this ancient City State attracted influential architects and artists for centuries. A private bus takes us back to our floating hotel in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.

Cycle: 35 km bike + 35 km bus, ascent 0 m

Overnight: On-board in Zelo

DAY 6:
Zelo to Mantova

We sail for a short stretch and, back on our bikes, we reach the village of Bergantino where we visit the charming Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum. Following the river through Ostiglia (famed for its medieval fortress and floating mill) and on to Governolo Lock.

Once a vital staging post for local navigation, this is where the River Mincio flows into the Po, creating the largest inland basin in Italy. Leaving the Po behind, we reach Mantova in the late afternoon.

Cycle: 50 km, ascent 0 m.

Overnight: On-board in Mantova

DAY 7:
Mantova cycling tour

An entire 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. In the late afternoon a local guide will lead you through the best known highlights of the town.

Cycle: 40 km, ascent 0 m.

Overnight: On-board in Mantova

DAY 8:
Depart Mantova.

After breakfast you disembark for your onward journey.

Ave Maria (Cruising in Style)

Completed in 2011 the Ave Maria is the most comfortable river cruising boat in Italy. The boat has a capacity of 42 passengers across 10 standard cabins, 4 superior cabins and 2/4 single cabins. All cabins are air-conditioned. The large air-conditioned saloon, expansive sun deck and complimentary wifi are just a few more features which make the Ave Maria a favourite amongst our clients.

 Ave Maria Cabin

Ave Maria bunk Bed Cabin


Ave Maria Saloon

Vita Pugna (Traditional cruising in comfort)

The Vita Pugna is a wonderfully romantic dutch barge with a maximum capacity of 21 guests in 10 cabins. Cabins are not air-conditioned. There is a spacious air-conditioned lounge/restaurant and sundeck. Free wifi is available on board.

Additional Nights and Extensions
We can book additional nights in Mantova (Mantua), Mestre (mainland Venice) or Venice.

Vita Pugna Cabin

Vita Pugna Saloon

Single Cabins and Solo Cyclists

Single cabins are available, although a supplement is payable.
This trip is available to solo cyclists and is perfect as there are plenty of people to chat with every day.

Meals & Drinks

This trip is operated on a full board basis (breakfast, dinner and a self-made packed lunch) with all meals included from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 8.
Coffee, tea and other hot drinks on board are included. Beverages are not included, the boat sells a good selection of wine and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

In Italy they know a thing or two about pots and pans, and on-board catering is simple but subtle, with a good selection of local wines and excellent service.
The Ave Maria and Vita Pugna chefs boast plenty of experience and, in the words of our clients, the food alone is worth the trip.

Here are two sample menus:

1- Linguine with asparagus, rare roast beef with fresh rocket leaves and stuffed tomatoes, Venetian mixed salad, tiramisu.

2- Freshly caught seafood in wine and herbs, seabass meunière with baby potatoes, fennel and orange salad, chocolate and cherry mousse.

Cabin type & Upgrades

We base our prices on a standard cabin for two people sharing. Upgrades are available at a supplement to superior cabins and single cabins. Reductions are available for bunk bed cabins or 3/4 people sharing a cabin.


Trips start in Venice every Saturday between late March and mid October on alternate boats. Peak season (June-September) does book up well in advance and please contact us as soon as possible so that we can
advise on the latest availability.

The boat’s journey will cover 3 Italian regions: Lombardia, Emilia Romagna and Veneto. Generally you will find mild temperatures in spring and autumn, while in summer (July-August) the weather is definitely hotter and humid with refreshing rain showers every now and then. Always make sure to carry plenty of water to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen and a sunhat on hot days.

Grade and Terrain

This trip is graded easy. The cycling is on flat tarmac cycle paths along rivers and canals or quiet country roads. Daily distances vary between 30 and 55 km. 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, for example to allow easier access onto cycling paths, or simply to enjoy the cruise through the Venice lagoon.

Navigation on Rivers and Canals

The programme has been planned to feature navigation along the Fissero-Bianco canal, which runs parallel to the Po and connects Mantova to the Adriatic Sea. Issues with high and low water, as well as logistic obstacles can modify some of the daily stretches or overnight stays. These decisions are taken by the boat’s captain.

Guided or Self-Guided Option

You can choose to bike either on a self-guided or guided basis at no extra charge. The detailed directions and maps supplied with your info-pack offer you the option of either cycling independently or with the rest of the group, following the Tour Leader. When booking this bike and boat tour, please specify your chosen option (i.e. Guided or Self-guided).

Bikes (Bike hire included)




Girolibero own brand


City, Road, Child


gents, ladies, unisex, e-bikes


M: 50-54-58. F: 43-46-50


no (yes for the e-bikes)





rack Rear



on request

bar Bag/ map holder

on request

holder/Water bottle






gear set

3 - roadbikes depending on the
model - for the ebikes 7 nexus gears

gear set

9 - roadbikes depending on the


V-brake - for roadbikes and ebikes
depending on the model



repair kit

Yes - 1 per couple

inner tubes/ how many

Yes - 1 per couple


Yes - 1 per couple



Getting to Venice / from Mantova

By Air:

Both Venice and Mantova are well served by many airports of Northern Italy: Venice (VCE), Treviso (TSF),Verona (VRN), Bergamo (BGY), Milano Malpensa (MXP), Milano Linate (LIN)

By Railway and Car:

Mantova is situated on the A22 Highway Brennero–Modena, only 50 km south of Verona.
By train it is connected very frequently to the railway station of Verona (journey: 45 min.) Venice is situated on the A4 highway and on one of the principal railway lines, which links Venice to the most important Italian cities. The journey Venice–Mantova (or opposite) is covered by train in approx. 2,5 hours.

Your pre-departure information pack has detailed information on how to reach the start/end of the trip including maps, timetables etc. so that you can plan your travel well in advance.


  • 7 nights on board either Ave maria or Vita Pugna
  • All meals from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 8. (breakfast, dinner and a self-made packed lunch)
  • Accompanying Tour Leader on board and on bike if the guided option is chosen.
  • Sheets and towels.
  • Detailed information pack, route description and maps
  • Bike rental including trip computer, side pannier, water bottle and lock.
  • Bus transfer Ferrara-Adria/Ferrara-Zelo
  • Harbour charges
  • Coffee tea and other hot drinks on board
  • Mid-week cabin cleaning service and towel change
  • Guided tour of Venice and Mantova
  • Visit to a cheese factory with tasting of typical Grana Padano and visit of Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum.


  • Travel to Venice / from Mantova.
  • Beverages, museums, fees and extras in general.
  • One ferry-boat stage in Pellestrina (about 9 €),
  • Everything not included in the section “included in the price”.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Helmet.


Electric bike hire Helmet hire Cabin upgrades Single cabin supplement (s) Additional nights 21-speed or electric bike hire. Single room supplement(s).

We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries.

How fit do I need to be?

This trip is graded as easy because the route is almost entirely flat. Daily distances are between 18 and 49km so you will need to have a basic level of fitness and we advise some training before the trip. If you would like to opt for a 'rest day' then you are always welcome to stay on board and relax. All cycle tours are unguided, however you will receive a map and route notes to ensure you find your way.

Which is the best airport to fly to?

The best option is to fly into Venice or Treviso, which connect by train to Mantova and Venice.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as this trip is extremely popular especially during peak season from July to August.

What personal equipment do I need?

You will need comfortable sports shoes, comfortable clothes for cycling, waterproof jacket and trousers, a helmet and a sunhat. We supply a detailed packing list with your information pack.

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