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Po - From Mantova to Venice by bike and ship - 8 days

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The itinerary winds its way along the Mincio and the Po, penetrating into rural areas of the Italian countryside that are still uncontaminated and ends in the warm embrace of the Venetian Lagoon. This territory has been reclaimed from the marshes for many centuries now and is framed by green pine-woods, which offer protection for numerous species of animals. The work of man overlaps nature in a constant game of roles: reclaimed land alternates with natural canals, fishermen’s huts are camouflaged in the reeds, and bridges formed of boats reduce the distances between strips of sand.

Day 1: Arrival in Mantova or Venice
The cabins are available from 4.30 p.m. The meeting with the tour leader and the crew is scheduled at dinner-time, at 7 p.m.
Day 2: Around Mantova, ~25 km/16 miles
Ruled by the House of Gonzaga for four centuries, the city state of Mantua attracted a dizzying roll call of names across the arts - from Rubens and Mantegna to Monteverdi and Mozart - and to this day the town is renowned for its international book festival. A ride through the center soon takes us past Palazzo Tè, on the outskirts, the Gonzagas' summer residence. Onwards to the hamlet of Grazie and its historic church: a site of pilgrimage, it is adorned with an intriguing host of wooden figures, personifying the many torments that pilgrims of yore could identify with. A cruise on a local barge takes us home through a waterscape rich in birdlife, lilies and other aquatic flora. This afternoon we meet our Mantuan guide for a walking tour of the historic center, and enjoy the rest of the day in town, at our own leisure.
Day 3: Mantova - Zelo, ~50 km/31 miles
After breakfast, we set 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, we 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 de rigueur. We catch up with our barge in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.
Day 4: Zelo - Adria, ~50 km/31 miles
This morning we 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 take us back to our 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.
Day 5: Adria - Chioggia or Pellestrina, ~40 km/25 miles
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 colorful 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.
Day 6: Chioggia or Pellestrina - Venice, ~30 km/19 miles
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 savor Venice at night, now free of the crowds and at her most romantic: Benvenuti a Venezia!
Day 7: Venice, ~30 km/18 miles
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 center. 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.
Day 8: Venice
After breakfast and the customary goodbyes, free time for individual visits of Venice, or return home, if you haven’t booked any extra night.

Your boat - MS Vita Pugna
Discover Italy's rivers and canals on a real boat from Holland. The name of the boat is "Vita Pugna”, or "Life is a battle”: it is 36 meters long and 5,4 meters large, it has 11 cabins with beds, showers and toilets and about 23/25 places. There is a restaurant and a huge deck to park bicycles.

Your boat - MS Ave Maria
The boat is about 41 m long and 7,5 meters wide and it is made for a maximum of 40 guest in 17 cabins. All cabins have got facilities and air conditioning. The boat has got a restaurant, a lounge with a 52" screen TV, two sundecks, an internet point with two computers and free internet and parking lots for 40 bicycles. After the great success of the first seasons of Vita Pugna and a large number of requests, last year we have decided to double the fleet. This time we have personally chosen how to build the boat thanks to our knowledge and experience of the bike & boat business we have acquired in these years. The new luxury boat Ave Maria will therefore sail in 2012 for the second season along the same itinerary. This Italian boat has been totally rebuilt in order to meet the most challenging clients’ requests. Only the hull of the original 1970s sand digger sailing along the Po has remained and the boat is now brand new. It has been completely designed by a renowned Italian architectural firm. Its shapes, colors and materials have been chosen carefully in order to create a warm, sober and yet sophisticated atmosphere.

7 nights in outside cabin with WC/shower
7x breakfast
6x packed lunch
7x dinner
sheets and towels
service of cabin cleaning 1x/week
transfer Ferrara-Zelo and Ferrara-Adria incl. bicycle
harbor dues
English speaking tour guide on bike
information booklet and maps
city tour in Venice and Mantova
visit to a cheese dairy & tasting
visit to carousel museum and folk theater

  • double cabin, Vita Pugna
    1190 €
  • single cabin, Vita Pugna
    1490 €
  • double cabin, Ave Maria
    1540 €
  • single cabin, Ave Maria
    1840 €

additional services

  • rental bike 21 gears
    85 €
  • helmet
    15 €
  • electric bike
    195 €

self-guided & guided tour - 8 days / 7 nights
arrival every Saturday
VITA PUGNA departure Mantova
06.04, 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
VITA PUGNA departure Venice
13.04, 27.04, 11.05, 25.05, 8.06, 22.06, 6.07, 20.07, 3.08, 17.08, 31.08, 14.09, 28.09, 12.10, 26.10.2019
AVE MARIA departure Mantova
30.03, 13.04, 27.04, 11.05, 25.05, 8.06, 22.06, 6.07, 20.07, 3.08, 17.08, 31.08, 14.09, 28.09, 12.10, 26.10.2019
AVE MARIA departure Venice
06.04, 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
season II (+200,00 €/person on VITA PUGNA or 350,00 €/person AVE MARIA)
season III (+300,00 €/person on VITA PUGNA or 550,00 €/person AVE MARIA)
route (1): ~195 km/122 miles
The tour of about 195 km is entirely on level ground and the daily cycling stages vary from 30 km to 55 km. Much of the pedalling is along rivers and canals on tarmac cycle paths or roads with a low volume of car traffic. It is envisaged that the boat will sail some of the way during breakfast or evening meal to make getting out of the towns easier or to shorten the stages. If you wish to ride independently, the guide will be pleased to provide route advice.
how to get there
by car: motorway to Mantova or Venice
by train: station Mantova or Venice
by plane: airport Venice, Treviso, Verona or Milano
on request

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