Day 1- Venice
Welcome on board! Ave Maria is moored at the Giudecca island, not far from St. Mark’s square. The cabins are available from 4 p.m. The meeting with the tour leader and the crew is scheduled at dinner-time, at 7 p.m.
Day 2 – Venice
Following a wander off the beaten track with your tour leader you have the day free to enjoy the city at your own pace. 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.
Day 3 – Venice – Pellestrina Island (30 km)
Leaving Venice behind after a gentle cruise in front of St Mark’s square, our first stop will be on Murano island, where we will visit a historic glass factory, with a
glassblowing demonstration by a master artisan. Then our cycling adventure starts on the Lido, the first of two islands we traverse today. 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. A short island-hop by
ferry takes us into another world: Pellestrina, where we ride past the picturesque cottages and boats of this humble fishing backwater. We rejoin our barge just in front of Chioggia – a bustling and colourful fishing hub known as “Little Venice”.
Day 4 – Pellestrina island – Po Delta Nature Reserve – Adria (40 km)
We open the day with a stroll through Chioggia, followed perhaps by a visit up the millennial clock tower – the oldest in the world – for some breathtaking views. Weather permitting, we can also bask in the sun at a fine-sand beach nearby: a dip in the Adriatic, a hot savoury piadina – and you are well and truly local! Then onwards into the delta of the life-giving Po. This unique wetland is the prime reserve in Europe for herons and home to a colony of flamingos. We moor for the night in Adria, a key Roman port, once washed by the waters of 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 – Ferrara – Zelo (35 km by bike + 35 km by bus)
After a short cruise we saddle our bikes and, following the Po through farmland and hamlets, we reach 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 take us back to our floating hotel in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.
Day 6 – Zelo – Mantua (50 km)
This morning we head for the village of Bergantino, home of the distinctive Museum of Fairground Rides and its collection of street organs, all expertly
restored (and thunderous!). But first things first: we are in the heartland of Grana Padano – the arch-rival of Parmesan – and after visiting the local cheese factory, we enjoy a degustazione of sharp and seasoned Grana, washed down with a glass of Valpolicella. After our customary picnic lunch, we leave Bergantino and follow the river to Ostiglia, famed for its medieval fortress and the fierce fighting that took place here in 1945, as the Allies and partisans drove Hitler’s forces back. We ride on and rejoin our barge at Governolo Lock, where Mantua’s River Mincio flows into the Po. Veering north, we cruise through the lush wetlands that finally emerge into the glorious “lakes” of Mantua. Free dinner in Mantua.
Day 7 – Mantua Loop Ride (35 km)
A day dedicated to the discovery of this cultural gem, its three picturesque “lakes” formed by the river Mincio and the surrounding countryside. This afternoon we meet our Mantuan guide for a walking tour across the historic centre: starting from Piazza Sordello with its magnificent cathedral and Palazzo Ducale, we will walk through the city centre up to Piazza delle Erbe. Here we will admire the Clock Tower, the Rotonda di S. Lorenzo (the oldest church in town) and the Cathedral of St. Andrew, a jewel of Renaissance art and architecture. We will learn why Mantua, once a City State ruled by the Gonzaga family, is now considered by many as Italy’s “Sleeping Beauty”.
Day 8 – Mantua
Your tour ends after breakfast.