We are delighted with what our guests have said in both the national and international press. Here are some reviews of our bike tours and a couple of accolades.
What people say
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Lake Garda to the Adriatic / Peschiera, Ferrara and the Po Delta
It was our first cycling holiday and it could not have been a better experience. Riding from Lake Garda along the Mincio and on the banks of the grand Po, getting Mantua and Ferrara on top. This trip had only one drawback: when we arrived at Comacchio, our final destination, and cycled along its canals… we wanted to do it all over again.
From Mantua to Venice / Aboard Ave Maria
We were thirty-six (36) people, from six (6) countries, including twelve (12) seniors from Ottawa, Canada, and a crew of four (4), including two (2) Italian chefs, one of whom was also a sommelier, plus our guide, Hein, a retired diplomat, who gave expert daily briefings and was a great raconteur, and who did his best to spare nobody with his very entertaining stories.
We lived on the ship in well-designed cabins, took our breakfasts and dinners on board, and packed a picnic lunch, then rode 50 km per day and met the ship in the next port down river.
The dining room had a great Italian coffee making machine, and it was very well used at breakfast and dinner. The cappuccino was excellent and popular will all. In the entrance hall to the barge, there was a water machine, offering delicious chilled fresh water, including frizzante, my favourite. We topped our water bottles up each morning.
Each morning, after a good one to two hour ride, Hein made sure the first stop was at a local coffee bar or trattoria which he referred to as Café Pipi, so we could unload the morning coffee. If there was no such establishment available, then Hein would look for the alternative, which he called the Green Door Café, just turn right through the green door, continue on past the apple tree, and there you are.
On the morning of the second day of biking, I hit some gravel and took a tumble, hit my head (I was wearing helmet, which was damaged, but saved me), elbow, shoulder, hip, and was cut up and badly bruised. It felt like a rotator cuff injury, but turned out to be less serious. I had to take a day off from biking, but got back on the bike the following day.
The Italian meals and wines served on board by the two stellar chefs were simply delicious! We learned some wonderful new Italian recipes, including an Italian seafood soup, cioppino, also spaghetti con vongola, also a delicious white chocolate dessert with delicate small fruit in a flavourful ricotta.
The chefs made a wonderful dessert for Mary and I to share one evening for our wedding anniversary on the ship.
The tours of small cities, such as Mantova and Ferrara showed the ancient fortress cities of Northern Italy, dominated by powerful families, who operated land holdings and trading centres, which came together in 1871 to form the country of Italy, with the help of the visionary military leader, Garibaldi. The guide named the influential families of each city state, and how they operated. Italy was the last major European country to form up as a country per se.
We also visited local industries, including a Parmesan cheese making factory, and a vongola processing plant. There are huge dairy herds in northern Italy devoted to producing milk for cheese making. The Veneto district has a huge production of mussels and vongola which are exported widely. We also visited fish processing plants, and retail fish markets. Our guide noted that 60% of the daily landed fish cash at one major local port simply disappears into thin air. These fish are likely not recorded and disappear into the local cash economy.
We had a full day tour of Venice with our guide and another professional guide, beginning with St. Mark’s Square, and extending through a network of streets and lanes to the Rialto Bridge area, full of tiny shops, and some very upscale fashion shops. Then we returned to the ship for our final dinner and final briefing as a group. We had made many new friends and exchanged email addresses.
Philippe & Mary, Canada
From Venice to Mantua / Aboard Ave Maria
Joanne & John
France / United Kingdom
The Avenue Verte Paris–London / From Notre Dame to the Big Ben
I just wanted to thank you so much for the support and organisation of our Paris to London trip. We left on the 3 September and had such a brilliant time. The hotels we stayed in were exceptional and the final night at Westminster Bridge was very special. As long as we followed your directions nothing went wrong, occasionally we deviated and made life a little complicated for ourselves.
Please thank Matteo for me. When we were feeling a little nervous about things he made us feel confident everything would be OK, and it was!
Keep up the good work.
Provence and Camargue / Avignon to Aigues Mortes
Myself and my husband, who are in our 70's, just completed this trip last week on the Soleo and had the time of our lives. I would say that having Hugo as our guide was one of the principal reasons for our having such a good time. He was so enthusiastic and wanting our group to imbibe the culture, ecology,political and economic, art and history of Provence. He was a remarkable guide in that he had a grasp of all these areas and was able to articulate the essence without drowning us in disembodied facts.
He was very spontaneous and often stopped our rides to pick grapes or apples or have us see a light show of Marc Chagal's work in Baux. All of the participants that we spoke to, seemed to agree that Hugo was a phenomenon and that we were lucky to have him as our guide.
The countryside was so beautiful and we loved riding on so many different sorts of roads and surfaces. The horses and flamingoes of Camargue were amazing and all the tours of the various towns, cities and monuments made the experience very rich.
We had some worries about keeping up with the group, but he made it clear at the outset that the ride had to be geared to the slowest person. In fact this was not a problem because those who opted for the guided tour were pretty closely matched.
The bikes were excellent! Usually we would feel sore after riding the whole day, but experienced none of that.
The rest of the staff was very helpful and went out of their way to accommodate the needs of the participants. The food was wonderful and the cook , Rosa was charming. Marta, who served and did a million other jobs always went out of her way and attended to things quickly and efficiently . All of the staff had a great sense of humor and were very engaged with their work, so this made a very good atmosphere throughout. Our group was very international wh made for an opportunity for learning about people's lives in other countries.
The rooms were small as you would expect and the one problem we encountered was that the shower did not drain, so I would suggest avoiding cabin #1. We ended up having to ask for a squeegee wh we had to use in order to dry the floor. Other participants did not seem to have this problem.
The office staff was very helpful in answering questions about the trip and having a toll free # was a great plus. The only weakness in this perfect trip was that there was seemingly not communication between the central office in I'm guessing Italy, and the staff in Provence, so for ex , they offered to have people stay after the tour, but did not know that there was a festival in Aigues Mortes wh included a chance to see a bull fight the Saturday the tour ended. Had we had any idea of that, we would have opted to stay an extra day. We also would have loved more information about traveling to and from the tour provided by the staff who knew exactly what was going on.
I have already recommended Girolibero and this trip to friends and will continue to do so! I would say that this was the best trip we have ever taken and we travel a fair amount.
Thanks to you all!