Guided/Self-guided Bike and Boat


Italy / From Mantua to Venice

Aboard Ave Maria

Blending nature, culture and fine cuisine, this leisurely bike and barge tour along the River Po offers more than just a taster of Northern Italy. It explores celebrated cities of art, one of Europe's prime Nature Reserves, and a wealth of tucked-away rural hamlets, rewarding our daily rides with authentic regional dishes back on board. The tour starts in Mantua – in its heyday a major city state crowned by the Italian Renaissance – progresses to Ferrara and culminates in Venice. Along the way: Adria, once a key Roman port; the natural wonders of the Po Delta, famed for its birdlife; and colourful Chioggia, gateway to the Venetian lagoon. Finally: the glory of Venice herself.
  • Day by Day

    1. Mantua

    We 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 we can stroll into town and savour the historic centre at its most evocative: Benvenuti a Mantova!


    2. Mantua round tour (25 km)

    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 centre 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 centre, and enjoy the rest of the day in town, at our own leisure.


    3. Mantua – Zelo (50 km)

    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 Ave Maria in Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco, the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.


    4. Zelo – Ferrara – Adria (50 km by bike + 60 km by bus)

    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.


    5. Adria – Po Delta Nature Reserve – Chioggia/Pellestrina (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.


    6. Chioggia/Pellestrina  – Venice (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 Ave Maria, 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 Venezia!


     7. Venice

    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 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. 


    8. Venice

    Departure after breakfast.


    The programme has been planned to feature navigation along the Fissero/ Bianco canal, which runs parallel to the Po river and connects Mantua to the Adriatic Sea. Due to organisational reasons, weather conditions or provisions issued by local authorities, the itinerary may be subject to some changes before and/or during the holiday. Issues with high and low water, as well as logistic obstacles such as officially ordered - previously not announced - repair work on locks or bridges can modify some of the daily stretches or overnight stays and may even request a transfer by bus. These decisions are only taken by the boat’s captain.


  • Route profile

    Total Length: 195 km
    Total vertical up: 30 m
    Terrain: 95% tarmac, 5% unpaved

    This cycling tour is largely along the flats of the Po plains, and the daily stages vary from 25 to 55 km – mostly on tarmac cycle paths along rivers and canals, or quiet country roads. 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, to allow easier access onto cycling paths or simply to enjoy the cruise.


    Easy cycling in mostly flat areas, with only few short climbs and descents. Little effort required, suitable for most people.
    The tour is also suitable for children. If the child one day does not want to cycle, he/she can stay on the boat with one of the parents.


  • How to get there

    Mantua is connected with the following airports:
    Verona: 45 km, Venice: 120 km, Treviso: 130 km, Bergamo: 150 km, Milano: 180 km.

    For further information on timetables and prices you can consult the following website:


  • Accommodation and meals


    Modern and highly appointed river barge, launched in 2011.


    Take a virtual tour and watch our photo gallery!


    The boat Ave Maria is equipped with:

    • 4 Superior Double cabins (three of these can accommodate up to 4 persons adding 2 bunk beds) above deck, approx. 11 m2;
    • 10 Standard Double cabins (three of these can accommodate up to 3 persons adding 1 bunk bed) below deck, approx. 11 m2;
    • 3 bunk bed cabins (also available as Single cabins) below deck, approx. 7.5 m2.

    All cabins enjoy sizeable windows (the ones in the Superior cabins can also be opened), comfortable low beds, en-suite facilities, air conditioning ans safety box. Bed/bunk size is 2.00 x 0.80 m. Most of the double beds can be separated into two single beds.

    The air-conditioned living area measures 11 x 7.5 m and is divided into two parts:
    the Restaurant (up to 33 seats) and the Lounge (up to 28 seats).

    Extra features:

    • 2 sundecks
    • Free hot drinks machine (including Italian ground coffee)
    • Free wi-fi in the common areas
    • Large 55” screen in the lounge for video
    • Dedicated bike storage (for approx. 40 hanging bikes)
    • Hair-dryers (limited number) available on request

    We remind you that the boat is not like a hotel, so during the journey you will always hear some sort of underground noise.





  • Bikes and accessories

    Girolibero’s City bikes are available in various sizes in unisex models. At the moment of booking, you can choose from the following bikes:

    • City bike 27-gear Shimano Deore
    • Electro-bike 8-gear Shimano Nexus


    • aluminium frame
    • mudguard
    • rear rack
    • comfort gel saddle
    • anti-puncture Schwalbe tyres
    • ergonomic bicycle grips
    • Speed Lifter system (only for city bikes)

    You can also rent children’s bikes and devices:

    • Child seat: it is suitable for a maximum payload of 22 kg (0-4 yrs).
    • Child trailer: with one seat and suitable for children who cannot ride a bike (0-4 yrs). The child trailer is designed for a maximum payload of 30 kg. More info on
    • Follow-me tandem: a clever latch system enables the child's bike to lock firmly onto the tail of the adult bike as and when necessary (4-7 yrs). Adjustable only for the kids bike wheels size 20". The maximum weight of the child can be 27 kg. More info on
    • Child bikes: bike frames with 20” and 24” wheels
    • Family tandem: this is an innovative solution for cycling with more than one child (aged 3-10). More info on:



    All rented adult bikes are equipped with:

    • 1 cycle computer  
    • 1 Ortlieb one-sided saddlebag
    • 1 water bottle (0.75 l)
    • 1 combination bike lock

    Only for self-guided:

    • 1 front bar bag or 1 map holder
    • 1 repair kit per cabin: 1 spare inner tube, glue, patch, a pump, 2 allen keys and tyre levers

    At the moment of booking you can also rent helmets suitable for head circumferences from 54 to 61. All our helmets have a certification mark according to the DIN EN 1078 (CE) European norm.


  • Accompanying material

    The Information Pack (one per cabin) includes:

    • roadbook describing the cycling route stage by stage
    • bike maps
    • Girolibero Greens Cycling Guide.


  • By your side

    At your arrival on Saturday at 7.00 p.m., just before dinner, you will meet the tour leader and the crew. Every evening after dinner the guide will present you the cycling program of the following day.
    This tour offers the chance to choose if pedalling alone or with the whole group, following the tour leader. When booking the tour please specify the option chosen.
    If you want to cycle independently, you are free to do it by following the roadbook and maps you have been given. In case of an emergency you can contact the tour leader over the phone. If you change your mind during the week and you want to join the guided tour, please inform the tour leader the evening before.
    If you choose the guided option, the tour leader will be always present during breakfast and dinner and will cycle with you every day.


    Our tour leaders are carefully selected and rigourously trained by Girolibero. They are all multi-lingual, and speak at least English and German. Smart, entertaining, caring and endlessly enthusiastic, they have a true passion for sharing their love of the outdoors, people, culture and local food. Thanks to a deep knowledge of the territory, they can give you useful hints and help you appreciate the place you are visiting. Of course they love cycling and will be happy to give you some advice about how to correctly use the bicycle gears and whenever necessary they can fix your flat tyre. As we like to say, our tour leaders are CDO (Controlled Designation of Origin), a real traveller’s ticket to discover the land with ease and to live an unforgettable active travel experience.


    For the whole duration of your bike tour, you can contact us:

    • office +39 0444 330724 from Monday to Friday 8:30-13:00 and 15:00-18:30
    • Ave Maria boat phone number every day 8:00-20:00. The number will be specified in the Final Tour Details.
  • 10 Client reviews
    • Veronika

      Vacanza del 2017

      pubblicazione 03 July 2017

      Dear Team!
      We where looking for the Flamingos!... First we saw nothing! Later at the day, we saw many real life flamingos. But we has so much fun, to make the people flamingos!
      The trip was very great! From the first until the last day!!!!! Thank you very much!!!! We will come again!!
      The trip was from Mantua to Venedig 10. Juni 2017 to 17.Juni 2017.
      And the best of all was Ronny, our guide!!!
    • Zoe, UK

      Vacanza del 2017

      pubblicazione 14 April 2017

      We have just returned from one of the best holidays ever - a week aboard Ave Maria Mantua to Venice.
      The professionalism of the staff was second to none, the boat immaculately tidy and well kept.
      The cabin although small was very clean and comfortable with everything you needed. we had magnificent weather, cycling and ice creams! The delicious food was prepared fresh each day and served by the wonderful 'boys' with great humour, they worked so well as a team and seemed to be having as good a time as us - my only disappointment was despite all the cycling I came back heavier than when I left!
      Already booking our next trip with Girolibero - an exceptional company.
    • Philippe & Mary, Canada

      Vacanza del 2016

      pubblicazione 07 November 2016

      We just returned from a bike and barge holiday in Northern Italy, on the PO River and Canal, and Veneto delta, on board the AveMaria, a former dredging barge expertly converted to a small special-purpose tourist ship. This was also our wedding anniversary holiday!

      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.
    • Marc & Mahzel

      Vacanza del 2016

      pubblicazione 21 July 2016

      Hi Maddalena,
      We would like to express our thanks for such a fantastic experience we had on this bike & barge trip with Girolibero.
      The facilities and bikes were great; and the route fantastic - especially arriving into Venice!
      The whole crew were exceptional - Captain Luciano, Chef Guiliano and his assistant Irene, engineer Enrico and our great guides Marco and Licia. A great credit to your organisation!

      We look forward to undertaking future trips with Girolibero
    • Gloria, Canada

      Vacanza del 2016

      pubblicazione 30 June 2016

      I must send congratulations to Tamara Veenendaal and let you know that she is the best person you have! She made our trip so memorable and wonderful. She was professional but also so personable. Her knowledge of the region was excellent and when she was not certain of the answer- she was sure to find it within hours! I know our complete group has nothing but praise for Tammy. I would not hesitate to sign up for more of these trips as long as Tammy was our leader!
      The rest of the staff was also excellent.
      I have nothing negative to say since the accommodations, the service, the cuisine, the bikes, the “rest stop entertainment”, the staff, the route, even the weather (for the most part) were exceptional!
      I have definitely recommended this adventure tour to anyone who will listen!
      Thank you again. And please forward congratulations to Tammy and the staff

      Have a great day!
    • Alexis, California (Usa)

      Vacanza del 2015

      pubblicazione 25 September 2015

      "We all had a great trip and biking was a great way to see Italy. Fabio and the crew were fantastic! Every night we were amazed by the cuisine. The ladies out did themselves. Everything was awesome."
    • Cosette, Switzerland

      Vacanza del 2015

      pubblicazione 30 June 2015

      Bonjour Girolibero,

      MILLE MERCIS pour votre belle organisation.
      MILLE MERCIS à Tullio :-*
      Ricarddo :-*
      Giulliano :-*
      Enrico :-*
      Marco :-*
      Alessandro :-*
      pour leur bonne humeur et leur joie de vivre. C'était magnifique, bravo, bravo, bravo.
      Le TOP DU TOP. 10/10.
    • Ellen, USA

      Vacanza del 2015

      pubblicazione 22 June 2015

      Just to confirm, every one of our 31 members had a ball on the Ave Maria May 30-June 6th. Fabulous experience and everyone in your organization was extremely attentive tour needs. Bravo and encore, Jim
    • Ron and Pip, San Diego, USA

      Vacanza del 2015

      pubblicazione 13 April 2015

      Yes thank you! We made it! We had a wonderful time. Everything was perfect. We loved Helmut and the crew. They made it a perfect holiday!
      Best wishes
    • Jack and Cathy

      Vacanza del 2014

      pubblicazione 04 December 2014


      In this particular picture we were riding in an area to look for white flamingos which we never did see. Our tour guide Hein Hoefnagels was excellent. With the beauty of the tour, the boat and the welcoming staff we had an outstanding holiday. I guess the two of us holding hands was so natural for us on this holiday.

      If possible if we could get the email address for Hein it would be
      appreciated. There was one are we stopped during our tour of Venice during Hein's day off and he was explaining how the homes worked. While we were talking, I said to Cathy, I am sure this is the exact spot from one of the exciting scenes from the movie the tourist with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. I would like to send him a photo of the spot so he might be able to give that information to future tours.

      Jack and Cathy.
  • 1 To combine with

Tour details


from 990 €

8 days / 7 nights, boat Ave Maria

Tour type:

Guided / Self-guided



Value: 31.03 - 14.04.2018

Standard: 28.04 - 18.08.2018

High: 1.09 - 13.10.2018


Price per person

990 € standard double cabin value season



SA 31.03, 14.04, 28.04, 12.05, 26.05, 9.06, 23.06, 7.07, 21.07, 4.08, 18.08, 1.09, 15.09, 29.09, 13.10.18.



  • 7 overnights
  • Full board (breakfast, dinner and a self-made packed lunch)
  • English speaking tour leader (second tour leader with a minimum of 25 people) within an international group
  • Sheets and towels
  • courtesy kit
  • Girolibero Greens Cycling Guide + Maps (1:75:000) + Roadbook
  • Bus transfer Ferrara-Adria
  • Harbour charges
  • Coffee and tea and other hot drinks on board
  • daily short cleaning of the cabin
  • picturesque navigation along Mantua lakes
  • Guided visit in Mantua and Venice
  • Visit of a cheese factory with tasting of typical Grana Padano
  • Visit of Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum


Not included

  • Beverages on board
  • Museums, fees and extras in general
  • Ticket for public transportation in Venice
  • Tips
  • Everything not included in the section “included in the price”


300 € single cabin

140 € superior cabin

220 € standard season (from 28.04 to 18.08.18)
400 € high season (from 1.09 to 13.10.18)
85 € Girolibero 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)
250 € 3rd/4th adult in the cabin

Children reductions:
90% 0-2 years
50% 3-5 years
30% 6-8 years
Discount only applying if child is occupying 3rd or 4th bed in the cabin. 4th bed only available in the superior cabins.


Good to know

This tour offers the chance to choose if pedalling alone (taking advantage of a very detailed route description) or with the whole group, following the tour leader. When booking the tour please specify which option you prefer.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Get the latest news from Girolibero!


At Girolibero we believe in rewarding our customers: if your photo is the chosen prize winner, you will earn yourself a week's bike and boat holiday in Italy.