(22 reviews)

Guided/Self-guided Bike and Barge / Original tour

Web code IT012

Italy / Venice-Mantua

Aboard Ave Maria

Blending nature, culture and fine cuisine, this leisurely bike and barge tour along the waterways of 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 along the route, rewarding our daily rides with authentic regional dishes back on board. From the glory of Venice, the lagoon leads us to colourful Chioggia. Next up, the natural wonders of the Po Delta, famed for its birdlife. Then Adria, once a key Roman port, and onwards to Ferrara and Mantua – once major city states crowned by the Italian Renaissance.
  • Day by Day


    1. Venice
    We welcome you aboard your new home-from-home from 5.00 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 savour Venice at night, now free of the crowds and at her most romantic: Benvenuti a Venezia

    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.

    3. Venice – Pellestrina island (25 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”.

    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.

    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.

    6. Zelo – Mantua (50 km)
    This morning we head for the village of Bergantino, home of the distinctive Museum of Amusement rides and Popular Entertainment 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.

    7. Mantua round tour (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”. (The programme may be subject to changes)

    8. Mantua
    Departure after breakfast.



    The programme has been planned to feature navigation along the Fissero/ Bianco canal, which runs parallel to the Po 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 barge’s captain.


  • Route profile

    Total length: 185 km
    Terrain: 90% tarmac, 10% 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 barge 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 barge, to allow easier access onto cycling paths or simply to enjoy the cruise.


    Leisure cycling in mostly flat areas, with only a few short ups and downs. Little effort required, suitable for everyone.


  • How to get there

    Venice is connected with the following airports:
    Venice: 10 km, Treviso: 30 km, Verona: 110 km, Bergamo: 240, km Milan: 310 km.


    For information on timetables and prices you can consult the following websites: www.trenitalia.com.



  • Accommodation and meals



    Take a virtual tour and watch our photo gallery!


    The barge 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 partially opened), comfortable low beds, en-suite facilities, air conditioning and safety box. Bed/bunk size is 2,00 x 0,80 m. Most of the double beds can be separated into two single beds. Under the bed there is a 40 cm high empty space, where you can store your luggage.

    Common areas
    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
    • Complimentary courtesy kit



  • Bikes and accessories

    Girolibero bikes are available in different sizes in unisex model:

    • Touring bike 27-gear Shimano Deore
    • E-bike 9-gear Shimano



    • aluminium frame
    • mudguard
    • rear rack
    • comfort gel saddle www.selleroyal.com
    • anti-puncture Schwalbe tyres
    • ergonomic bicycle grips
    • Speed Lifter system


    Own bicycles are not allowed on board.
    Limited availability for E-bikes.  



    All rented adult bikes are equipped with:

    • 1 cycle computer  
    • 1 Ortlieb one-sided saddlebag
    • 1 combination bike lock
    • 1 helmet suitable for head circumferences from 54 to 61 cm

    Only for self-guided:

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

    All our helmets have a certification mark according to the DIN EN 1078 (CE) European norm.


    We recommend that you bring your own reusable water bottle with you.


    Important notes if you want to cycle independently:
    In order to cycle smoothly following our App, we suggest that you bring with you a holder for your mobile phone to be fixed on the handlebar, as well as a power bank (even if the App can be used offline, too).


  • Accompanying material

    Before your arrival, you will receive an email from us with the digital information material. It contains:

    1. Link to download the App including maps, roadbook, points of interest and GPS tracks (you can use the App offline, too)

    2. Link to download the tour information material in Pdf:

    • Tour notes
    • Final tour details


  • By your side

    Welcome briefing

    At your arrival on Saturday at 6.30 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 you need to specify which option is chosen.

    If you want to cycle independently, you are free to do it by following the App we will provide you. 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 every day with you.

    Tour leader

    Our tour leaders are carefully selected and rigourously trained by Girolibero. They are experienced enthusiastic travelers who have a true passion for sharing their love of the outdoors, peoples, cultures and local food. Thanks to their 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 on how to correctly use the bicycle gears and whenever necessary they can fix a flat tyre. As we like to say, our tour leaders are AOC (Controlled Designation of Origin), and will help you explore the land  and live an unforgettable experience.

    Staff support

    In the Final Tour Details you will find the contact phone numbers you can call during the tour in case of emergency.

  • 21 Client reviews
    • Veronica

      Departure 05-12 August 2023

      Online from 19 August 2023

      We had a great time and thought all the staff were great, especially our tour guides Helmut and Daniella. The chefs Irene and Daniel did a fantastic job with the meals, obviously taking time to plan the menus to reflect the regions we were travelling through.
    • Colin

      Departure 24 June - 01 July 2023

      Online from 09 July 2023

      The team were terrific - all outgoing and fun, caring and helpful.
      The two guides were lovely. We made friends and enjoyed the whole trip very much.
    • Carolyn

      Departure 27 May - 03 June 2023

      Online from 20 June 2023

      This was a first time for us on a tour of this nature and understand why so many of the other participants had done several previously.
      Of our travels over the years this trip stands out as being so much fun in many ways. Meeting new people, seeing so much ,being active, eating maybe a bit too well and seeing the crew in action was a delight. Only problem is we would want the same crew next time ! You could not find a better crew anywhere !!!
    • Claudia

      Departure 09-16 July 2022

      Online from 26 July 2022

      We absolutely loved our trip and cannot wait to do another. Girolibero delivered more than we expected and felt the staff were stellar!
    • Marcella Maria

      Departure 09-16 July 2022

      Online from 21 July 2022

      Vacanza consigliata nelle stagioni intermedie
    • Jane

      Departure 16-23 April 2022

      Online from 25 May 2022

      My holiday was more than I expected! It was my first bike trip and everything about it was grand! Thank you for your professionalism, the great food, the unforgettable ambiance, and a great journey! Hoping to return and do another excursion at some point!
    • Debra

      Departure 16-23 April 2022

      Online from 11 May 2022

      I loved the trip! The crew of the Ave Maria was outstanding.
    • Denise

      Departure 16-23 April 2022

      Online from 01 May 2022

      We enjoyed the trip and felt the staff was extremely accommodating and professional. The drink costs were very reasonable and wine selections were very good. My accommodation was less than acceptable because of the noise and odor from the generator room.
    • Joanne

      Departure 16-23 April 2022

      Online from 29 April 2022

      See my comments under itinerary.
    • Cynthia

      Departure 16-23 April 2022

      Online from 28 April 2022

      This is my first bike and barge. I truly felt every member of the team from initially signing up to each crew member that assisted us daily truly had our best interest in mind. This is a very hard working crew that made certain of our safety and vacation enjoyment. Thank you!
    • Rita

      Departure 2018

      Online from 25 June 2018

      We just spent a wonderful week on the Ave Maria with Fabio and crew—what a trip—great food, wine, company, riding, bikes, sites—everyone was so helpful. Highly recommend—we are looking at our next Girolibero trip already!!
    • Barbara & Neil, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 09 October 2017

      We just wanted to say how much we appreciated the professional and supportive way you made it all so simple. We thoroughly enjoyed our cycle and the crew on the Ave Maria were really super too.

      We’re hoping to return to Italy for another cycle trip soon and we will certainly be considering booking with Girolibero.
    • Helen, Belgium

      Departure 2017

      Online from 03 October 2017

      Good morning Maddalena,

      this message to let you know that we enjoyed very much our Holiday with your company, the staff was really exceptional and we have some great souvenir on live on the boat and especially the food.
    • Richard, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 31 July 2017

      First, we were literally staggered by the welcome we received, as two tired English approached the 'Ave Maria', an hour before the official time to board, and were greeted by Irene, as warmly as if we had been members of her family! By the end of the holiday at Mantua we realised that our first impressions of Irene, had been considerably enhanced: she is a formidably, competent, calm and consistently reliable person / team leader. However she is not one to be messed with! We saw how well she handled a lackadaisical ticket office at Mantua railway office etc.

      Daniela, the other and more senior tour leader, now enjoying a week's well earned break back at her home, at Vicenza, is a real gem. She and Irene, rode with us on every cycle ride, leading, and where necessary smoothing out any small problems. They each went to great lengths to make our holiday the success it undoubtedly was .

      .. I believe everyone of the 40 guests would have felt much the same.

      Additionally, it was a refinement to add to the overall enjoyment that the other passenger/ cyclists were so nice. These were Americans ( including some well behaved teenagers), Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, as well as English. Sadly, there was no Scot. We all got on well.

      My one regret was that I was unable to tell the CEO of the company, our collective gratitude for building a company, acquiring the boats, the staff, then in devising the routes and brilliant maps that we were issued with. He did visit the 'Ave Maria' a day before we arrived in Mantua, and met several people, but sadly I was not one of them...

      I have not mentioned the Captain of the 'Ave Maria': Riccardo. He really 'leads from the front', and was always to be seen helping out: everything and everyone. An astonishing act of leadership...
      My last job, long, long ago, in the British Army was instructing /assessing Officer Cadets. Riccardo, the Captain of the Ave Maria, would had he been one of 'my' cadets have revived a fine report from me!

      The route taken by the 'Ave Maria' exceeded our expectations, massively. So, too did the daily cycle rides, and the variety of places we we so ably shown around. My wife and I are well travelled. NO holiday has been better resourced from every angle. So, thank you all at GIROLIBERO! And, yes, we have been to Italy before.

      We would definitely like to travel next year with 'Girolibero ', especially if you would have the tour from Venice to Porec GUIDED. I wonder WHETHER they might consider this? Please do!!

      Many thanks
    • Pietro

      Departure 17-24 June 2017

      Online from 29 June 2017

      Una buona vacanza per chi ama la natura particolare del Delta del Po, pedalando su un percorso facile toccando città famose, con un buon albergo al seguito e mangiando bene.
    • Annie & Thierry (Brussels, Belgium)

      Departure 2017

      Online from 30 May 2017

      We spent a fantastic week on the Ave Maria. The tour is beautiful, including visits of Venezia of course, but other nice less-known towns, and superb river landscapes.
      The boat is incredibly comfortable, with all modern equipment, quiet terrasse, large dinner lounge. Food was excellent and let us taste a wide variety of italian dishes and wines.
      The tour is easy, with short stages and no elevation, but we could extend it every time we wished, with precise explanations and good maps provided every day.
      Our tour leader Tamara made the week unforgettable, with an enthusiastic atmosphere, offering us many opportunities to personalize the tour.
      All this surrounded by the super professional organization of Girolibero, for the material, the accommodation, the transfers…
      A great experience !
    • Mandy, UK

      Departure 2017

      Online from 05 May 2017

      I just had to drop you a line to say how much Sarah and I enjoyed out trip. It was fantastic in every way. The Ave Maria is a terrific boat and I loved sailing on her especially into Venice on a beautiful evening.

      We wanted to compliment Alain and Mikkela on their never ending energy and enthusiasm for the trip and the the entertaining way they worked together, professional but friendly. I don’t think I have laughed so much in a long time The visits they organised were very interesting and informative and apart from one day they organised the weather pretty well too. They are great ambassadors for your company. It seemed to me that the whole team worked well together and I must compliment the two chefs whose food was outstanding. I loved the fact that they used produce from the places we passed through so imaginatively.

      None of us wanted to leave the boat on Saturday but sadly we had to and that is a testament to the enjoyment of the whole trip which I am wholeheartedly extolling to all my friends and colleagues who I hope will book with you in the future.

      Also thank you for our wine which we enjoyed immensely.

      Please make sure our praise goes to the team because without them our trip would have been a whole lot different!

      With kind regards
    • Alessandro

      Departure 08-15 April 2017

      Online from 03 May 2017

      Esperienza entusiasmente! Pur essendo italiani e residenti in Veneto, merita pedalare in questi affascinanti territori ricchi di natura e opere d'arte. Bellissima la compagnia, animata da guide esperte e simpaticissime e da personale di bordo e cuochi insuperabili!! Ottima l'organizzazione e la qualità del tutto!!
    • Joanne & John

      Departure 2016

      Online from 03 November 2016

      We are very happy that we selected Girolibero for our vacation. We are even happier that we had the team of Hugo & Tamara and all the rest of the crew. We were constantly amazed at the anecdotes, information, tours and teamwork. We will probably do another tour with Girolibero in the future.
    • Alberto

      Departure 30 July - 06 August 2016

      Online from 11 October 2016

      Credo che su questo tipo di viaggio ci sia nulla da consigliarVi.
      Le seguenti impressioni sono state pubblicate prima del nuovo sistema di rating

      Larry, Canada

      Departure 2016

      Online from 09 June 2016

      We had a great time on the boat/barge. Everything was first class, the food was amazing & the staff were fabulous. Not a single complaint.

Tour details


from 1,200 €

8 days / 7 nights, boat Ave Maria

Tour type

Guided / Self-guided



Season 1 | 13.04.2024
Season 2 | 27.04, 6.07, 20.07, 3.08, 17.08.2024
Season 3 | 11.05, 25.05, 8.06, 22.06, 26.10.2024
Season 4 | 31.08, 14.09, 28.09, 12.10.2024


Guaranteed departure with a minimum of 12 participants.


Find here departures from Mantua to Venice aboard Ave Maria



Find here departures from Venice to Mantua aboard Vita Pugna



Price per person

Season 1 | 13.04.2024

1,200 € in standard double cabin
1,550 € in single cabin
2,200 € in standard double cabin single use
900 € 3rd person in standard triple cabin



  • 7 overnights
  • Breakfast
  • Self-made packed lunch
  • 6 dinners
  • Welcome drink
  • Coffee and tea and other hot drinks on board
  • Sheets and towels
  • Courtesy kit
  • Mid-week cabin cleaning service and towel change
  • Bike helmet (to book in advance)
  • App including maps, roadbook, points of interest and GPS tracks
  • Digital tour information
  • English speaking tour leader within an international group
  • Second tour leader with a minimum of 22 people
  • Guided visit in Mantua
  • Visit of a cheese factory with tasting of typical Grana Padano
  • Visit of Amusement rides and Popular Entertainment Museum
  • Visit of a historic glass factory on Murano island
  • Some short walking tours
  • Harbour charges
  • Bus transfer Ferrara-Zelo

Not included

  • 1 dinner
  • Beverages on board
  • Museums, fees and extras in general
  • Ticket for public transportation in Venice and lagoon (we suggest the ACTV 48h-ticket, 35 €)
  • Venice Municipality Access Fee: it is expected to enter into force on January 1st, 2024 (approx. 18-30 € to be paid on site)
  • Tips
  • Everything not mentioned in the section “Included”

Supplements per person

550 € season 2 | 27.04.2024 and 6.07- 17.08.2024
700 € season 3 | 11.05 - 22.06.2024 and 26.10.2024
850 € season 4 | 31.08 - 12.10.2024

250 € superior cabin | upper deck
50 € special diet | gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan diets

Girolibero rental bikes
110 € Touring bike
270 € E-bike | limited availability
Insurance against theft and damage included.
Own bicycles are not allowed on board.

Extra nights
Mantua and Venice on request


Post-trip extension | Verona
Price on request including:
- 1 or 2 nights with breakfast in our 4* partner hotel in Verona
- Transfer from Mantua to Verona


Good to know

This tour offers the chance to choose if pedalling alone or with the whole group, following the tour leader.

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