The tour either starts in Mantua or Venice depending on your departure date. Please see the Exodus website or speak to your sales consultant to confirm which route your chosen departure will take. The following itinerary describes the Mantua - Venice route, the alternate journey is identical, but in reverse. Cabins are available from 4.30pm, and the meeting with the ship manager and crew is scheduled at dinner time; 7pm.
Today is dedicated to allow discovery of this little visited cultural gem, its three picturesque 'lakes' formed by the Mincio, and the surrounding countryside -once a city state ruled by the Gonzaga family, and now considered by many as Italy's 'Sleeping Beauty'. In the late afternoon, a local guide will lead you through the highlights of Mantua.
A short cruise along the lush banks on the Mincio takes us to Governolo, where the river flows into the Po and forms the largest inland basin in Italy. At Governolo Lock, once a vital staging post for local navigation, mount your bike and follow the Po through Ostiglia (famed for its mediaeval fortress and floating mill) and on to the village of Bergantino. Here there is an option to visit the charming Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum, before finally reaching Zelo, a sleepy village on the Canal Bianco; the waterway which runs parallel to the Po.
After breakfast you continue your bike and boat adventure cycling towards Ferrara, another key City State of ancient Italy. You will visit this historic town and discover its little touched centre, still surrounded by the original city walls. From Ferrara, a short transfer by private coach will take you to Adria. Once close to the shores of the sea which bears its name, Adria was an ancient Greek port, famous for trading Baltic amber. Its remarkable museum also bears witness to its Etruscan, Roman and Venetian heritage. N.B. There will be a 60km transfer today by bus.
An exhilarating day of discovery by bike and boat starts with a short cruise to your drop-off point at Porto Viro and the exploration of the Po's delta. This unique wetland park is the prime reserve in Europe for herons, and home to several colonies of flamingos. At the mouth of the River Adige, which flows fast and cool from the Dolomites, we then follow the Po-Brondolo waterway and reach the Venetian lagoon. Our overnight stop is the bustling and colourful fishing port of Chioggia, known as 'Little Venice'.
A morning visit to the fish market is highly recommended and, time allowing, there is also the opportunity to climb up Chioggia's millennial clock tower - the oldest in the world - for some breathtaking views. Afterwards, enjoy some island hopping in the lagoon itself by bike and boat, starting with a drop-off on Pellestrina (home to the Ca'Roman nature reserve) and continuing by public ferry for the short crossing to the Lido island. Celebrated by Thomas Mann (Death in Venice) and particularly fashionable with the artists and aristocracy of the Belle Epoque, the Lido di Venezia is now home to the International Venice Film Festival and its galaxy of stars. Finally, your floating hotel takes you to the marina in Venice, for the culmination of your bike and boat holiday.
In the morning follow a local guide as you discover the capital of the ancient 'Serenissima Republic of Venice', which held sway over much of the Mediterranean (and beyond) for centuries. After that there is plenty of free time to soak up the timeless beauty of the city, or explore one of its many islands.
After breakfast you are free to disembark, with the possibility of arranging extra nights in Venice (to be booked in advance). Please be aware: The programme above 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 boat’s captain.
* 7 nights accommodation on board the Ave Maria, all cabins en suite * 5 days cycling 97% paved, 3% gravel tracks * Mainly quiet roads and cycle paths * Reverse route available * E-bikes available on request
All breakfasts, packed lunches (self-made) and dinners are included on board the Ave Maria. This area of Italy offers some fantastic cuisine and the dishes available on board are a fantastic reflection of the excellent local produce available. Breakfast will be a buffet affair, with hot and cold food available served with a selection of drinks. Lunches will be self-made; passengers will be encouraged to put together sandwiches, and take fruit and cakes from the breakfast selection. Dinners will generally be 3 courses and you will have a choice of options each evening. Typical dishes include various types of pasta, fresh fish (cod, seabass, salmon etc.) or meat (guinea-hen, veal, etc.) and an assortment of meats, cheeses and accompaniments. Of course, the meal will end with a typical Italian dessert, such as tiramisu or semifreddo.
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