Saturday: Arrival in Venice
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 savour Venice at night, now free of the crowds and at her most romantic: Benvenuti a Venezia
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.
Leaving Venice behind after a gentle cruise, 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”.
Tuesday: Pellestrina/Chioggia–Po Delta Nature Reserve-Adria
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.
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.
We sail for a short stretch and, back on our bikes, we reach the village of Bergantino where we visit the charming Carousel and Street Entertainment Museum. Following the river through Ostiglia (famed for its medieval fortress and floating mill) and on to Governolo Lock. Once a vital staging post for local navigation, this is where the River Mincio flows into the Po, creating the largest inland basin in Italy. Leaving the Po behind, we reach Mantua trough a magnificent navigation in the late afternoon.
Friday: Mantua, round tour
An entire day dedicated to the discovery of this little visited cultural gem, its three picturesque “lakes” formed by the Mincio, and its surrounding countryside – once a City State ruled by the Gonzaga family. In the late afternoon a local guide will lead you through the most known highlights of the town.
Departure after breakfast