Summer 2019 saw myself and my family do our first ‘proper’ family vacation ever. Kiddo has just turned three years old (which we celebrated with cake in the German Alps as we drove from London, UK) and we landed up at the grounds of Camping Mare e Pineta, which lies in the resort of Lido di Spina in the heart of the Adriatic Riviera. We decided to do a budget vacation (hence driving from our island, will explain the budgeting a bit later on in the post), and chose this campsite because of the accommodation, the price, location, the beach, the facilities for children and sightseeing nearby.
Camping Mare e Pineta allows tents, caravans and motorhomes into the grounds but as we don’t do ‘proper’ camping with tents, we hired one of the Giglo’s on site (otherwise known as a ‘static home’ or a ‘mobile home’. There were actually four of us for this trip, myself, the wife, Kiddo and the mother-in-law (it was her 60th birthday and she has never been to Italy which has been on her dream bucket list). The Gigolo composed of two bedrooms, one has a double bed and the other has two single beds. There is a private bathroom with shower and the main room as we entered had a seating area with table and a small kitchen which we did a lot of cooking. Outside there was a table and chairs to which we sat here most of the time (it was the middle of June and the temperatures were getting high). There was room to park the car outside and plenty of room to put up an airer (to dry clothes) and we even left all the inflatable toys outside as it was a pretty safe campsite (good security at the main entrance).
As mentioned we did a lot of cooking, so most of the food we brought was from either the campsite shop (which has excellent range of beer and wines) but otherwise I was driving about 7km north of the campsite to Lidl supermarket which had everything we needed. Also on the campsite was a gift shop which sold a lot of toys and inflatables for the beach (where they can also put air into these for no charge), as well as a bar, sandwich shop, an ice cream shop and a green grocery shop. At the main entrance of Camping Mare e Pineta I was quite fortunate to train in the gym to keep my fitness up (as I have retired from racing in marathons) and had everything I need here. Just got to remember to take my own water. Also nearby is the main reception where the staff (who can speak a few different languages like German and English), were very helpful and knowledgeable and helped us with our enquiries. This was open from 7am to 11pm and the check in and check out process was very simple, swift and easy.
Opposite the reception is a restaurant which we tried last night and of course, we had to have pizza. Why not? We are in Italy. It wasn’t expensive, the food was good and the service is fantastic. They also offer a take away service (wish I knew that). I could have came here every night to eat.
Now for the fun part. Camping Mare e Pineta is set in woodland and a good five to ten minute walk away is the beach. This was also one of the main reasons for coming here. The beach is sandy and HUGE! About ten years ago the wife and I came to Rimini and loved the beaches there (Rimini is about an hour’s drive south of the campsite), so we knew the beaches on the Adriatic would be like this. We weren’t disappointed. There are also bars which serve food at the entry of the beach, playground for the children, washing facilities to wash away the sand and there are plenty of lifeguards up and down the coastline in high season. The sea however was temperamental, despite the sun being out and the air temperatures high, sometimes the sea temperature was cool in the mornings but then warmed up in the afternoons. It was up and down all the time but this didn’t bother us as we came here to cool down. The sea also looked murky but I have noticed this in various places along this stretch of coastline. Again, didn’t put us off, we still had fun.
Between the beach and the main part of the campsite there was another playground for children and walking trails through the woodland (especially for visitors who wish to bring their dogs).
The way we did our lazy days when we were in the campsite was to do the beach in the morning, let Kiddo nap after lunch and then hit the swimming pool in the afternoon. The swimming pool is ideal for children. There was a toddler pool with various bits and bobs to play with, water jets spraying water everywhere and a lighthouse which turned into a slide. Then there was a children’s pool with another slide and a huge pot on stilts. This filled up with water and once full, because of the weight, would tip all the water on those standing underneath it. Loved this a lot. Then there is a main pool to which is open for everyone but the pool behind the bar I think is for aged teenagers upwards. I didn’t see any children and adults were swimming up and down, doing ‘proper’ lengths.
Day trips away
There is plenty to do, see and eat/drink in the area but I found the public transportation to be limited when I did my research. Hence another reason for driving. Within an hour’s drive is the resort of Rimini, the Republic of San Marino (it’s a country and not part of Italy but is a must visit!) and within thirty minutes drive is the small town of Comacchio with its canals and the town of Ferrara with a castle and beautiful cobbled streets.
A little bit further afield we did a return trip to Venezia (Venice) for the mother-in-law’s 60th birthday which included a trip to the island of Burano but this took us under two hours (via the toll roads) on the way there and about 2h30 on the coastal road on the way back to the campsite.
Lido di Spina & Lido degli Estensi
Just outside the main entrance of the campsite and we were already walking along the main street through the town of Lido di Spina. Here there were a few shops and restaurants before crossing the canal into Lido degli Estensi. What we loved about Lido di Spina is that there were a few fun fair rides for young children and Kiddo loved the ‘Caterpillar Train’ otherwise known as a rollercoaster. I am not kidding, we came here about three times and she must have racked up thirty goes. On each ride (which is three laps), if children grab the hanging Mickey Mouse toy which is dangled by the ride operator from above, the child gets another free ride. Kiddo done this about three times! She just loved it, loved the music, loved the pictures along the route…that’s my Kiddo.
Ligo degli Estensi has a little bit more going than Lido di Spina in terms of shops and restaurants. There is even a bar and a club. However, we also spent time here eating out and checking out the fun fair rides. There is also a road train which goes along this road from our resort which runs every hour in the summer evenings.
As promised (and this mainly for my British readership), we kinda did a rough breakdown on how much we spent on this trip. Remember there are three adults and one toddler on this trip. So I am hoping this may help families on my home island about doing a vacation in Italy, who are worried about the costs etc (and who isn’t afraid of driving…remember, make it an adventure). We stayed at the campsite for eleven nights but took us two days to get there and two days to get back, so we needed two nights accommodation each way as we broke up the journey. We traveled from June 1st 2019 and arrived back in the UK on 16th June.
Transport – we drove our own car which was a Vauxhall Astra with a 1.6 litre engine (which has great cruise control). After looking at the price of flights (the cheapest being Easyjet into Venice) and all the luggage (remember set amounts of Kgs here!), then hiring a car, for four people this all came up to £800. Because we drove, we spent £150 on ferry crossing from Dover to Calais, £400 on fuel (if it wasn’t for the day trips, I would say £280), about £80 on tolls (we drove mostly on non-toll roads through northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria) but we kinda messed it up through Austria both ways. We took a mountain pass road on the way there (which added hours to our journey but amazing views mind you) and on the way back to speed the journey up we bought a sticker which allowed us to drive on all of Austria’s highways. Bah! The first highway we drove on don’t even accept the sticker and we had to pay an extra £10 on tolls. I think the toll costs could have easily been halved on this trip. Regarding luggage, we took as much as we would like for this trip, all the food and not have to worry about weight. Total cost was around £620.
Accommodation – at the campsite we did eleven nights in a Gigolo (Mobile home) and this cost us £743. Divide that by four persons, that is £185 per person! Then we spent money on four nights at other hotels on route and we paid £300 (this could have easily come down a bit but two of those nights were quality hotels and the other two were bog basic hotels for truckers if you know what I mean!).
Other costs – so for four people to eat out (or eat in as we did a lot of supermarket shopping, brought lots of souvenirs and of course there was the sightseeing costs, I think spent around £637 (and £140 was that on the day trip to Venice which included, parking fee, meal at a bog standard restaurant and not a rip-off one near the main square and gifts).
Transport = £620
Accommodation at campsite (11 nights) = £743
Accommodation at other hotels (4 nights) = £300
Other costs such as food, souvenirs and sightseeing: £637.
Total for four persons came to £2300 which works out at £575 per person which for us British at the moment with BrExit, a weak Pound and other damaging factors from our parliament, I thought we didn’t do too bad. Costs could have came down a little bit but blah! We were on vacation. So I hope this breakdown would make British people consider that a vacation can be done on a budget against a strong Euro currency. We had a lot of fun on this trip, we turned it into an adventure and of course, we love Italy. We were so glad to return to this beautiful country and I am sure we will do another vacation soon, maybe at this campsite, maybe somewhere else in the region.
A personal note from me – our time at the Camping Mare e Pineta was paid for by ourselves and was not sponsored in anyway by the company. The opinions in this post are my own and is totally honest. I would like to thank the staff for making our short stay here an enjoyable one.