Sitting on the deck at half past midnight, I can hear Killing Me Softly wafting across the campsite, to the background sound of waves washing up on the sand. I’m finishing a glass of red wine and thinking about closing my book. The candle flickers in the darkness, and I don’t want to blow it out. The people next door are still sitting on their deck, I can see their candle still lighting too, and hear the soft murmurs of late night chat. Maybe we’ll stay up a bit longer too. In some ways, this is the best part of the day – the best part of campsite life. But in five hours, the sun will be up, and two hours after that, the kids will be up, ready for another day in our temporary home of Marina di Venezia.
We arrived late on a Sunday night, and it took a while to get taken to our mobile home, so it was very late by the time we were heading back to the centre of the campsite for something to eat. The restaurant could only offer us pizza at that time of night (for which we were very grateful) but our main concern was finding a bottle of water to bring back to the mobile home. We’d realised a few days previously that the campsite shop would be closed when we got there. We asked Eurocamp if we could book a starter pack with them, but it had to be booked a week in advance. We asked if they could put a bottle of water in the mobile home, but they said no, because “how would we be reimbursed?” Water is 25c a bottle. (And I know, if they gave in to everyone who asked for a bottle of water, where would it end, but still – maybe they could just put a bottle of water in every mobile as standard.) Anyway, we were able to buy bottled water in the restaurant that night, and after a hurried late-night meal, we made our way back to the mobile – a fifteen minute walk that left us wondering what we’d got ourselves into.
The following morning was overcast, everyone was starving, and the two-bedroom mobile was starting to feel very cramped already. But we did find the shop, we got some food into everyone, and very importantly as far as the kids were concerned, we discovered the pools.
We arrived there (newly purchased beach towels in hand because they weren’t included in the linen pack we rented) at 12.15, only to hear a whistle at 12.45 to tell everyone to go. In Marina di Venezia, the pools (and the playground, the bakery, and the fun park) close from 1pm to 3pm for “quiet time”. So far, not so convinced.
But then in the afternoon, the sun came out, and we decided to look for the beach. Five minutes from our mobile, and without leaving the campsite, we found it, and suddenly, everything turned – things were looking up.
And this is the huge draw of the campsite I think – it’s laid out literally just behind a beautiful, golden Adriatic beach that’s only for use by Marina di Venezia campers.
The setting is another big plus – our mobile was in a forested area of the campsite, the tall trees giving much-needed shade from the hot sun, and beautiful to look at. It had a proper outdoorsy, camping feel to it, with the smell of barbecues, twigs crackling underfoot, sunlight shafts slipping through the trees, and kids playing on the sandy paths.
The downside is that all of the external operators (i.e. Eurocamp, Canvas, Venue etc.) are in what’s called Marina 2000, which although near the beach, is further away from the pools and restaurants. It’s a beautiful setting but when a fifteen-minute walk is the only way to get bread and milk, it can be a pain. (Dear Marina di Venezia, if you see this – what about a small shop in Marina 2000?)
On balance, I’d still take our mobile home in the tree-lined setting, over the more centrally located bungalows – perhaps it’s some kind of Stockholm syndrome but by the end of our holiday, I was deeply attached to our forest neighbourhood and its inhabitants.
The kids loved the pools, I loved the pools – and unlike last year, they weren’t too crowded (another benefit of the beach). They’re really well run, very well supervised and I found it easier to mind the kids than in other campsites. Unusually, there’s a (small) cost for renting the sunbeds, but there’s also a grass area that runs one whole length of the complex, and there’s always room there to throw down the towels.
There are three restaurants on site (one had linen tablecloths, so we didn’t dare) and a really good takeaway. The two family restaurants are huge, the food is fine-to-good depending on what you order (pizza is very good in both, Spaghetti Vongole and fillet steak in Viale Fontana are gorgeous), the atmosphere is great in both, and the gin and tonics are wow. What more can you ask really.
There are also a number of snack bars (one called Tiramisu is great) and ice-cream cafés dotted around the site, including Jolly Bar, the one and only place to buy anything in Marina 2000. But with ice-cream at €1.10 per cone, coffee for €1.00, and the most amazing takeaway chips, it certainly earned its keep.
And best of all, the supermarket sells vino alla spinna – wine on tap. The nice man behind the counter will fill a bottle of red, bottle of white, or bottle of Prosecco for the grand total of €2.20. Oh yes.
The activities and entertainment
There’s loads to do in Marina di Venezia and the beach is fully utilised at night for fireworks, a “dancing fountain” light show, and a beach disco on various evenings. There was also moonlight swimming in the pools one night – a major highlight for my two girls (less so for my small boy who was in bed and thought his sisters were in the next room).
There’s a nightly kids’ disco at 8.30pm, followed by a stage show at 9.30 – we saw Mama Mia, which left one girl starry-eyed and one falling asleep.
There’s Leo Fun where for a cost kids can try bumper boats and mini racing cars, there’s crazy golf, and a very good playground – though inexplicably, the playground also closes from 1 to 3 for quiet time, which really reduces your options if you’re dealing with three cross children who’ve just missed out on the pools.
My two girls also tried and loved Scuba Diving lessons at the pool, well worth it for €5, and a big highlight – Aquabubble, which was available on Saturdays for €5 per person.
On the beach, you can rent sunbeds, buy food, coffee, drinks, and ice-cream at the bars, or rent a pedalo – at just €10 for an hour, this was possibly the best value activity of the holiday and a huge hit with the kids. And the grownups. I even went on the slide.
There’s a kids’ club on the campsite too but we never got around to trying it. Which is a little bit because we were a bike ride from the centre but a big bit because the kids were busy playing with friends and cycling their bikes and building sandcastles. Not a bad complaint to have at all.
Getting there and getting around
We flew with Ryanair (new warm, fuzzy Ryanair are a genuine joy) from Dublin to Treviso, then took a bus from the airport to the campsite, which takes just under two hours but felt like less.
This was our first ever holiday without a car and I found it challenging at times. Like most people on the campsite, we rented bikes for the duration of the stay, which made getting around the site very easy. We also cycled to a nearby lighthouse (about 2 km down a quiet road) and to the town of Ca’Savio (2 to 3km, depending on the route you take and whether or not you get lost on the way home, ahem).
We made the trip into Venice via bus (from outside the campsite) and ferry (all-in tickets for €19 per person over the age of six) and spent three very hot sticky hours there, the highlight of which was definitely a gondola ride. At €80 for half an hour, it’s expensive, but it’s an incomparable way to see an incomparable city, and a wonderful way to cool down after the heat of the crowded streets.
We also hired a car via the campsite tourist office and went to Verona for a day-trip – we did it because we were at a gorgeous wedding there 14 years ago and then went on to Venice, so doing the reverse seemed like a good idea. We didn’t realise how far away it was though, so effectively spent almost five hours on the road to have four hours in Verona… or as my husband put it, a five-hour round-trip to get lunch. But Verona is a really beautiful city and well worth a visit if you don’t mind the journey.
We ate in Mazzini27 (best ravioli with truffle oil ever) and then went to Casa di Giulietta where Shakespeare’s lovelorn heroine lived, except of course, she never existed. Then we wandered around the city’s beautiful streets, got some ice-cream, browsed in a market, and headed back to Venice. So not just a five-hour trip for lunch. Honestly.
Lido di Jesolo is a much closer option than Verona if you have a car – it’s about 30 minutes away, and a good place to visit in the evening for dinner, coffee, ice-cream, shopping and amusements. We ate in a pizzeria called “Christina” – great food, and very family friendly.
It took a day to grow on me, and it has its downsides, but we loved Marina di Venezia. For the kids, the best bits were the pools, the bikes, scuba diving, Aquabubble, the pedalo, and though they don’t know it, I think the freedom to roam and explore more than any other campsite in which we’ve stayed was a big factor too.
For me, it was the beach – for morning runs, afternoon swimming and sandcastling, and walks at dusk, it was the most perfect place I’ve ever been.
So to sum up Marina di Venezia in good bits:
The good bits:
The beach – bliss
The forest setting – beautiful
The pools – safe, clean, well run, and the kids loved them – win
The atmosphere – the overall sense of outdoorsy-ness and fresh air; kids out playing badminton and tennis and football, and not an electronic device in sight.
The Prosecco for €2.20 a bottle – Ah. May. Zing.
The less good bits:
The inexplicable quiet time – for all of us from non-siesta taking cultures, this one is hard to fathom
The lack of amenities in Marina 2000 (just one little shop, please?)
The mosquitoes – sigh.
Although I haven’t seen the film in 20 years, somehow the site reminded me of Dirty Dancing – maybe the wholesome, outdoorsy feel; maybe the rules; maybe the forest setting. Which was all very well until I realised I’m not Jennifer Grey this time – I’m probably Jennifer Grey’s mother.
But overall, we loved it, and with the caveat that it’s big, and not everyone likes big sites or hiring bikes, I’d highly recommend it.
And as we swam one last lap, built one last castle, and ordered one final pizza, the memory of early discomfort was faint and distant. We had cabin fever and epic meltdowns (an age thing, not a campsite thing) but what we’ll remember is the pool and the beach and the forest trees and just sitting on the deck, doing nothing more taxing than watching the holiday world go by, while we fell in love with this salty, sandy home away from home. Unlike my kids, I don’t say this lightly or often, but it was definitely our best holiday ever.