Want to be surrounded by beautiful mountains near the sea in a very convenient, comfy nook filled with Italian families when you visit the Italian Riviera? Family travel is so enriched when you stay where the locals stay and often much cheaper. We were so pleased with the spot we found to explore Cinque Terra, Portofino and Portovenere that we ended up staying two weeks, longer than planned. It was such summer perfection that it was hard to leave.
I mentioned it on Twitter and several asked where exactly we stayed, so here are the details. It was a campsite called Valdeiva that is just 3Km from the beach, town and train station of Deiva Marina which is half way between Portofino and Cinque Terra.
Most North Americans miss the joy of campgrounds in Europe and don't realize that it is one of the best and cheapest ways to see Europe and get to know Europeans. There is a not a city or site in Europe that does not have a campsite nearby. Unlike those in the US, they are not about getting back to nature so much as it is about budget travel and many are quite luxurious and almost all have cabins ( from simple to very luxurious) to rent.
This one had mostly cabins, and seemed to be a favorite summer weekend place for people from the nearby Genoa area. Most of the people visiting this campsite were Italian, although there were also a few Dutch, German and French campers. Like most European campsites it had a good value restaurant ( good, large Pizza's or generous home made lasagna for 5.50 ), a store on site (and better yet, a store was nearby.) Like many campsites in France and Italy, they even had a bidet in each bathroom ( but they also had some squat toilets which we never use, but some Europeans prefer).
It was by no means the fanciest place we have been to and was even a bit funky in some ways, but we were in a spot that was very comfortable for us. We were next to a cabin of an older Italian couple who just came on the weekends and very close to the restaurant, pool and playground. This is handy when you have a kid because when we were not touring she could ride her bike around, play with the other kids, swim and explore.
There are many campgrounds in this area, but we picked this one because it had a pool, free wifi and excellent transportation to the beach, town and train. The free bus shuttles that ran regularly to the train station with trains that run regularly, made it very easy to handle touring and all needs.
We were there in high season, so it was not particularly cheap, in fact, it was the most costly one that we have been to. We paid 39 Euros a night and that included our electricity. It cost 23 Euros a night for a couple I talked to who had a rental car and tent. I am sure it would be much cheaper outside high season, but to get the best price on a cabin, it's probably best to rent it by the week.
We have a self sufficient RV so we could really park it any place and saw many do this in various places along the Cinque Terra ( like at the beach at Monterosso), but we usually prefer the convenience and security of a campsite. We tried the pizza and lasagna, ( much to Mozart's delight) but mostly we did our shopping in town at the big store and cooked our own. It was fun to be out barbequing along side other families. Campgrounds are a bit like instant neighborhoods.
It is sunny and hot on the Italian Riviera in July, so the pool was a welcome relief and Mozart and I swam in it at least once a day, sometimes several times a day. Our favorite time was after a full day of touring as the very cold water would be just right at five or six in the evening and would revive me enough to cook supper. It certainly was not the best pool we have been in, but a pool is an essential ingredient for family travel.
Yes, we saw so much beauty on the Cinque Terra, but sometimes the best of family travel also includes the little moments like just sitting in our lounge chairs listening to katydids, reading a book and enjoying the summer flowers, or swimming with Mozart in a pool or at a beach. Our pool time together in our little nook will always be remembered as highlights too. Not as stunning as our photos of this area, but an added bonus to our memory banks of summer fun and giggles on the Ligurian Coast. Family travel is often about doing ordinary things in extraordinary places. There is magic in that!
We are both fish who love the water. We raced, she jumped off my shoulders over and over, we sat on the bottom and played hand clap games like " a sailor went to sea, sea, sea" underwater on the bottom of the pool. DaVinci sometimes joined us, but he was a champion, world class swimmer who had to endure too many cold pools during his youth, so often opts out if they are cold. We had to wear our silly orange caps ( often derigueur for pools in Europe) and needed the goggles for the chlorine. The mountain view was sweet, the water refreshing, the time together....priceless!