Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Review: Camping Continental in Verbania, Italy

How did we land up in Camping Continental in Verbania, Italy? Because we were looking for a warm place for our first Easter camping and because we wanted to be near any body of water.

I googled for a campsite that would fit our needs: located in a warm place, near a body of water, accept dogs, with swimming pool, good sanitary facilities. My first search focused on areas along Lake Maggiore in Italy and when I gave the rest of my requirements, Camping Continental would always appear on top of the list.

Since Camping Continental is already open during Easter time and they match our needs, we booked our pitch. In my e-mail, I specifically asked if the lake side area would have electricity and water access, the answer was there's no water access. Therefore, I asked for another area near the lake where electricity and water would be ready. The e-mail stated that there's no need to book a pitch because the site is not fully booked for Easter.

During our arrival, it was my husband who talked to the reception people as I had to walk the dog. (We arrived after more than a two-hour stop-and-go trip near the Gotthard Tunnel (The Gotthard Pass was closed to traffic.) so Rikki absolutely needed her walk!)

He ended up taking a pitch in the lake side area because the reception informed him (in German), that there's indeed water and electricity access there. I didn't argue as they should know better, right? Nope. When we arrived at our chosen pitch, we looked and looked for the water access, there's none.

Reception area.
Note that all guests are asked to show their passports and management reserves
 the right to hold one document which would be returned upon departure and payment.
A helpful Italian family beside our pitch pointed to the tap water connection on the other side of our pitch. That was supposed to be the water access the reception people were talking about. Hmmm... That means we had to fill our caravan's water tank using a borrowed water hose, again, from the helpful Italian family camping beside us. Oh well... The girls already loved the pitch and I am not moving anymore, after minutes of pulling and pushing our caravan until we found the right spot.

That means, we stayed put, but my husband went to the reception to vent his frustration (as if water access would appear near our pitch once we complained, I am being mean, thing is, it's our vacation, let's stay cool :-D)

I loved our lake side pitch, despite having no direct water access, because right in front of us is Lake Mergozzo.

Lake Side Pitch in Camping Continental
Beside the lake is a pathway where we could walk the dog. There's even a 'dog toilet' box! What a luxury for dog owners like us! The walkway is actually the side of a golf course.

Dog Toilet
Sanitary areas were also clean and spacious. There's always the wash area for dishes and clothes nearby. But the warm water use is limited because there's only an appointed wash basin where you could collect water. You are not supposed to use that basin for any other use or else...

Note that in all wash areas around the site, there are no hand dryer nor hand soaps available.

The laundry area where the washing machine and dryers are located could be found in the sanitary area in front of the supermarket. The pay card asked for five Euro each when I used the washing machine and the dryer. Note that you have to bring your own laundry soap.

The showers are spacious and have individual cubicles. A warning: Before undressing, check first if the warm water is functioning because some shower stalls have issues with warm water.

And here's one thing I like at Camping Continental's set-up, you could find the garbage containers near the sanitary areas. There's a container for plastic items, paper, bottles, etc. I really have to mention this because in some campsites we've visited, we had to look for the 'hidden' garbage disposal area.

The sanitary area near the beach
The toilet behind the reception, an ATM machine is also located in this area.
Note that the toilet here is unisex.
The wash room in the beach sanitary area, the one in the middle is the warm wash basin.
The sanitary area near the lake side pitches also has handicap access
and a baby bathroom while the upper floor features apartments for rent.

I think this a common wash area found between the ladies and men's toilets in the beach sanitary area.
It frustrated me that they never bothered to repair the unending water
drips because you cannot really turn-off the faucet.
The beach area, which is fairly near the lake side pitches, also offers water sports. There's a beach bar and a volleyball field, too. Some activities and facilities are available only during some specific periods.

Beach volleyball

Beach area
There are enough activities and facilities to keep both kiddies and adults busy. There's the mini and baby club, plus the mini disco that starts around 8 p.m. that lasts for at least an hour. For adults, there's a scheduled sport program that you could spontaneously join including yoga, gym, skipping, etc.  Be informed that all the guests need to wear a Camping Continental bracelet, too.

If you have fishing gears, you could also go fishing. Just make sure you have the proper licence. My girls tried catching fish using a net. Well, they had fun and kept their patience for two days. The third day, they had enough and the net never got out of our caravan from that day on :-)

The bar and restaurant, plus the supermarket is located in this building.
The only way they accept payment for camp transactions is by using their pay card,
which you have to 'load' money in a machine located near the entrance to the supermarket.
The large playground located near the bar and restaurant, and in front of the pool and activity area.
Mini Club and Baby Club in front of the large playground.
The large pool area is located behind.
The supermarket offers assorted cold cuts and a variety of cheese, there's a frozen corner, plus freshly baked bread and pastries. There's the usual camping and souvenir items plus snacks and drinks. And please don't forget your pay card!

Of course, you could also go to the nearest supermarket in the city. There are two located nearby. Some fellow campers even go on a biking tour and would pass by the supermarkets. Since we always bring our dog when we go grocery shopping, we gravitated towards 'Ipercoop' Supermarket as they have an underground parking. Nope, dogs are not allowed inside the mall.

We had dinner at the campsite's restaurant on our first night. The pizza was outstanding but my husband was not impressed, my plated salmon was okay, IC's schnitzel was good according to her, MC's pasta with pesto was great (according to her). And dog's are allowed inside, too. Oh, don't forget to dress-up a bit when you want to have dinner at the camp's restaurant, you know how Italians are known for being good dressers, right?

We also tried the ice cream corner near the bar once, but we were disappointed. Well, compared to the gelato shop in the city, theirs is lacking in flavor and zest!

If you don't have your own tent or and mobile home, there are other available accommodations around the campsite. But... they don't accept dogs in the apartments. Check out the photos below:

Tents ready for occupation 

The areas are clustered together and are near the activity arenas
Aside from the use of pay cards, guests would be issued cards to get in and out of the campsite. One swipe if you want to go out, and two swipes if you want to get in. I have to write this down as my girls almost always had to remind my husband to do double swipes for the gates to open :-)

Near the reception area, you'd find a station where you could wash your car. And if you want to walk with your dog, aside from the pathway beside the golf course, there's a big field and walkway right outside the reception area. You could also find dog toilet boxes around the campsites.
The field near the campsite
Another dog owner thingy: dogs are not allowed in the beach, in the lake, in the pool area and the playground. Except... if they escaped from their leash :-) And they would really try to escape because there are enough rabbits to hunt all over the camping grounds!

Oh, we also had an Easter Monday dinner at the restaurant near the camping site called Ristorante Raggio di Luna. The food was great and the service was friendly. Dogs are allowed inside the restaurant, too. I'd post a longer review of this restaurant in my next post. No Easter Sunday dinner for us because all restaurants were fully booked.

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