How Sardinia’s Forte Village won over a slightly reluctant resort newbie
It isn’t often that you are deposited at your lodgings by golf buggy. But then it’s not often that your hotel room is a half-mile journey from reception. And so it is that, packed to the gunnels with bags and buggies, we arrive like ramshackle travellers disembarking from an over-stuffed charabanc and are shown into our room at the Le Dune, one of seven hotels at Sardinia’s world-famous Forte Village resort. And immediately, this trio of tightly coiled travellers begins to unwind – fast.
Le Dune is nominally a hotel, but each room is in fact its own standalone villa. On turning the key to ours, several things strike us: firstly, coolly lolling in an ice bucket is a half bottle of champagne (the coils slacken a degree further), as well as the most lavish platter of fruit – at its centre an entire pineapple – we’ve ever seen. Next, our eyes roam to the sheer size of the room (many London flats are smaller), the calming sea green of the walls, the huge windows framing views of tropical plants – and then, the piece de resistance – an enormous balcony, perfect both for imbibing said champagne, and for our toddler to amuse herself by running in circles for hours. Back inside, the bathroom has a huge walk-in shower, as well as a swimming pool-like bath – a good spot to relax and listen to the warm-up of whichever band is playing the piazza that evening – and is stocked with divine Aqua Di Parma products. It is, in short, sublime. The temptation would be to do little but order room service and lounge about in fluffy white towels – but that would be to miss the point of Forte Village.
That it calls itself a village is no exaggeration, and if we’re splitting hairs, actually underplays its scale (few hamlets boast 21 restaurants). A half-hour’s drive south of Cagliari – the island’s ancient capital, itself well worth a night or two to explore the buzzing restaurant scene and to scale its vertiginous and pretty medieval cobbled streets – and you reach Forte Village. Despite having read glowing reviews, as we cross the threshold of this vast contained world, it’s hard to know quite what to expect. An archway leads new villagers off the main road through to reception, where dozens of people mill about waiting for their own golf buggy to deliver them to one of the seven hotels – all of varying levels of luxury. But as soon as you depart reception and zip through the verdant grounds to your room, it becomes clear why this place is, again and again, named the best resort on the planet by the World Travel Awards (there is even a trophy room where the laudatory gongs are proudly lined up). For despite the huge number of guests – so apparent at reception – once into the resort proper, there is never any sense of crowding, a feat given that there is roughly one member of staff per two guests, of which typically there are 1500 in residence. This is, perhaps, thanks to the immaculately maintained lush pathways that snake though all 55 acres of Forte Village, all copiously planted and maintained beautifully: unless you’re by a pool, you just don’t clap eyes on more than handful of people at a time. And since most people get about on the handily provided bicycles, they’re gone before you’ve really clocked them.
Having not once considered a resort holiday until we had a child, we worried that there might be an element of organised fun; of a Disneyland on the Med, with grinning guests merrily joining conga lines. Resorts such as those must and likely do exist, but Forte Village is not one of them. Indeed, its beauty lies precisely in forcing nothing at all upon its guests; it is entirely what you make it. There are hundred of activities on offer, so the energetic can go diving, join academies to be taught by sporting legends or attend baby discos at night (yes, really), while others might choose instead to spend their days floating into a transcendent state of relaxation at the extraordinary thalassotherapy spa (more of which later). Since our child is just two, The Children’s Wonderland soon becomes part of our daily routine; she would happily spend her entire holiday running in and out of the miniature 1950s Americana village, complete with diner, garage and grocery store – but that would be to neglect having enough time to squeal with delight at the children’s water park (her), or lounging by the swimming pool (us).
Another part of our quickly adopted routine is the bustling pizzeria, which serves up fantastic pizzas with great pillowy charred crusts at lunchtime; a world of our own we may be in, but this is still Italy – the pizza had better be good. It’s a beachside buzzy place, with a simple menu that hits the spot for kids and adults alike (this guests pay for, while breakfasts and dinners are included). And this is where Forte Village really scores. While it somehow manages to swerve having a soundtrack of screaming kids, it is endlessly child-friendly. Here, that hot-under-the-collar stress-sweat inducing sensation when your baby goes bonkers in a less than toddler-friendly environment is dispensed with, because children are made to feel as welcome as adults, the peerless staff fussing over and joking with them so that parents can breathe easy. And so it is too at Forte Village’s fine-dining options. Le Dune’s in-house restaurant is one-such, it’s exemplary seafood so fresh it could have leapt from the glistening Mediterranean that supplies the resplendent view here. But our ultimate holiday highlight is found at the Michelin-starred Belvedere, the aptly titled restaurant at the neighbouring hotel of the same name (Le Dune has five-stars; its guests can dine freely at the other hotels of the same star rating). The views from the secluded balcony of the mountains behind are sublime, as are chef Antonello Arrus’ local dishes which underline that real skill lies in simplicity. This place is so romantic that, as the waiters subtly dance attendance, you could imagine a Lady and the Tramp-style spaghetti kiss under a starry sky while an accordion plays in the background.
If all the dining, swimming and entertaining of your children hasn’t quite slackened those coils, do stop in at the thalassotherapy spa, where relaxation is taken exceptionally seriously (there is even a private mini spa for A-listers and the especially well-heeled). A course of six seawater baths with varying degrees of salt concentration is the result of 20 years’ research. As one who, generally, would prefer to be doing something than floating about, I can be dismissive of spas. Not this one. This is something beyond any luxury experience hitherto, and the feeling of wellbeing is exquisite and unparalleled.
It sums up, in microcosm, the whole of Forte Village.
Forte Village, Sardinia Rooms from €630 per night, based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Bungalow on half-board basis, including VAT and service charge. Children under 2 stay free. For further information and for reservations, please visit Forte Village Resort or call +39 070 921 8818