Wednesday 29 March 2017

Forte years on resort is still young at heart

Nestling in tropical gardens with child-friendly beaches and restaurants galore, Sarah Caden found a world of endless possibilities at Sardinia's Forte Village

Sarah Caden

If I had to pick a highlight, it might be the spaghetti alle vongole, but only if I really had to. Because there are a lot of highlights to choose from. The spaghetti and clams shared with the toddler in the beachfront restaurant that became our daily haunt was lovely, but there was also the near-perfect beach, the nightly feast of Sardinian pastas and ice cream, the bubbly on the balcony, the leisurely breakfast ... this was a holiday with many elements.

And the celeb-watching was good, too, the husband's instructions to singer Mick Hucknall in how best to use the water-slides getting a highlight rating of its own.

Over the years, I had read a lot about Forte Village, near Cagliari in Sardinia, before finally getting there. My holiday requirements had been transformed in that time by the arrival of my daughter, and while I wouldn't say that I've had a full personality transplant, the fact of no longer staying out until all hours, having lie-ins or being able to loll around reading on the beach all day certainly alters what you seek in a holiday. And Forte Village sounded like the place for us.

It's a resort, but it's a huge resort, situated in 25 hectares of tropical gardens, and the range of amenities, accommodation, eating and entertainment were designed to eliminate that trapped-on-site effect. Further, there were several great swimming pools, but also -- and this swung it for me -- a fabulous beach of white sand, small waves and warm water on the doorstep.

About one hour from Cagliari, the Sardinian capital, the 40-year-old Forte Village comprises seven different complexes, from a spa hotel and family-friendly options, to individual bungalows.

We stayed in the Villa del Parco, a stone's throw from the Piazza Maria Luigia, with its designer shops, flamingo pond, nightly show, and row of candyfloss and toffee popcorn vendors -- somehow in the heart of things, but terribly secluded, thanks to tall banana trees surrounding the hotel and the room's tranquil, shaded patio.

And that balancing act is key to Forte Village's success as a destination -- you feel at ease and relaxed almost immediately, but, at the same time, there are endless options at your fingertips.

The first night, we headed for the Pineta open-air buffet, where live music played in the warm night, and children helped themselves to limitless ice cream, while their parents sipped the wine provided, and we revelled in the novelty of not only having the child outdoors at this hour, but the welcome she received.

Most of the restaurants were included in the price of the holiday, so you could go Brazilian one night, Sardinian the next, and even Indian.

That first night, we pored over the resort map, and tried to work out what we wanted from the next day, the next meal, the next week. We wondered if we'd ever get to grips with it, and then promptly got lost on the way back to our room, our embarrassment somewhat eased by the delivery of tea and Sardinian wine in our absence, a daily perk we quickly got used to.

The days took on a familiar pattern with a speed that was both remarkable and wonderfully reassuring. A gorgeous buffet breakfast of fruit, pastries and eggs made to order was served in the small, palm-shaded restaurant of our hotel, but a few days we opted for the hustle and bustle of the restaurant in the Le Palme hotel, where kids and adults alike queued for freshly made waffles and pancakes.

And while we enjoyed the Brazilian steakhouse one evening, and a couple of nights at Pineta, our dinner of choice was found at the Cavalieri restaurant in the Il Castello hotel, where the nightly pasta specials included wild boar orecchiette and amazing seafood spaghetti, or they would freshly prepare a quick arrabbiata or a carbonara as you watched. Not to mention the antipasti that included sushi several nights, incredible things done to squid, lovely meats, fruit, vegetables.

The child would join in for antipasti and primi, and then nod off, leaving us free to check out what the guy from Footballers' Wives and Mick Hucknall were having from the buffet, my husband having spotted the latter on the balcony of his beachfront apartment on day one.

One day we ventured out from the resort -- the tennis courts, go-karting and bowling all looked good, but we skipped them -- and headed in to Cagliari on the bus. The bus station is in the centre of the small capital, and most sights are within walking distance. Away from the sea breeze, Cagliari was hot, but the narrow streets made good wandering.

That evening, hot and weary after the big smoke, we made the usual pre-dinner trip to the water-slide pool, where we imagined the child enjoyed watching her parents disappear up some stairs and reappear out of a chute, but really, who were we kidding?

Like us, however, she did love the beach. Gorgeous, clean sand, lots of toys, great lunch options and the loveliest water. The nipper also got into a rhythm of naps on the beach, interspersed with bucket-and-spade action, and bobbing up and down in the waves in her inflatable ring, her daddy humming to her, slowly sinking into some sort of toddler trance.

It was a beach made for babies, and Forte Village is a heaven for children. It boasts a brilliant kids' club for 3-11 year olds, a football camp for older kids; and a baby area where you can hang out with your smallest ones in shallow pools and in shaded areas equipped with colouring books and games. There is even a dedicated kids' dining area, for early-evening meals that allow parents to have an adult-only dinner later, though all children are made very welcome everywhere.

And with that great sense of ease, and the endless possibilities the resort offers, you settle into the holiday you really want.

Citalia offers seven nights' half-board accommodation at the four-star Il Villaggio, Forte Village, from €2,649 per family of three (two adults and an infant), or €1,035 per person, including direct flights from London Gatwick and transfers (valid on May 16, 2010). For more information and bookings, visit www.citalia.com or call 0871 664 0253.

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