It’s 8:30 p.m. on a sweltering Sardinian evening and I’m gazing at the heavenly aroma wafting from the summer truffle ravioli in front of me. I’m at the two Michelin star restaurant San Domenico at Forte Village Resort on the south coast of Sardinia. The sun dipped below the horizon, dampening the greenhouse heat of the afternoon. The waves of the Mediterranean are crashing on the nearby shore and I have a glass of crispy Vermentino in my hand. I think life couldn’t be much better.
So it does, briefly. A dolphin appears about 25 meters away, piercing the surface of the water and causing a slight commotion among the diners. It’s quite the show and stabbed us for a few minutes before it slipped away to surprise diners elsewhere. Back to my truffle pasta: a signature dish of the restaurant, which migrates from Imola in northern Italy to Sardinia for the season, it proves as exciting as any impromptu dolphin sighting. About the size of a small pancake, its surprise is a yellow egg yolk in its center, bringing even more depth of flavor to the dish.
why stay here
It’s one of the many peak experiences we’ve had during our stay at Forte Village, an upscale resort whose USP offers vacations with everything at your fingertips. Just a 45-minute drive from Cagliari airport, the resort covers an area of 50 hectares of dense rainforest and a stunningly beautiful stretch of coastline warmed by its own microclimate. Opened in 1974 by Italian-born hotel magnate Charles Forte as a holiday park for sports enthusiasts, it has changed hands over the decades and is now a luxury oasis with five hotels five stars, three four-star hotels, 40 suites and 13 luxury villas with private gardens.
But it’s not just about accommodation – Forte Village’s specialty is providing activities for those who want to do more than get up and down from a lounger during their stay. If I had had more energy, I could have gone boating, taken a Zumba class or trained with a boxing champion.
We were installed in the five stars Villa del Parco, one of the Leading Hotels of the World and surrounded by so many lush trees that it is impossible to discern the shape of the hotel from the outside. But no matter, because inside everything is understated elegance. Our large room was decorated with well-chosen pieces: a buttoned headboard, an expanse of aged mirrors above and a handsome dark wood desk were complemented by neutral walls and flooring. A floor-to-ceiling sliding door opened onto a wrought-iron balcony that overlooked palm trees and majestic hibiscus. The bathroom, with gorgeous travertine marble flooring, had walls painted in a muted blue which I immediately decided to copy into my bathroom at home.
What to do
We were here for the Sardinian R&R and excellent Italian food, and we had it in spades. We spent our days on the resort’s private beaches, where famous Italian footballers on deckchairs near us were harassed for selfies by excited children. Between periods of dozing under our umbrella, we would cool off in the clear, shallow waters of the sea, small silvery fish scurrying between our feet, gazing at the yachts moored in the distance and the steep hills rising behind the village.
When the scorching sun grew too strong for these pasty Britons, we retreated to the resort’s famous thalassotherapy spa, laid out under the forest canopy in a series of winding covered walkways. Its six pools of varying salinity and temperature are said to have a detoxifying effect, and certainly floating on your back in the salty water watching the palm fronds ripple was more relaxing than expected.
The spa offers a multitude of wellness programs for weight loss, detox and health, but I was here for a relaxing beach and food vacation and opted for just one treatment, the spa honey and salt massage. In a glassed-in room where only forest creatures watched, expert Alessia massaged salt, honey and oil into my skin, then drizzled them on as I dozed off on a heated waterbed. The contrasting textures felt great and left my skin soft and wonderfully aromatic.
Eat and drink
Afternoon siestas prepared us well for dinner, which is a nightly event at Forte Village. In the summer, there are up to 21 on-site restaurants — many, like San Domenico, migrate to the resort during peak season to serve Italian haute cuisine to the well-heeled. We started our evenings at the resort’s wine bar efficiently run by Sofia. On a terrace in the central square and flanked by designer clothing boutiques, we sipped Sardinian wines and nibbled on a generous plate of local charcuterie and the strong pecorino sardo cheese while Gaston, an Argentinian bard, entertained us with his line- up of eclectic songs that encompassed both Coldplay and Hank Williams.
We dined at Le Belvédère, on the roof terrace of our hotel, a gourmet restaurant whose chef has created an excellent fusion of Italian and Japanese flavors. A more informal meal at Sardinian restaurant Sardo centered on the rustic dish of curlurgiones, packets of pasta stuffed with potatoes, pecorino cheese and mint. At Le Dune, on a terrace overlooking the glassy Mediterranean where fishermen hauled in their nets, Italian cuisine was served with imaginative twists.
Verdict and how to book
From fine dining to sports activities to relaxing at the beach or spa, Forte Village has it all. It’s a Sardinian oasis where a dedication to high quality ensures customers won’t want to leave. They can guarantee everything except the dolphins.
Forte Village Resort offers rooms from €530 (£458) per room per night based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Bungalow on a half-board basis (drinks excluded); fortvillageresort.com