22 April 2024

Forte Village: where sumptuous breakfasts and decadent dinners are all included in the price
Fine dining
in Forte Village
It was the resort holiday in Sardinia that Tom Parker Bowles thought he'd hate - but as soon as he discovered the buffet and the children found the kids' club he found he loved it....
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he idea of an all-inclusive resort sent a chill down my spine - a place where I believed adventure and free choice would wither and die. How wrong I was. As a food writer, I travel to eat and experience the local tucker. So what am I doing speeding from Cagliari airport to Forte Village Resort in Sardinia? It might be one of the most upmarket of allinclusives - but it's still a damned all-inclusive I thought.

As we whizz past trattorias serving wild boar salami, chilli-flecked sausages and fresh fish, I keep reminding myself why we're here - the children, Lola, five, and Freddy, three.Lola and Freddy chatter excitedly about waterslides, bike rides, ice cream, pizzas and sandcastles. But as we pass through the gates, I feel we've left the real world.The resort is big - it must be half a mile from the main road to the white sandy beach - and many guests get around by bike.
Enjoy a dip in one of the many pools at Forte Village
We're driven by golf buggy to our room as I study the map. There are seven hotels, more than 20 restaurants, shops, villas, pools, spas, tennis courts, football pitches, discos, bowling alleys and even a church. The children gaze in awe at youngsters on BMXs and drinking in the squeals from the pool.
The rooftops of Cagliari
"The resort is big and many guests get around by bike."
'Can we go to the pool now?' asks Lola as we pull up outside our room. 'No,' says Freddy, 'I want to go in the sea.' I'm still worrying about dinner when the doors of our temporary home are flung open to reveal great glass windows gazing out on the brilliant blue Med. Our magnificent room has space, light, big TVs, and a balcony that hangs over the beach.

The children have the same, connected by a door. By now they're busily pulling on their swimwear. Sara and I do the same. That first dip is always the best, where you wash away travel travail and cynicism starts to thaw. The other guests look nice enough, mainly British with the odd Italian or Russian. But to my relief, they're not doing the conga around the pool or trying to persuade us all to join them for dinner/bridge/ cocktails. It's the same with the service, which is warm, charming and genuinely helpful. No question seems too daft, no request too banal. Children are free to behave as children. There are options from 'snug' hotel room to palatial villa. If you're a family who wants every minute filled, there's always something to do. If, like us, you prefer to totter along doing your own thing, you'll be left in utter peace. After that initial swim, all thoughts turn to dinner.

Our butler (yup, we have a butler, who turns out to be a god) suggests getting in a babysitter, so we can dine à deux. So while Sara finishes unpacking, I take the children off for their dinner. The Cavalieri buffet turns out to be a delight - one you want to dive into headfirst while whooping for joy. Crustaceans gleam, prosciutto and fat-flecked local salamis await the slicer.
There are grill points where whole fish are charred, or great hunks of steak are cooked over glowing coals. Pasta comes in every form, and three types of fresh mozzarella sit alongside endless salads. While the children demolish their spaghetti, I sample a few bits and pieces - strictly for research, ofcourse. It's good, fresh and unfussy.

When the babysitter arrives, Sara and I slip off to the Sardinian restaurant. And so our routine shuffles happily into place: breakfast overlooking the sea, followed by a swim and then, for Lola and Freddy, the kids' club.
I'm still not sure what they did in there, but I do know they were supervised for three hours and adored it. Lunch is at the Pizzeria (at an additional charge), where pizzas are wood-fired, with blistered, billowing crusts and soft, thin bases. By pure chance we bump into some good friends, so eat with them every day, while the children race about. Across the road is another ice cream stand. You cannot move 2ft without bumping into one. But the feeling of release is astonishing. It usually takes me at least five days to unwind. Here, I'm floppy by lunch on day two. I quickly stop worrying about the food too.

There are endless 'fine dining' options, but it's that buffet to which we return time and time again. One night we all end up in the piazza, swaying merrily to an Italian crooner while the children bop each other on the head with flashing plastic swords. I don't think I've dreaded a holiday more, nor enjoyed one so much. This is a rare place designed for both adults and children. They had a blast - and so did we.

Original article published in May 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.

" This is a rare place designed for both adults and children. They had a blast - and so did we."
Cool elegance of a suite at Forte Village
Visit the local market at San Benedetto
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