Exploring Southern Sardinia

Intrepid travelers are always looking for a different experience and all-inclusive resorts are increasing in popularity. So, we flew to southern Sardinia to explore the 125-acre Forte Village Resort near Cagliari. We wondered about finding privacy within the multiple categories of hospitality, 21 restaurants, sporting activities, spa, beaches, nine pools, and children’s play spaces, but, honestly, there was never a sense of overcrowding.

Thanks to lush gardens planted in 1974 by original owner Lord Carlo Forte, villas are hidden behind mature hedges, hotels are surrounded by semi-tropical foliage, and the tree-lined pathways feel secluded. In addition, with almost two dozen restaurants, including two operated by Michelin-starred chefs, there is always opportunity for a quiet dinner or wine tasting.

Presidential Suite at Hotel Il Castello
The Presidential Suite, on the fourth floor of Hotel Il Castello, has an extensive terrace which offers views of a garden of lemon trees and bougainvillea. (Hotel Il Castello)

We loved the Beachcomber suites above three-star Chef Hans Becker’s ristorante. There is a large terrace overlooking the sea, wrap-around windows that widen the view, a sunken living room, and a king-sized bedroom, as well as a spacious bathroom with separate shower and tub. Room service breakfast is provided by the nearby Hotel Il Castello. There are 12 waterfront suites, including the Beachcomber and the adjacent Boathouse Suites. It’s said the beaches in this part of the island are the most beautiful and we can’t disagree.

Il Castello, one of five five-star hotels at Forte Village, is nestled behind greenery and offers 200 rooms. The fourth and fifth floors are reserved for executive suites. The Presidenziale Suite is about 2,000 square feet, with a wrap-around terrace, one bedroom and one and a half bathrooms. On the fifth floor, the Royal Suite can connect via its wrap-around terrace to two junior suites, making it a possibility for a family or group of friends.

The dozens of private bungalows and 13 villas come in a variety of sizes, with the largest having private heated pools and large enclosed gardens. We envisioned family vacations and house parties, where guests could choose between lounging by the pool, going for a spa treatment, taking fencing lessons, playing pickleball and more. Each villa was designed by a different architect and each has a butler and a sea view from the upstairs terrace.

Forte Village
The Resort, nestled on an expanse of gardens along a white sand beach, offers a choice of eight hotels and 13 luxury villas with private pools. (Forte Village)

Amenities for the villas also include a private golf cart with driver, bicycles, and usually a full kitchen. A chef is available upon request. The one-story Villa Azzurra has three primary suites, a heated pool, a large garden and sea view. The two-story Villa Aurora has four bedrooms, all with en-suite baths. Two bedrooms are upstairs. A heated pool and a large garden are surrounded by plantings. Note: There is map of the resort on the resort website which details the locations of all the bungalows and villas.             

The 45-room Villa del Parco Hotel & Spa is designed to attract adults and connects directly to the Acquaforte Thalasso & Spa. It’s almost hidden within mature gardens and has a dedicated restaurant for shaded breakfasts. Rooms 258 and 260 can be interconnected for larger groups.

Individual appointments can be booked for services at the main spa; there is an additional smaller spa for private groups, where a circuit of warm pools mirrors the larger one next door. There are garden classes in Ayurvedic yoga, as well as massages and Pilates available. In addition, there is the AcquaForte Clinic, a state-of-the-art diagnostic center, and Forte Lab, which works with guests to develop programs based on functional nutrition.

Villa Sofia
Villa Sofia is a luxury seaview villa with private garden and heated pool. It offers three apartments with their own private entrances. (Forte Village)

Now owned by Progetto Esmeralda, Forte Village primarily attracts guests from across Europe, many of whom come every year. Minimum stays are one full week, although advisors may request three days or more for Americans whose travel plans require a shorter stay. Forte Village is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.  

Reserving half board includes choices of all restaurants, with supplements required for dining at Heinz Beck’s and two-star chef Massimiliano Mascia’s locations. The resort brings in additional Michelin-starred chefs in July and August for Celebrity Chef evenings that include fine wines paired with specially designed menus. There is a Gourmet Cooking Academy for guests who would like to refine their skills.

For parents, there is the opportunity for their children to spend the day at the Children Wonderland, supervised by staff certified by Worldwide Kids, an international childcare management organization. There is swimming, arts and crafts, gardening, sports and more to fill the kids’ days while the parents play tennis or go to the spa.

An option would be to spend a night or two in Cagliari either before or after experiencing Forte Village. The 64-room Palazzo Doglio, located in the center of the town, was originally built in Art Deco style in the 1930s. It was renovated and re-opened in 2020 and was named the Best Hotel in Italy by the World Travel Awards Europe in 2022.

Villa Margherita
The two-story Villa Margherita is set in the highest part of the beach resort, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Each villa has been designed by a different architect and has a butler. (Forte Village)

The building wraps around a center pedestrian piazza, which is lined with restaurants and shops. The piazza is off the street and a pleasant place for an aperitivo or dinner.

Room 306 is a Prestige Room with a balcony overlooking outside fountains. There is a king bed, plus a sleeper sofa. Executive Suites are larger, at about 650 square feet, with a king bed and living/working area. All bathrooms at the Doglio are designed using Carrara marble; some have both bathtub and separate shower, while other have rain dance showers.

Contacts for sales and marketing for both Forte Village and Palazzo Doglio are Paolo Mancuso ([email protected]) and Gianmarco Cova ([email protected]).

The city of Cagliari, established in 8th/7th century BC, is known for historic sites dating from Neolithic to Roman to Byzantine to Spanish era. The Cagliari marina and beaches are a 10-minute walk from the Palazzo Doglio. There are numerous historic sites and wild landscapes near Forte Village and it’s possible to arrange a tour guide and driver with assistance from the concierge. We loved driving into the mountains to taste a farmer’s fresh made cheeses and to a sculpture garden where the huge stones were cut to make music.

Palazzo Hotel Doglio
Palazzo Hotel Doglio in Cagliari is located in the center of the town. It wraps around a center pedestrian piazza, which is lined with restaurants and shops. (Palazzo Hotel Doglio)

Sardinia is traditionally a pastoral culture, with a reputation for excellent cheeses and meats, including roasted suckling pig, goat, and lamb. And yet, it is an island where fresh seafood is pulled from the Mediterranean every day. There is a wide variety of sweets and pastries made locally, as well as wines. Suggestion: Try the Sardinian restaurant at Forte Village, where the menu written in the local language will be translated and explained by helpful staff. There is also a wine store and bar nearby, where Sardinian wines can be tasted. A notable one is the Capichera Vermentino, which is a very good DOCG-rated white.

There are flights to Cagliari from Rome, Perugia and Milan. There are car ferries leaving the mainland coast for Sardinia from Italian and French ports; from Civitavecchia, Rome’s port, the trip is about 10 hours. It’s possible to reserve a stateroom which, while not at the standard of a luxury cruise, is comfortable and has an en-suite bath. Why not fly one way and take the ferry the other? 

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