Holby City actress Tina Hobley, husband Oli, and children Isabella, Olivia and Orson get active at Forte Village in Sardinia
We have never been to a family resort before, and frankly the kids were more excited than we were. In truth, the idea of buffets, daily itineraries and enforced social contact filled us with horror.
However the Forte Village in Sardinia has had an impeccable reputation spanning several decades, plus it’s just had a major refurbishment, so we felt that this was the moment to go for it.
We risked a family melt down by making a last-minute decision to leave the iPads at home, stacked our Globetrotters into the back of our Land Rover, and headed to Gatwick.
The transfer to Forte Village was seamless and gave us a chance to view the rocky, sandy and mountainous Sardinian landscape. The island is around 160 miles from north to south and is the second largest island in the Mediterranean.
We are soon swinging through the gates of the resort and down a cobbled driveway to the main reception. The scale of the operation is immediately obvious as we drive past rows of tree lined clay tennis courts and energetic looking families on bicycles wearing all manner of sportswear.
We are given a warm welcome and a short tour, during which we start to get a sense of the variety of restaurants, swimming pools and terracotta walkways that all lead to a huge central piazza with an open air stage, encircled by small boutiques, a handful of bars and ice cream stalls.
While admiring the expanse of the landscape we hear the cries of three huge brightly coloured parrots that fly over us like dragons, adding to the surreal nature of the environment.
In the evening we join the briefing to those families who have signed up to the Legends Sports Academy, where each morning our two youngest will be trained by rugby and netball heroes. By chance we have timed our family visit to coincide with personal instruction from Martin Johnson and Austin Healey, as well as stars of British netball.
We unpack into a large well appointed bungalow set among lush gardens that cleverly camouflage the extensive accommodation across the estate. I am stunned to hear that it’s virtually 100% occupancy, yet at no time did it appear overcrowded. If, like us, you are used to staying in places a fraction of this size, the scale of the place is overwhelming at first but you soon get used to it.
Monday morning starts early and we get the kids into their “Legends” branded kit and choose to have breakfast in a panoramic buffet room, entirely open along one side, revealing a long narrow beach and an ocean view all the way to the horizon.
I am just contemplating that it is only 200 miles to the northern tip of Africa when I am brought back to life by the sound of a violinist who has started playing at the far end of the room.
My eyes pick out a silver-haired maestro wearing a brightly coloured silk shirt and white trousers. Legend has it that he’s been playing here since the ‘70s. It is these little quirks that give the place its charm.
At 9am, we are whisked up to the Legends playing fields to drop Olivia at netball, before moving on past the bowling alley and the kart circuit to the vast grass playing area which will be the battleground for the rugby training.
We leave Orson with his young group excitedly discussing what their “animal” names will be for the week. As we leave, I am thankful that my son has chosen to be a “Snow Wolf”, and I feel a little sorry for the “Pig”.
Our precious mornings are mostly spent on the beach for some solitary reading in the hot Sardinian sunshine where every few chapters are punctuated by a cooling splash in the sea. The water deserves special mention for being almost Maldivian in its turquoise colour and temperature.
One morning, we tried out the Acquaforte Thalasso Spa, a detoxing and rejuvenating series of thermal baths and pools of various mineral compositions inspired by the ancient Romans. It’s a salty experience that reportedly has magical healing properties and it certainly makes for an enjoyable interlude.
Our little sporting heroes finished their daily training just before midday at which point we would head to one of the many different family pools so they could have a much needed swim before lunch. We were determined to leave the resort at least once or twice so my husband took an early morning mountain bike ride along the cliffs and on our final day we all took a boat to the idyllic nearby beach of Chia.
Lunches were either spent in the garden pizzeria, where the pizzas are thin and crispy, otherwise there is an excellent fish and pasta grill by the beach where the spaghetti vongole is world class. The entire estate has hundreds of staff, but while they are always visible, they are never intrusive and are always happy to help.
Afternoons are never quiet and are spent swimming and playing in the pools or the sea. There are several signature restaurants serving complex culinary dishes but we’re happy to spend most evenings at the buffet which to our very pleasant surprise is exceptional.
The Forte Grill offers the best steak in town and to my son’s delight serves a giant dinosaur shaped chop called a Tomahawk.
We choose not to rush the kids or worry too much about bedtimes. Dinner rarely finishes before 9pm after which we head to the main square for some family musical entertainment.
All of us are happily exhausted by 11pm except for Isabella, who visits the Mahiki cocktail bar a handful of times with a few teenage companions she had met at her dance class earlier in the week.
We knew that this was never going to be a relaxing holiday of massages, scented oils and serene tranquility. It was a fast-paced combination of family activities and entertainment, where the kids never stopped smiling and rushing around, making friends, learning some sports tips from the stars, and flopping into bed at the end of each day.
But after our initial concerns, I can honestly say that we all loved it, there were tears to the airport, and not an iPad in sight.
From €945 per night, based on two adults and two children in a Deluxe Family Bungalow on a half-board basis. fortevillageresort.com