Tag Archives: sardinia

SATED IN SARDINIA

Today we bring you a fantastic article written about one of our favourite and best-selling hotels, the Is Benas Country Lodge. Rosemary Behan writes about her Sardinian culinary experience. You can see the original article online here.

The National: Culinary journeys: Sated in Sardinia

Rosemary Behan

Oct 15, 2011

I had to find some way of keeping my travelling companion awake on the long drive from the airport to our hotel, so we played a game.

“Granelli – is it a type of ice cream?” said my friend, clutching the wheel.

“Nope”, I said, reading from my Footprint guide to Sardinia. “Fried ox testicles.”

“What about cordula?”

“It’s a herb.”

Wrong again. Lamb intestines stuffed with peas, tied into a braid and spit-roasted. But my favourite, casu marzu, really disgusted her. Literally translated, it means “rotten cheese”, but as it’s a Sardinian speciality, it’s in Sardu, not Italian, so she’s puzzled again. “A roll of pecorino cheese is aged for months until flies lay eggs in it. The larvae produce enzymes that break down the cheese into a tangy goo, which gives it a tasty, spicy kick. Swallowing the wriggling larvae is all part of the experience.”

I’m a lover of cheese and Italian food in general, but not knowing what I am eating is a major factor in usually playing it safe. And playing it safe when you are a tourist abroad usually means bad, boring, or both. This time, however, was going to be different – I had books, a friend who is fluent in Italian and we had, quite randomly, booked into a gastronomic hotel with bilingual waiters.

Reading the food section of the guidebook further, I’m also drawn to a statement by its resident Italophile author Eliot Stein: “Sardinia’s isolation and poverty have combined to preserve the most distinct regional cuisine in Italy.” Stein went on to outline – somewhat contradictorily – that “as invaders, immigrants and tourists have come and gone, Sardinia has absorbed outside culinary influences”. Whatever the precise origin of Sardinia’s current culinary offering, I was looking forward to being more adventurous.

August certainly wasn’t the time for a beach holiday. From the small coves of the Costa Smerelda on the north-east coast to the sand dunes of Oristano and harbours of Alghero in the west, the beaches were so packed with Italians that from a distance it looked like their parasols were touching. After 10am each day, the car parks were full of Fiats and campervans; by lunchtime it felt like we could hear every child crying and every shouted BlackBerry conversation. Never before have I seen such a concentration of ageing bikini bottoms in one place as Is Arutas, close to where we were staying. Only on the wild Costa Verde, several hours’ drive south of Oristano, did we find the coastal solace we craved.

Yet beaches are also not the place to find the best food in Sardegna (as the island is known locally). At Spiagga del Principe near Porto Cervo, the bay beloved of the Aga Khan and where the number of yachts visible almost matches the number of people sunning themselves, we were reduced to purchasing dry hot dogs and Coke from a mini-van. As with any bad meal, I was distraught at the wasted opportunities. Lucky, then, that we returned to Is Benas Country Lodge, a peaceful villa with just 12 rooms in a scenic rural area close to the small town of Riola Sardo in Oristano province. Every single night, on a verandah with views of the walled garden, we enjoyed a tasting menu offering a glimpse of the simple yet strong flavours this large island is famous for – fish, fresh vegetables, rustic cheeses and gamey meats. Surrounded by high fields of corn, dairy farms and country lanes scented with myrtle, our hosts assured us that all of the food we were eating was, if not from the local area, then at least from Sardinia.

Each meal consisted of five courses. The antipasto (starters) featured delights such as marinated sardines (sardine marinate; fresh, smooth and meaty, barely fishy at all); juicy fried octopus (tentacolo di polpo croccante), succulent air-dried beef with delicious fresh sage-flavoured ricotta cheese (fagottino di bresaola con cuore di ricotta fresca profumata alla salvia), smoked tuna fillet (filetto di tonno affumicato) and deliciously sour Sardinian pecorino (no maggots in sight) drizzled with asphodel honey (formaggi pecorino con miele di asfodelo). Eating in Italy is such a pleasure and a passion that it pays to brush up on your language skills – at the very least, you will avoid ordering something you don’t want. As we had the luxury of our waiters being able to translate the dishes, we were able to indulge in an impromptu language course of a peculiarly culinary variety.

First courses, or primo piatto, were typically a soup, risotto or pasta, such as hearty zuppa di lenticchie (lentil soup), creamy-yet-tart risotto al radicchio (risotto with red chicory), and firm-but-silky tagliolini burro e salvia (tagliolini pasta with butter and sage). Second (main) courses (secondo piatto) were fish or meat, from grilled fillet of fresh seabass (filetto di branzino alla brace) to roasted belly of veal (pancia di vitello arrosto). Each main course came with contorno (side dishes) such as verdurine di stagione alla griglia (grilled seasonal vegetables) and the gorgeously down-to-earth cavolo cappuccino stufato (braised cabbage).

For dessert (oddly, there was always space) we were treated to mattonella di soffice tiramisu (home-made tiramisu), semifreddo al croccante (crunchy semifreddo; literally, a “half-cold” dessert), pardula ghiacciata scomposta (smashed pardula cake), mele al forno (baked apples) and a dreamy flan di riso al limone (lemon rice flan). With names such as those for the dishes, who were we to refuse?

For almost a week, we ate only in our hotel, returning ravenous from trips to Alghero, Tharros, Cuglieri and the Costa Verde. Yet after days of eating and trying to run off some of the calories in the surrounding rural lanes scented with wild sage, I had itchy feet again. I had found excellent coffee and more great food at a somewhat out-of-place Illy cafe in Riola Sardo, but it was time to cast the net wider. The owner of our hotel, from Cagliari, recommended I pay a visit to the capital to sample “the best seafood in Italy”, so I jumped on a train from Oristano (€12 [Dh60] return) and was there in an hour and 10 minutes: just in time for lunch.

As soon as the train pulled in, I was excited. A grand old city in a wide bay with a large docks and spread over several hills, Cagliari looked like a cross between Naples and Tunis: geograpically, it’s almost that. I had read about several lovely-sounding seafood restaurants in my guidebooks, but one especially stood out and, unusually, it was the first one listed in my Lonely Planet Sardinia guide. L’Osteria in Stampace, an old neighbourhood 10 minutes’ walk from the station, had all the ingredients location-wise: russet-coloured houses with washing hanging out of the windows, an ancient city gate and cobbled roads. Inside, it was like stepping into the 1950s – old vaulted ceilings, black-and-white family photographs and prints of Cagliari on the bare brick walls, cabinets filled with glasses and elaborate teapots, old-fashioned patterned linen tablecloths, formally laid tables, an old bar and an old lady, dressed in black and white, sitting in a back room shelling peas. “Buon giorno,” I call out, wondering if the place is open. The old lady removes her glasses and comes striding out, gesturing to me to sit. “Vuoi mangiare o bere?” She enunciates slowly, clearly sensing that Italian isn’t my strong suit, and grinning toothily. “Pesce o carne?” I order fileti di spiegola al fettucine (€12; Dh60), and she disappears.

I think I’ve ordered swordfish; actually it’s sea bass, yet it hardly matters because before I can even raise the query, the first of a flurry of antipasti arrives. There’s some lovely warm bread with those meaty, mild-tasting sardines in olive oil and a heavenly salad of prawns, celery and tomato in a light vinegar dressing; this is followed by polpote pesce – fish balls in balsamic vinegar – and then by tentacolo di polpo – baby squid in a rich, salty sauce. “Va bene?” the woman asks. “Si”, I answer. This is probably the best seafood lunch I’ve ever had, and I forget all about the time, the sights and everything else. I’m finishing everything, but having to eat fast to keep up. “She’s finishing everything!” I hear her tell her husband in the kitchen; when she comes back, I say something to the effect that I won’t have room for my main course, but the dishes keep on coming. This time it’s the husband who is brandishing the food – he comes with a mixed seafood salad and stuffed squid (calamari) and then cozze gratinate – gratinated mussels. I decide I must stop him before the mussels reach the table. “Basta!” I say. “Finito!”

The couple, Franco and Maria Antoinetta de Franca, are clearly a fine double act. I’m given a short break before my pasta arrives, during which time they turn their full attention to a party of four which has just arrived – two local couples who get exactly the same antipasti bombardment as me. “Madame, ca va?” Franco asks one of the group. “Perfecto” she says, an her guests agree. “Bonissima,” they add.

A round, shallow bowl of perfectly al dente fettucine with small pieces of fresh fish with garlic and tomato, dressed simply with parsley, appears in front of me and I tuck in. “Va bene?” Franco asks. “Va bene,” I say. The total bill is 40 euros (Dh200) with a tip. When I leave the restaurant to tackle the town’s Roman ruins and glorious old town, I’m giddy with satisfaction. So, too, it seems, is Franco – as Maria goes to the back room to work on the accounts, Franco lights a cigar. I hope they’re still there in decades to come.

For more information on the fantastic Is Benas Country Lodge, you can visit our website or call 0208 9732297 to speak to a member of our specialist team.

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TIME FOR TEE

Britain has caught olympic-fever. It’s everywhere. There are hints of it in the current fashion trends on the high-street as Stella McCartney prepares the designs for our team’s uniforms. The architecture of our capital is being influenced by stadiums being slotted into our busy sky-line. The Arts sector prepares for the cultural Olympiad, seeing YBAs open exciting exhibitions. Everyone in the UK is suddenly thinking about their health and their fitness. It only seems natural that the travel industry would compliment all this well-being in body and soul with fitness-themed holidays.

So with this in mind, we asked ourselves about the best sport to be enjoyed in Sardinia – there’s boat racing, walking, horse-riding – but today we’re going to be talking about golf – not the most exerting sport but certainly one that reigns supreme in elegance and skill.

And what better way to take in the breath-taking views and scenery of the island that to play a leisurely game of golf – looking out onto the turquoise ocean or some pretty speculator mountain backdrops?

So hopefully golf-enthusiasts will enjoy this little blog post as we’ve picked out 3 of our favourite and what we feel to be the best championship golf courses of international reputation in Sardinia:

1. PEVERO GOLF CLUB, COSTA SMERALDA

Pevero Golf Club on the Costa Smeralda, is an 18-hole (par-72) golf course which is located between the bays of Cala di Volpe and Golfo del Pevero.

An extraordinary position for an equally extraordinary golf course. Everything is special starting from the design by Robert Trent Jones, who, at the beginning of the Seventies (in 1978, Pevero Golf Club hosted the renowned Italian Open), implemented a very exclusive course scattered with terrible hazards created by nature itself more than by man and with a strong wind often blowing across it.

The whole area between Cala di Volpe and Golfo del Pevero was completely covered by the typical Mediterranean bushes, by rocks and natural ponds; the designer did not want to spoil the beauty of it all. So, he made the decision to simply prune and preen areas where the vegetation was too thick. By doing so, The Pevero is considered one of the most beautiful courses in the world, is second to none thanks to the spectacular foreshortening taken from the magnificent Costa Smeralda, stretching from Porto Rotondo to Porto Cervo. The view from the club house over the gulf of Pevero and the bay of Cala di Volpe are unforgettable.

We would recommend the Hotel Petra Bianca to compliment this amazing golf-course.

2. IS MOLAS GOLF COURSE, PULA

Number two belongs to Is Molas Golf Club near Pula, on the south east coast, a 27-hole (par-72) golf course. The course has an excellent layout that boasts views of the surrounding sea from a number of tee boxes.

The championship golf course was opened in 1975 and is now rated as the 9th best course in Italy. Is Molas Golf Resort has played host to the Italian Open on four separate occasions with the most recent won by Englishman Ian Poulter in 2000. Designed by Piero Mancinelli, it is a lovely golf layout set within bushes and trees and there are water hazards on no less than six of the eighteen golf holes.

We would recommend the Baia di Nora to enjoy this stunning golf-course.

3. IS ARENAS GOLF COURSE, ORISTANO

Last but not least is the Is Arenas Golf Club located north of Oristano, an 18-hole (par-72) golf course. Designed by Von Hagge and set beautifully amongst the pine forest and lush vegetation, it has been named by golf magazines as one of the 20 best new golf courses in Europe; enjoy it now before the masses discover it.

The beautiful Is Arenas Golf and Country Club boasts 1,853 acres of pine forest. This pristine, private and secluded golf course will inspire you with its relaxed, unwinding environment; perfect for a unique golfing experience.

Is Benas Country Lodge has specialist golfing holiday packages on offer for the Is Areas Golf Club.

For more information about any of these fabulous golf courses or to organise a golfing holiday, please call our specialist team on 0208 9732297.

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PHOTOGENIC SARDINIA

Sardinia; it’s picture perfect.

We saw this on the internet and couldn’t help but smile because it’s just so true! In inspiration of this clever collection of photographs, today on our blog we thought we’d write about some of the best spots in Sardinia to photograph.

Bosa

Bosa lies on the banks of the river Temo, the only navigable river in Sardinia, a few kilometres from its estuary. The city has its origins in Phoenician times, although the centre is of a later date. During the Middle Ages, the village moved to the slopes of the Serravalle hill under the protection of the Malaspina family, to escape attacks from marauding pirates.

Bosa is of indisputable fascination, with the Sas Conzas buildings (warehouses which were once used for the tanning and working of leather), mirrored in the calm waters of the river, and the Sa Costa quarter, with its narrow streets and steps, where women still sit in their doorways, working lace. The towers and external walls still remain of the Malaspina Castle, which was built in 1112 by the Marquises of “Malaspina dello Spino Secco”. Inside the walls, the Church of “Nostra Signora of Regnos Altos” has also remained standing: it was built in the fourteenth century and a number of frescos of the Catalonian school come from here. The Cathedral of Bosa is noteworthy, and still conserves the majesty of its renovation in late Piedmontese Baroque style, carried out in the nineteenth century. On the left bank of the Temo, the Romanesque ex-cathedral of San Pietro rises in the countrified area of Calamedia. Built in red trachyte, it dates back to the second half of the XI century.

Setzu

Setzu is situated on the slopes of the basalt plateau of the Giara, and is a small village, whose structure still shows its close relationship with the countryside. The houses are typical of an economy based on farming, characterised by an entry portal that opens onto a roomy courtyard or “lolla”, overlooked by the house.

The Giara di Gesturi

The nature reserve of the Giara di Gesturi includes the vast balsaltic and calcareous highland of the Giara, edged by steep walls and covered by seasonal ponds. Within the park, there are many luxuriant woods of cork oaks, downy oaks, holm oaks, olive trees and areas of Mediterranean maquis. The area is most famed for its wild and unspoilt beauty, home to many rare animals. It is in fact, the habitant for the only herd of wild horses, (better known as the “small horse of the Giara”), in existence in Italy and Europe. Fairly small in size, their origin is bound in mystery, a point which further enhances the charm of these strong, calm animals.

The Giara is however, not only alive with the sumptuous gallop of the little horses, but is also famed for its wild boars, hares, ducks, woodcocks, jays and other animals, which are all protected from hunting. A visit to the highlands not only stirs intense emotions for its evocative inhabitants, but also for the splendour of its natural configuration, in which we find Sa Zeppara Manna and other hills that interrupt the level flow of its flatlands. The various bordering towns (Gesturi, Tuili, Setzu, Generi, Sini, Ginnisno, Albagiara, Assolo and Genoni) have opened up access roads, making it easier to reach the nature reserve by all forms of transport. Pleasant rest areas in strategic points have also been added to welcome the visitor. The area is not only of great interest for its natural patrimony, but also because it includes many important archaeological monuments, such as the proto-Nuraghe of Brunci Madugui and the famous Nuraghe of Barumini, declared by the Unesco as patrimony of humanity.

Tharros

The ancient world’s most formidable navigators, the Phoenicians, were the first outsiders to make permanent settlements on Sardinia, starting in the eighth century B.C. Their main port was at Tharros, just outside Oristano, on the Sinis Peninsula, which encloses the Gulf of Oristano. The promontory was easy to defend and its stone provided good building materials. It enjoyed good winds and was well positioned for travel to and from not only Sardinia, but also Spain, Marseilles, Africa, Greece and Etruria.

Relations between the nuragic peoples and the Phoenicians were peaceful: the Sardinians traded their valuable minerals for pretty glass beads and gradually withdrew to the interior, whilst the commercial superpower set up shop on the coast.

Much of what is visible today on this large and fascinating site, (where excavations are still in progress), is a Roman city, complete with houses, temples, baths and streets – a result of Roman building over and improvement of, the Punic city in the third century B.C. The Cardo Maximus (the main north-south street, with its open drain running down its middle, now covered), is a particularly fine example of a Roman city of A.D. 200.

Sinus Peninsula

The Sinis Peninsula is a protected marine area, encompassing lagoons and several lovely beaches including San Giovanni di Sinis, Is Arutas and the famous Mari Ermi; a long beach of bright white quartz, with areas of fine, ochre coloured sand.

Travelling north, the coast becomes high and imposing at Capo Mannu. Beyond, low reefs alternate with sandy beaches until one reaches the dunes of Is Arenas, which stretch inland for 8 km, forming a true desert. Close to Capo San Marco, there is the Catalano, an ancient volcano 230m in diameter, with deep fissures at its centre.

The Sinis Peninsula is a landscape of great natural beauty. Cabras lagoon is one of the largest in Europe and is inhabited by a wealth of fauna, including wild fowl and heron. The lagoon is teaming with a great variety of fish, including gilt head, mullet, eel and bass. The Scoglio del Catalano reef and Mal di Ventre island also form part of the Sinis peninsula. The reef is un-polluted and has many small beaches on its western side.

Oristano Province & City

The province of Oristano, also known as the Sardegna Region, is a sparsely populated area on the west central Mediterranean coast. It borders on the Sassari province to the north, the Nuoro province to the east and the provinces of Medio Campidano and Cagliari to the south and includes 88 municipalities. There are over 90km of coastline ranging from sandy beaches to imposing cliffs. Two rivers cross the province: the Tirso, which opens to the Gulf of Oristano, and the Temo, the only waterway of the island, although it is not entirely navigable. Much of the area was once covered by marshes, and several towns such as Arborea, were created when Mussolini’s government decided to drain some of the wetland areas.

Oristano Province is a rural area, largely known for its farming and seafood industry and the local dishes are unique. Beyond Torre Grande, stretches the fertile Campidano Plain, that provides much of the province’s agricultural output.

Several Roman and pre-Roman ruins are to be found at various sites. In the north-west approximately 25km from Oristano, is Fordongianus, with its Roman aqueduct, amphitheatre and thermal baths. Just outside the village, is the church of S. Lussorio, built in the 12th century on a Paleo-Christian hypogeum, where S. Lussorio was allegedly buried after being martyred during the persecutions by Roman emperor Diocleziano in 304.

The capital city, also called Oristano, is situated on the River Tirso and is the largest in the province, with over 30,000 residents. The city itself hosts regular cultural events and festivals during the summer, which include colourful costumes and parades. The area near the city has been inhabited for over 3,000 years.

For more information on more amazing places to photograph and visit in Sardinia, call our specialist team on 0208 9732297.

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SHORT-LISTED

With the ‘It’s all about Italy’ competition deadline now passed, we’d love to thank everyone who has taken part in showing us what they believe Italy to be all about.

The brilliant photographer David Fettes made his way into Sardatur HQ yesterday to help our team decide which photograph was the winner of our truly fantastic prize..

We don’t want to get you too excited, but the winner will be receiving a 7 night holiday for two to the fantastic Forte Village in Sardinia, with flights included and transfers! Wowzers.

It was a really difficult decision as there were so many interesting and fantastic entries. We have been considering creativity, technique, popularity on Facebook and most importantly the brief: ‘It’s all about Italy’

‘Is it all about Italy?’

‘Does it say more about Italy than any of the other photos?’

In the end we whittled it down to 17 photographs. So without anymore delay, and in no particular order, we’re delighted to tell you that if you see your photo below you’ve been short-listed!

ENTRY 1:

David: ‘This photograph says so much about the importance of family and women in Italy. I really love the fig trees overhead’

ENTRY 2:

David: ‘This is a very well-taken photograph. The framing is beautiful and the colour of the Vespa is stunning’

ENTRY 3:

David: ‘Although the quality of this photo is not as strong as others, the narrative of this image is incredible evocative. It says a lot to me about the importance of passing on tradition to younger generations of family in Italy.’

ENTRY 4:

David: ‘This image proved quite popular on Facebook, very good colour and composition’

ENTRY 5:

David: ‘This photograph is very beautiful. I get a strong sense of peacefulness when i look at it, possibly an early morning scene in Venice. Very well composed in difficult photographic light and good detail’

ENTRY 6:

David: This photograph is very interesting and creative; a different way of capturing the essence of Venice and of Italy. I like the way you can see how the man is working. Very well taken photograph.’

ENTRY 7:

David: ‘This photo is great because you great a true sense of vitality and zest for life in the child. Italian food, family meals – this image says a lot about Italy’

ENTRY 8:

David: ‘This is a very well taken photo, the composition is good, very lovely detail of the froth on the coffee, makes you want to drink it! You can imagine sitting in a cafe, trying to plan your day sight-seeing with the map of Italy’

ENTRY 9:

David: ‘The lighting on this photo is quite lovely. A different view of Venice, where people live rather than tourists.’

ENTRY 10:

David: ‘This is Italy in a nut-shell. Men sitting around talking in the piazza. A very typical scene in Italy and important part of Italian culture.’

ENTRY 11:

David: ‘Lovely colours. Brilliant use of a a fish-eye camera’

ENTRY 12:

David: ‘I really like this photograph. Women are the matriarchs of Italian families. I like the way she is standing holding up the grapes so we can see the fruits of her hard work’

ENTRY 13:

David: ‘This was the most popular photograph on Facebook so we just had to put it in the list. The composition is great, nice framing and very colourful’

ENTRY 14:

David: ‘There is a very good narrative in this photograph. Its very moody, atmospheric and interesting’

ENTRY 15:

David: ‘A very Italian scene. The vespa, the old man walking down the street. Good shadows and light across the street.’

ENTRY 16:

David: ‘An incredibly romantic photograph. This photo says it all about the romance of Italy. A very well taken photograph, stunning lighting’

ENTRY 17:

David: ‘This is very clever, a lot of thought and effort has gone into it – a very good answer to the brief!’

We’re going to have a long, hard think about it and let you all know the winner on the 9th March!

What do you think? We’d love to know your thoughts on the photographs, why you like them and which photo you think should win!

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A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE..

When you reach a mentionable mile-stone in life you can’t help but take a trip down memory lane..

Today we thought we’d share this with our readers, a photograph of our British Airways charter on the tarmac, almost ready to take flight to Sardinia back in the summer of 1994.

And we’re still going strong today, with another 3 weekly summer charters added to our Sardinian fleet from Manchester and London Heathrow!

If Sardinia is calling you this year and you’d like to reserve a seat on our brilliant flights, you can visit our website for more information or give our specialist team a call on 0208 9732296

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THE MED’S MEGA RESORTS – FORTE VILLAGE, SARDINIA

If you love reading The Sunday Times, you might have caught this exciting feature – The Sunday Times rates the top four family villages in Europe. Journalist Matt Rudd takes his family to the unique Forte Village Resort in Sardinia and documents the outcome. Luckily, for those who might have missed it, you can check it out right here on our blog below:

Sunday Times Travel: The Med’s mega resorts

They’re very big and very posh – but will the kids love them, and will you? We test Europe’s top four holiday villages.

Forte Village – Sardinia

The hard facts: It’s huge. There are eight hotels and three all-suite options. Entry level is Il Villaggio, a shaded 158-bungalow four-star. Right behind the beach, there’s the five-star Le Dune, with bigger, trendier bungalows. Every other hotel is different in style, setting and level of mortgage, but the best for calm sophistication is Villa del Parco. The Forte Village offers 16 places to have dinner, 12 tennis courts, 3 all-weather football pitches, nine pools, a piazza, a go-kart track, a night club, ten-pin bowling, unicorn racing…. I could go on.

The vibe: Classy and ridiculously Italian.

How went the days?: It was August. Scorchio. So we got up early, packed the five- and three-year-old off to the free citta dei bambini (go-karting, swimming, a toy train and pizza making lessons) then played tennis, took to the thalassotherapy pools, sat on the beach or, you know, just chilled. The beach is crowded, but perfect for families… gently shelving, sandy and close to ice-cream-dispensing facilities. The pedalos are £25 an hour, but they’ve got slides on. You will spend at least half of your holiday on the waterslides in the main pool.

And the nights?: There are a la carte options and buffets – and, although i bet you’re wrinkling your noses at the idea of a buffet, they’re nothing like i’ve ever seen. If you did a week of buffets at the Castello Hotel, you would die, but you would die happy. After dinner, everyone without sunstroke heads to the piazza for the bambino disco and the laugh-at-them-not-with-them eurocheese. Fantastico.

Beyond the walls: No point. The resort covers 55 acres. You’re pampered, fed and watered at every turn. Any attempt to escape will fizzle out before you’ve even made it to the bowling alley.

The damage: Sardatur has a kids go free package at the Forte Village Resort if you book before the end of January. The week beginning May 19 starts at £2,936 for a family of 4 at Il Villaggio, or £5,536 at the Villa del Parco, including their BA flights from Heathrow and transfers. The same package in late August starts at £4,012/£7,599

Best bit: it’s posh, but unbelievably child-friendly. That and glorious pools.

Worst bit: The bling clientele – but they’re easily avoided.

Worth it?: Out of the school holidays, it’s positively good value, but if you’re confined to them, aim for the last week of the summer: fewer russians, cheaper rates.

Matt and his family had a really fantastic time – and we’re sure you will too. For any information on the wonderful Forte Village Resort, one of the best of its kind in Europe, all you have to do is call our specialist team  on 0208 9732296 or visit our website for more information.

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SARDINIA THROUGH THE EYES OF A PHOTOGRAPHER

Our photography competition, ‘It’s all about Italy’, which is currently being held on our Facebook page, is already a week old and we’ve had some fantastic entries!

Helping judge the competition is photographer David Fettes, who will be casting his keen, experienced eye over the entries to crown the winner of our fabulous prize, a luxury holiday to the stunning La Maddalena Hotel & Yacht Club in Sardinia.

David Fettes was born in India, in a culture rich with colour and sensory stimuli. He came to the UK when he was six, but it was those early formative years in India that formed his passion for travel and the natural world first developed.

David has travelled extensively and now combines travel with his photography to pursue his love of nature, to capture a simpler and less materialistic world and to show the need for socio-economic imbalances to be changed for a fairer distribution of the world’s resources.

David documents his experiences with every new place he visits and we’d love to share his thoughts on Sardinia with our readers.

Sardinia seems to have it all – landscapes, mountains, beaches. There are flamingoes in the lakes. The land is quite dry with greens and browns mingling in the views from the heights. The villages in the Oristano region are quiet, particularly in the middle of the day. Markets move between the villages and there are a number of festivals held on the island throughout the year.

The purpose of my trip to Sardinia was to complete a photographic commission to provide images for the hotel we stayed at, Is Benas Country Lodge, which is tucked away in the west in quiet, rural Sardinia.

Driving north to Oristano from Cagliari i found a region unspoilt by tourism. Sardinians getting on with real Sardinian lives, an agriculture and rural exsistence – so refreshing and so increasingly rare in many parts of the world.

Being in the Oristano region is like stepping back in time, to a gentler, more leisurely and less hurried era. It is impossible not to feel relaxed and at peace.

Photographically, the island overflows with opportunity and suprises – how many know about Sardinia’s flamingoes? The colours of the early morning and late evening light; the landscapes, some of which could be mistake for an African scene; the wildlife; the people and their colourful and busy festivals; the food and of course the sea.

I have in mind a number of photographic projects in Sardinia that i wish to complete and have planned numerous return trips to explore this fascinating island and to take advantage of the wide range of subjects that i know are waiting to be discovered.

Sardinia is waiting. If David has managed to inspire you, get in touch with our specialist team on 0208 9732296. David Fettes is a fantastic photographer who has managed to capture many incredible images all over the world, visit his website www.davidfettes.com to see more of his work.

Enter our photography competition and win yourself a beautiful holiday. Head on over to our Facebook page for more details.

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THE SARDATUR BUCKET LIST: EXPLORE THE DEEP BLUE

One thing I think everyone has to do before they die is scuba-dive.

I have always been fascinated with the idea and this year I finally managed to complete my PADI open-water course.

In all honesty, it is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. At first I was so scared, the idea of being so far away from the world, looking up and seeing the surface glistening above me as i sank deeper and deeper into the unknown.

But, don’t be disheartened! I found when you take an open-water course, you take instant comfort in learning the equipment you are working with, and you are never alone. Your buddy is always by your side to help you, and most importantly, to experience this incredible moment with.

When we reached our target depth, i remember just relaxing, a feeling of complete zen washing over me. The soothing pattern of my own breath and the bubbles gently floating up to the surface. It was really quite unlike anything i have experienced before.

Endless blue, a beautiful, delightful, secret world unfolded in front of me, that I felt so privileged to be able to see. Each session was 45 minutes of pure bliss that always ended too quickly.

If you’ve been to Sardinia before you will know about the transparent waters that bless the island, and along with the Mediterranean temperatures, it really is the perfect place to explore the wonders of the deep blue. Those looking for the best dive-site in Sardinia will find it hard to top La Maddalena island.

More than 20 islands populate the channel that separates Sardinia and Corsica. They are geographically grouped under 2 main archipelagos, one belonging to Corsica and the other considered the jewel of the Sardinian region: the Archipelago of La Maddalena. With its small islands and rocks eroded by the wind and surrounded by crystal clear blue waters, La Maddalena is a treasure of wonders, both inland and especially underwater.

Because of its unique environmental conditions and due to the multitude of marine species, La Maddalena represents one of the best and most sought-after dive sites in Europe, and has become one of the most precious natural marine protected areas under the name of La Maddalena Geomarine National Park.

The Sea World Scuba Center is strategically located in the very center of the main island harbour.

With the dive-centre, you can jump into more than 30 spectacular short distance dive-sites in the archipelago: wrecks, walls and caves and night dives rich with colours and marine life. The long distance locations such as those in the Bocche di Bonifacio National Park, including the famous Lavezzi, can also be easily reached.

The dive-guides are English-speaking and are in-the-know about the best locations to see some of the breath-taking coral and sea-life that you can see here in these pictures.

The gorgeous La Maddalena Hotel & Yacht Club work in partnership with Sea World Scuba Centre on La Maddalena and they can organise your diving experience directly with the centre on your behalf during your stay.

So, if you feel as though 2012 might be the year to take the plunge, please give our specialist team a call on 0208 9732296 to experience the wonders of La Maddalena, above and below the surface. There are also many other wonderful dive-sites that Sardinia has to offer. The deep blue is waiting!

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GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT

Fancy going somewhere as beautiful as this next summer?

2012 is Sardatur’s 25th anniversary and we think that’s worth celebrating, so in the next couple of months we are giving you the chance to win an amazing 5 star luxury holiday to Sardinia.

The theme for our photography competition is ‘It’s all about Italy!’

How to enter:

To enter all you have to do is Like our Facebook page and fill out your details, along with submitting your best shot by 10th February 2012.

The winning image will be the most unique and creative photograph that captures the theme “Its all about Italy”. This could be anything from a beautiful Italian landscape to your favourite Italian car. And don’t forget to encourage your friends and family to vote and enter too. Maybe if they win, they’ll take you along as a thank you!

Here are some of my photographs to give you some inspiration when trying to think of a winning entry:

This Polaroid was taken on a holiday in Sardinia. We were on the beach in Oristano, which is on the west coast. It was a really beautiful day, the water was perfect as usual. A really memorable trip.

I previously wrote about these Porcini mushrooms i found back in September, but this photograph would be the perfect entry to this competition. What do Italians love more than Porcini mushrooms? I don’t think i can answer that.

I took this photo the other day for a bit of fun in the office when i was trying to come up with some design ideas and i kind of like it. It’s our Italia Collection luggage labels. What are Sardatur about? We are all about Italy.

So, if you think you can do better than me… (and you definitely, probably can..)

Click here to find out more and enter!

The prize is an amazing 7 night holiday for two people to the stunning luxury 5* La Maddalena Hotel & Yacht Club in North Sardinia, Italy. You can see some previous posts about this beautiful hotel on our blog here, click through to our website, or look at a photo album on our facebook page. It really is an incredible prize for two seriously lucky people.

Judging our competition will be photographer extraordinaire David Fettes, who will be looking for a creative and well taken photo.

So join our 25th anniversary celebrations, upload your best photo and good luck!

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NAVAL BASE TURNED MODERNIST HOTEL

How many people can say they’ve stayed in an ex-military base? Especially when it’s been reconstructed into a very chic, 5* luxury hotel. We love this article by Guardian journalist Jon Ronson and his experience of the La Maddalena Hotel & Yacht Club, one of our favourite properties located on La Maddalena island, north Sardinia.

We walk into the lobby, stop, and practically gasp. It is probably the strangest, most dramatic hotel I’ve ever seen. It is vast, in the way that army barracks are vast, with corridors stretching far into the distance, but all the usual military utilitarianism has gone, replaced by super-modernist black slate walkways and giant chandeliers designed by Zaha Hadid in the zig-zag shapes sparklers make when you wave them around in the dark. The nearby convention centre is a huge, stunning Murano glass cube that juts over the harbour. There’s something fantastically odd about the place. It’s like having a holiday inside International Rescue’s HQ on Tracy Island.

But the place is incredibly lovely.

The bedrooms are all straight, modern edges, beige and brown and black and white, all symmetrical and expensively synthetic and super-designed. I especially love the vast spaces between things. The walks from the bedroom to the pool to the breakfast room are epic. Even the walk from the croissants to the yoghurt is.

It is a mile away from the buzzy town centre – which is a bit like Sorrento without all the yelling – where everyone wanders around in fancy clothes on hot nights. On our first night we go for dinner in a restaurant there called Sottovento, where I have just about the nicest food I’ve ever eaten – grilled fish with some kind of unbelievably delicious vinegar/butter/caper sauce.

At first it is idyllic. La Maddalena and the adjacent islands of Spargi and Caprera are indeed peppered with lovely coves, reachable only by boat, where the sea is azure and the sand is pink-white. This is national park land, remote and beautiful and not touristy.

Where’s the most unusual, interesting place you’ve ever stayed? We’d love to hear your stories.

If you would like to read the rest of this brilliant article by Jon Ronson in The Guardian, you can follow through to The Guardian website here. For any information on La Maddalena Hotel & Yacht Club please call our specialist team on 0208 9732296 to speak to someone who knows first hand how wonderful it is! Alternatively, you can click through to our website for more information.

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