Into the blue

Sardinia's mix of unspoilt beaches, rugged landscapes and prime meeting venues is an event planner's dream. Holly Patrick dives in.

Fun fact: Sardinia is one of the world's so-called 'Blue zones' - areas identified by scientists as having an above-average life expectancy and a high concentration of centenarians.

The combination of physical activity, a varied and vegetable-rich diet and strong family bonds is said to be behind the island's elixir for long life.

But that's far from the only reason to take your delegates there. The second-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, Sardinia also offers unspoilt beaches, hidden coves, archaeological sites and rugged landscapes.

The island’s capital, Cagliari, is the largest city on the island in the south, and there’s plenty on offer for event planners down there. Cagliari is crowned by a 13th-century medieval town and boasts a bustling, walkable town, just 10 minutes from Cagliari airport.

Where to meet:

Although it’s a city of just 150,000 people, Cagliari boasts two convention centres. Centro Congressi - Fiera Della Sardegna, with 36,000 sqm of event space, including eight meeting rooms and exhibition space. Convento San Giuseppe is set in a historical building that lends itself to small to medium congresses.

Palazzo Doglio is the new, luxury kid on the block in Cagliari with 72 rooms and suites, four meeting rooms for up to 1,000 people and a dedicated theatre, ideal for conferences. The central courtyard, dotted with restaurants and bars, offers additional space for networking drinks and al fresco events.

Where to stay:

Forte Village is the name you’re after if incentives are your game. A 45-minute drive from Cagliari, the beachfront Forte Village features 760 rooms, suites and villas across 160 acres, with 22 restaurants, and nine pools – not including the unique Thalassotherapy pools, a spa and enough activities to keep guests occupied for a lifetime.

Following a £40m refurbishment, the resort’s extensive meeting offering comprises 21 meeting rooms, the largest of which can hold up to 900 people. The newly built, glass-walled Crystal Suite can host up to 450 people, the Pala Forte - a permanent marquee, can host events for up to 2,000 people and the versatile Sky Suite has charming 360-degree views across the resort and neighbouring mountains.

Almost any space in the resort can be used for events, including the wine cellar (home to £8,000 bottles), the poolside plazas and the lush lawns dotted around the resort. The resort is available for a buyout in the shoulder season.

Forte Village has close relationships with unique nearby venues including the 160-year-old Far Capo Spartivento lighthouse retreat, ideal for intimate events, gala dinners and an indulgent night’s sleep in addition to the luxury offering at Forte Village.

What to do:

Activities galore await your delegates in Sardinia. Take a boat trip along the coast to discover hidden coves and pristine beaches. Forte Village can organise drinks receptions and picnics on beaches along the way to ensure your delegates feel like royalty.

“If you're looking for something with the wow factor, take a short boat trip from Forte Village Resort along the coast to discover the enchanting cave network. Jumping off the boat into the turquoise waters and swimming to the caves was an unforgettable experience - truly one of Mother Nature's precious gifts," says Hotel Desk UK partner, Jo Egan.

Mountain biking is a perfect way to explore Sardinia off the beaten track. The Ancient Roman Road trail has breath-taking views while the Forest of Pula trail takes cyclists through the Gutturu Mannu regional park, one of the largest holm oak forests in Europe. Whichever trail you choose, you’re guaranteed to spot a few of the island’s pink inhabitants – flamingos.

For the competitive among the group, let them burn rubber at the in-resort go-karting track at Forte Village. Up to eight people can race at one time and champagne and medals will be waiting for the fastest three drivers.

“Jumping off the boat into the turquoise waters and swimming to the caves was an unforgettable experience.”

Jo Egan

Getting there:

British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair fly direct from London to Cagliari several times a week.

All About Flights, specialists in MICE air travel logistics, can help organise group booking to Sardinia. Peter Jackson, director of Red Blaze who has used the service for more than a decade said, “We have worked with All About Flights for over 12 years. Their understanding of the needs of the MICE sector is exceptional as is their commitment to providing remarkable levels of service and support to our business.”

A helping hand:

Hotel Republic represents Forte Village in the UK market and can provide extensive knowledge of the resort and its offering. It can help take the legwork out of planning the ultimate trip to Forte Village, get your enquires answered quickly and be the conduit between you and the venue.