I wipe my eyes in disbelief. Am I seeing things? Is a giant Teletubby really singing a song, to a kind of 80s Europop backing, eulogising a luxury resort? We’d only had one bottle of wine at dinner, after all – although those gin and tonics had certainly been potent. But, no, I was not being deceived. A game young employee of Sardinia’s finest resort (with one possible exception, which we shall return to) was leading a chorus of enthusiastic children in the so-called ‘baby dance’, a daily ritual that took place after dinner. A quick glance at the parents, a mixed bag from many European nations, revealed everything from abject horror to delight at the spectacle ahead of them; their progeny, meanwhile, seemed to be having the time of their lives.
Welcome to Chia Laguna, where, it would appear, anything is possible.
There can be few places anywhere in the world where an average day can include everything from swimming in the sea by a pure white beach, dining at a seriously impressive restaurant, enjoying properly good pizza and pasta and, of course, the baby dance. But Chia Laguna offers a smorgasbord of treats and experiences that might occasionally bewilder, but more often than that thrill and entice. There is a welcome informality about the operation that stands in contrast to several comparable destinations; the staff are friendly and accessible, and the general atmosphere is one where guests are encouraged to relax.
The rooms are magnificent – the view from our junior suite stretches to the sea, and across the glories of Sardinia’s hills – but you’re unlikely to spend too much time within them, so plentiful are the joys outside. The only real contender for your time inside is the spa, which offers the kind of relaxed yet stylish surroundings that leave one feeling rested and relaxed the second one walks in.
We stayed at Hotel Laguna, the five star face of Chia, and it lived up to its billing. The restaurant, La Terrazza, offers dinner every night to its all-inclusive patrons, and the delights offered can be quite considerable; an antipasti of beef tartare with smoked ricotta and egg yolk is not something that I shall be forgetting any time soon. It should be noted that, while the hotel isn’t entirely geared towards children – the baby dance aside – the staff are nothing but warm and enthusiastically friendly towards a lively little toddler, who especially enjoyed her tomato pasta; her parents, meanwhile, noted that she seemed several pounds heavier when she departed, so copious had the treats been.
And that’s before we get onto the pancakes at breakfast, the delicious ice creams at the pizzeria or the manifold treats that apparently lie around every corner. Even the somewhat bizarre presence of what looks like a burnt-out plastic ambulance in the children’s play area just adds to the fun. Her parents, meanwhile, were sincerely grateful for the life-saving presence of a small market a short walk away from the hotel, where everything from bottled water to buckets and spades can be purchased.
So, the perfect place to stay, then? Almost. We visited just out of season, which meant that the service, although friendly and always warm, wasn’t as switched on as it could have been. More than once, a request had to be repeated, and occasionally we were then informed ‘oh, that isn’t possible.’ This ranged from the mildly irritating to the genuinely surprising; it seems a strange omission that a five star hotel wouldn’t stock international adaptors, for instance. And there were a few moments where the sheer expense of the operation becomes clear.
Asking our cheery waitress for a menu (‘I’m the menu!’) at the bar led to the order of two gin and tonics, which ended up being comfortably the most expensive I’d ever ordered. Just as well that they were pretty much the best as well, using rosemary and local gin to delectable effect. And the shadow of nearby Forte Village looms large. ‘Disneyland’, one member of staff hissed when asked to describe it, and there’s no doubt that the much larger and older operation down the road has attracted its own plaudits over the years, leading to a distinct rivalry between the two.
Yet, thankfully, we are in a world where the discerning can experience both. Ignore the odd blemish with the service, and this becomes the sort of place that one visits and cannot wait to revisit. And, while we’re here, it’s worth noting that Cagliari up the road is well worth a visit, as well; the perfect hors d’oeuvre, or palette-cleanser, after a luxurious and unforgettable stay at Chia Laguna.
Recently named Italy’s Leading Family Resort at the World Travel Awards 2018, nightly rates at Chia Laguna start from €308 (£269*) per person based on two adults sharing a Superior Room at Hotel Laguna on a half-board basis. Children under 12 stay free. Rates also include wi-fi, access to fitness facilities and beach service. For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +39 070 932393431. *Price in pound sterling accurate according to today’s exchange rate.