The summer of 2018 was one of the most beautiful and sunshine-filled summers in all my 34 years. The days were endlessly hot and it was a summer that you yearn for every year – a summer straight out of a Hollywood movie. Permanent al fresco dining, beer gardens, water fights, pitchers of Pimms, BBQs and ice creams.
It was also the worst summer of my life. My days were spent in hospitals, at my parent’s house indoors and in a hospice. On July 17th, after the most gruelling, painful, heartbreaking and relentlessly cruel 15 months, my daddy passed away – losing his heroic battle against cancer.
It was an awful journey to witness and a ride that the rest of my family had to go on with no control or influence on the final destination. Cancer really sucks, and so did this summer.
Once the dust had settled and our new normal had been established, my mum and I spoke a lot about getting away. We are both big fans of escaping to the sunshine and as someone who finds it really hard to relax and unwind at home (there is always something hanging over me that needs to be done, attended to or dealt with), the prospect of a few days in the sun became a fixation for us to help the mourning process.
Grief affects everyone differently. For my mum and I, it came as exhaustion. Fighting to keep our eyes open in the evening, lacking energy to do anything, feeling foggy, cloudy and understandably miserable. In order to heal, grow and try to take control of our feelings, we needed rest, massages, salt water, sand and sunshine.
We also needed support and that came in the form of my husband, my almost 2-year-old son, and my wonderful in-laws. 5 adults and one baby ranging in age from 1 to 75. Where could we go that would cater to all of our needs? We needed a great spa, with a relaxation and wellness focus. We needed a beach with calm enough water that you could submerge yourself in.
We also needed swimming pools and kids activities to keep an anti-sand, anti-sunbather, pro-Paw Patroller happy. We needed tennis, and proper lane swimming and plenty of good food. We needed endless wine and ice cream on tap. We needed a holiday where none of us had to compromise. We needed Sardinia and we needed Forte Village.
With that in mind, and with my personal focus for this trip being wellness, I have to talk about their world-renowned Aquaforte Thalasso and Spa. The Ancient Romans knew about the healing benefits of thermal baths and the power of the warm salt water by the sea.
The thermal baths have been a part of Sardinian history and culture for millennia. The amazing medical team at Forte Village under the guidance of Dr Angelo Cerina have taken the historical and traditional concept of thalassotherapy and revolutionised it creating a completely original and incredibly effective method for detox, rejuvenation and improving your body all round.
The spa does traditional massage, runs courses for weight loss, and have trained physiotherapists with an expertise in healing back pain on hand, but I was mainly interested in Thalasso. I loved the idea of floating around and letting the magnesium saline pools and heat drain my body of stress and tension – and was excited to see if I experienced a change.
My mum and I went for a massage and thalasso experience in the stunning private spa. It was one of the most beautiful wellness experiences I have ever had – private cabanas to lounge in, healthy drinks and nibbles, private showers and steam rooms, an edited number of thalasso pools compared to the main spa with no need to avoid floating into other patrons (!) and a massage under a canopy all in the rainforest.
My masseuse specialised in sports massage and I went for that option as I work out a lot and lift heavy weights. After a hard and intense treatment I still felt incredibly relaxed and my muscles were totally released of all tension – so much so that I fell asleep on the bed. The therapist kindly left me there to sleep – a perk of having the private spa, and I awoke finding my mum sipping on her tea, in a plush cabana after her wonderful relaxation massage.
We then tried the thalasso pools. Much like the Dead Sea, when you enter the brown waters, the very high concentration of magnesium salts force the body to float around. The warm salt and oil rich water can sting a bit, but this only adds to the healing and detoxification – you can literally visualise the negative energy and toxins seeping out of you. This floating process performs a draining and anti-inflammatory process and relaxes the muscles. The high temperature of the water has a vasodilatory effect, and when combined with the high saline density, it increases metabolic exchanges by osmosis, thereby aiding the draining and detox effect. It is magical.
The other pools have varying amounts of saline density and are heated at different temperatures, and as you work your way around them all, floating and being massaged by the water jets, you feel completely rejuvenated. In the main thalasso pools which I went to with my husband and father-in-law the next day, there are 6 thalasso pools and also ice cold pools and really hot pools that you keep submerging yourself in to boost circulation and blood flow.
The first three thalasso pools are set at a high temperature and with a high saline concentration, which have an extraordinary detoxifying effect. The final three pools are set with a lower saline concentration and lower temperatures to round off the regenerating programme, stabilising the exchanges between the body and the mineral salts.
Working your way around the whole experience takes around an hour and half. The process is slow, relaxing and calm (accept for a few giggles when you try to force yourself down from your back to move pools!) As you float around looking up amongst the trees, your body goes through so many stages of detoxification, regeneration and enhancement. The whole experience was truly and completely uplifting.
I felt re-energised and invigorated afterwards (and had to rush to the toilet a few times immediately as I felt the instant affects of the detox!) I also laughed a lot, sometimes hysterically when standing over some of the powerful jets tickling my feet – and there really is no greater therapy than laughing solidly for 2 minutes.
Four days in Sardinia with my favourite people, floating in magical water, drinking copious amounts of local rosé and riding bikes around Forte Village was the most perfect way to begin our healing process. Grief takes many forms and is a long road to navigate, but sometimes escaping to a place to heal your mind and body can have a profound and essential impact on a broken heart too.