corsica Villa holiday guide
At just eighty three kilometres wide and 183 long, the island of Corsica contains a startling variety of unspoiled landscapes—from Porto’s UNESCO-protected bays and Corte’s rugged mountains, to rolling vineyards, gingerbread beaches, and sun-parched maquis (scrublands), interspersed by rippling brooks and chestnut forests. There is history too: Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio, and Lord Nelson lost his eye in Calvi. And Italy is never far away on a Corsica holiday: be it at Bonifacio, in the south, which sits closer to Sardinia than France, or in the island’s Mediterranean culinary specialties.
Cities and Towns in Corsica
The laid-back capital, Ajaccio, woos with postcard-perfect boulevards and a majestic bay, gateway to the Sanguinaires archipelago where sea birds and dolphins rule the waves. In Bonifacio, the fortified old town watches over an inky-blue harbour and its bobbing fishing boats. At sundown Bastia’s graceful, Italianate Old Port rivals Porto’s fiery red cliffs for the most romantic sea view. Genoese military architecture protects St.-Florent, recalling the time when Lord Nelson—even before the Battle of Trafalgar—bombarded the thick walls of its 15th-century citadel.
The Corsica countryside
Driving Corsica’s winding roads can be time consuming, even over short distances. Embrace this, for around almost every corner you will find a mountain village or a view so inspiring that you will decide to linger. Cap Corse, the island’s northerly tip, is a land of precipitous crags topped with villages that tumble into coves. Wine country around Patrimonia is famous for its sun-blushed rosés. Explore Corsica’s national park around Bocognano to admire waterfalls and flower-speckled pastures.
Eating and Drinking in Corsica
Locally-sourced food takes pride of place on a Corsican menu. Sidle-up to a seaside restaurant in Porto-Vecchio for fresh rock lobster and sea bream roasted in Corsican olive oil and herbs from the maquis. Inland, grass-fed veal is a popular speciality, often chopped into cubes and added to tomato sauce and Balagne olives for pasta asciutta, or served as a stew with pulenda(chestnut-flour dumplings). Calvi likes its goat’s cheese subtle and creamy, and served with fig jam. After a lengthy meal on a balmy night, dunk a crunchy, honey-infused cucciola biscuit into your Italian ristretto coffee.
Active Pursuits in Corsica
France’s GR20 (Grande Randonnée—long distance) hiking route criss-crosses Corsica’s countryside, taking you past fertile lands, snow-capped mountains, granite landscapes, and lakes that run into rivers and waterfalls. If you are as fit as a fiddle, a steep but doable section starts in Conca just north of Porto-Vecchio, and leads you twelve kilometres to no-frills Paliri refuge (a shelter for hikers). Don your oxygen mask and flippers to dive shipwrecks off the coast of Ajaccio and discover marine life in the Gulfe de Porto-Vecchio.
Nature in Corsica
Curly-horned mouflon sheep pepper the mountains in sanctuaries around Bavella and Cintu. Wild boar roam freely in nearby forests, sniffing out acorns, chestnuts, fruits, and truffles—earthy foods that give their meat a gamey flavour. Do not confuse them with wild pigs, also dark in colour, which inhabit the island, too. Look up to see the birds of prey: royal eagles stretch their two-metre wings over Cap Corse; osprey fish over the jagged, red cliffs of Scandola nature reserve (near Porto); and Peregrine falcons soar over Caporalino north of Corte.
History in Corsica
In Ajaccio visit the period rooms of Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthplace at Maison Bonaparte. Musée Fesch contains one of the world’s largest collections of primitive Italian art, looted during the Italian Campaign by Cardinal Fesch, Napoleon’s uncle. Stepping back several hundred years, Corte’s anthropology museum perches inside a converted Medieval citadel. Check out its phonothèque, showcasing Corsica’s polyphonic choral traditions. In Bonifacio the mysterious, 187-step Escalier du Roi d’Aragonwas supposedly hand-dug into the cliff by Alphonse V’s soldiers during a raid in the 1400s.
Arts and Culture in Corsica
Although Corsica is a French island (since Napoleon’s day), many inhabitants are still proficient in the Corsican language. Hear its friendly drawl in St. Florent where locals while away lazy days with a game of pétanque on Place des Portes. Or in Lumio—village of light—a typical, car-free, Corsican settlement that watches over Calvi’s bay. Roam its narrow footpaths to visit the Romanesque Saint-Pierre-St.-Paul chapel and cemetery, and explore the lower village, whose eerie Medieval ruins look out over L’Île Rousse.