Corsica Guide: The Essential
Why would you visit Corsica?
Corsica the Island of beauty sitting subtly in the Mediterranean Sea south of France and West of Tuscany is a mythic island steeped in histories connected with the Ancient Mountain and coastal lands. Considered to be the greenest and wettest island in the Mediterranean with an impressive biodiversity its rich maquis vegetation is a spectacle in its own right not least when it is met by the marine blue sea, snow-capped mountains or rustic villages.
Only located some two-hundred kilometres away from the French mainland Corsica is certainly unique in character, holding a strong island identity which can be seen and experienced across all aspects of daily life. Just considering the delicious local produce such as the charcuterie, wild boar and varied river tout and sea food delicacies it is clear that the island is a rich treasure. The island holds so many contrasts that between the north and south you can experience a rich diversity of immensely different foods, landscape and history all while always being relatively close to the Mediterranean Sea. A strong hospitality and tradition of welcoming visitors the island continues to develop its rich tourism offer and can offer a great choice to a range of independent and organised tour groups with specialist interests. Contact us or visit our website to see our self-drive or guided tour through Corsica!
When to travel to Corsica?
Incredibly the island of beauty has it all and you can see marked changes throughout the seasons, budding flowers and fauna between April and May always a favourite for nature lovers, followed by warm dry summers between June to September an excellent time to cool off in the temperate sea or cooler lakes and rivers… beyond that a milder autumn and real authentic winters with snow and cold temperatures just in time for Christmas and the beginning of the new year in January.
How to get to Corsica?
Choosing just one place to stay or see is not recommended so get your walking boots, rent a car, prepare a tour and explore… see the contrasts head into the mountains and see the beautiful coastline looking carefully to see the geological and natural beauty of the huge array of bays and cliffs. It is fair to say that any visit to the island would not be complete without seeing at least one of the mountain villages for which the island has become so renowned. Head inland and visit the famous towns that remained for so long as the Genovese strong holds and independent centres for Corsican Nationalism and patriotic struggles over the centuries.
If you wish to see a place like no other make your way to Bonifacio and see the magnificent white cliffs which plunge into the shallow channel waters between Corsica and Sardinia and unravel the history that spirals the citadel and fortress of Bonifaziu perched high up on the rocks. Try to explore the coast and get a glance of the impressive geology and bays that line the littoral. Don’t miss the stairs of Aragon or Napoleon’s sea grotto.
The island can be a home away from home with the rich history that encompasses a period as an Anglo-Corsican Kingdom and significant connections with the rest of Europe as a former part of the Genovese Republic. No less does it have strong connections with the independent regions of Europe but even internationally. Significant diaspora communities the world over make the island an important and well regarded international tourism destination with many visitors often considering the island a jewel after looking beneath the ever pretty surface.
The island offers an array of accommodation options for those that are searching for serenity, seclusion and intimacy and equally for those guests that wish to be based in one of the major towns where can find international hotel chains on a small scale, luxury independent hotels and luxurious villa locations the choice is yours… with high demand in summer its always better to book in advance if you want a special place to stay. Contact us to organise your itinerary and accommodation in Corsica.
What to do in Corsica?
It’s true that the island retains an impressive range of architecture where in some cases Genovese constructions have been converted into residencies and elsewhere typical stone constructions form part of exclusive residences and villa networks.
If you can always keep in sight the summit of Monte Cinto towering over the island of Corsica at 2706 metres you can rest assured you are close to the central heartland of the island. From the stronghold of Calvi the birthplace of Christopher Columbus you can observe the beauty of the large mountain ranges home to some of the most famous mountain routes on the island… while admiring and profiting from the idyllic sandy beaches and crystal clear waters that surround the port.
Like the culinary delights of wine, cheeses and meats in Corsica the island offers different flavours for visitors with different tastes.
- History & culture holiday - If you’re a fanatic for history look no further the island offers a view into the prehistory side by side with more modern Genovese and Napoleonic histories… did we mention Napoléon Bonaparte was born here on 15th August 1769… so let’s not say anymore except that there are a few Napoleonic trails and a little taste of the Genovese history to be discovered in Corsica!
- Gastronomy holiday - In Corsica, you must do as the Corsicans do and as the old proverb goes Chi va pianu, va sanu… simply meaning that those that go slowly go further. Don’t rush to discover the island in a day or taste all the foods in one region it just won’t be sufficient think about it as a discovery and gradual awakening to the islands wonders that of its nature, culture and gastronomy… why not start by the land and enjoy a typical Corsican meal including local charcuteries, cheeses and accompanied by one of many of the choice selected Corsican Red wines… maybe even visit one of the growing number of vineyards on the island that are often open for a tasting session and let the flavours of the island greet you in a perfect mountain by sea setting.The ideal environment of Corsica produces a great amount of delicious culinary specialities and where best to taste and sense these delicacies but at the local markets which are a regular occurrence across the island in the village or town squares on a daily and weekly basis. The open air food market in Ajaccio is particularly popular with producers coming from all corners of South Corsica and a great place to find a local cheese, hand made by the shepherds themselves or indeed local honeys and delicious liqueurs made by the many artisans. As in history the local interest in extensive farming and local production continues presenting a whole spectrum of fruits and vegetables from season to season.If you want to do as the Corsicans do take the time to enjoy the local produce to savour the tastes, take a stroll and discover the hidden streets, sit and soak up the atmosphere under the Corsican sun in one of the many street cafés and taste a local drink from the famed sparkling mineral water of Orezza to something a little stronger like a Cap Corse or Pastis while finding your place on the island.Must try’s: Charcuterie (Coppa, Lonzo, sauccison) collection of cold cut smoky pork meats with distinctive Corsican flavours often associated with the chestnut which often forms a staple for the Porcu Nustrale (Corsican Wild Pig)… Les Oursins (January – end of March) the delicious sea urchins are often served by the dozen simply with bread and mustard accompanied by a light and fresh drink… Gateaux a la chataigne (Chestnut cake – various types) …. Wild Boar… Trout fish with or without Brocciu and of course one of the many Corsican cheeses…
- Walking active holiday - For those more adventurous visitors, the island is criss-crossed by an excellent range of coastal and mountain footpaths of varying intensity and duration so take a map or hire a guide and get to grips with the local terrain. You can still find those deserted beaches and less wandered mountain spots with a little determination and some local knowledge. Experience the aromatic scents of the maquis which has been so often contemplated in history as one of the most recognisable aspects of the natural island wonders. Walk in confidence knowing that the mountain paths are well marked and offer safe trekking given that there are no registered dangerous animals on the island all while it is fair to say the mountain habitat is home to an abundance of wildlife and biodiversity everything from Mouflons (Wild goats) to the enigmatic Cerf (wild deer) and the red kite or balbuzzard.
- Outdoor activities: coastal holiday - Those who are passionate about the sea and maritime traditions have a reward in store as the Island has hundreds of sandy coastline, an expanse of rocky coastal areas particularly favoured for fishing, diving, snorkelling or exploration by boat. Let’s not forget the contrasting coastal geology around the island that incorporates several natural parks and nature reserves. Perhaps the most famous and coveted being the Calanches of Piana and the Scandola Marine reserve which is equally inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage site for its scientific importance, marine-terrestrial biodiversity and unique geological coastal cliffs which are pastille rose colour granite home to rich bird life.It is true that Island is famed for its enormous collection of footpaths and this region on the west coast holds claim to one such famous path that of ‘Guy the Postman’ a former postie who made the long and arduous effort to walk to the isolated coastal village of Girolata to deliver the post before other choices of delivery became available and a more practical solution! The town is still only accessible on the dirt track path or by boat and remains as a must see for a lot of inquisitive visitors to the island.Amongst the coastline of Corsica there are some very inspiring spots which are reminiscent of the desert islands of far flung destinations far from the Mediterranean shores… not least we have in the North West the Desert des Agriates which is an area of coastline as the name suggests has a desert like appearance with picturesque dune landscape and mixed wild vegetation. Often the collection of beaches along this stretch of coastline distant from the towns and villages are very natural in appearance and remain at certain moments relatively unchartered areas except for the occasional cow that reserves its spot on the beach well in advance of the visitors. Close to St. Florent there are private yacht charters, day boats and the possibility to follow a coastal path to arrive at this natural beauty spot.As we pass further south the Corsican coastline on the west coast we traverse the renowned town of Ile Rousse known for its fishing exploits and calm white sandy coves while moving further south we have the Golf of Porto with its stunning backdrop and imposing Genovese tower. Once more no shortage of coastline to explore often also points of incredible importance exemplified by the Genovese towers dotted along the coastline.Notably the largest coastal town – Ajaccio is bordered by the Islands of Sanguinaires which is the emblematic rocky outcrop of islands that marks the entrance of the expansive bay of Ajaccio. Home to an impressive lighthouse and two associated Genovese towers the islands hold an important place in the story of the Ajaccien region today as ever. The largest beach in the Ajaccio region – Ricanto boasts a sandy beach which stretches for more than 4km where the Prunelli river enters into the Bay of Ajaccio by the Tour of Capitello the famous spot where Napoléon fled Corsica after being pursued by Corsican patriots in the the late 18th Century.Indeed for those that search out the names and places of the ‘best’ the Corsican coastline boasts these accolades name dropping just a few – Rundiara, Santa Giulia and Piombaggio in the South between Porto-Vechhio and Bonifacio… explore and make your own decisions on your favourite beach spot.
Let your senses explore and visit Corsica the land for the intrepid and a place for all - mountain, sea, culture and local food. Book your next Corsica holiday with us!