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The Island of Corsica, South of France

Regional Departments
Haute-Corse, Corse-du-Sud.

Main Towns
Bastia, Rogliano, Calvi, Ile-Rousse, Corte, Cargèse, Aléria, Ajaccio, Propriano, Sartène, Porto-Vecchio, Bonifacio, Galéria, St Florent.

The island of Corsica, just off the South of France, is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. For centuries, visitors to Corsica have returned home with their own special memories of this unique island with its wonderful landscape, superb beaches, sailing, diving, culture and traditions, lovely villages, food, wine and people. French is the official language and is spoken by everybody but you will also hear Corsican spoken, particularly in the villages. Children are warmly welcomed everywhere.

Corsica is roughly divided into two parts from Bastia and St Florent in the north, south to Corte, then southeast to Solenzara and on to Bonifacio on the southern tip. The difference in the landscape and architecture between these areas is dramatic. A ten minute drive can take you from one extreme to another. A chain of mountain form the spine of the island, running from near Calvi in the northwest to Bavella in the southeast with breathtaking gorges like the Spelunca between Evisa and Porto, the Santa Regina carrying the Golo river down from the Niolo and the Tavignano above Corte.
Within these two areas, the island divides into further natural areas, each quite different from its neighbour.

La Balagna is area of hills and valleys, bounded by the sea to the north and the high mountains to the south, known locally as the garden of Corsica. The valleys are covered with olive groves and vines, orchards and citrus trees. Flocks of sheep graze the valleys, their milk used to make local cheeses, cattle wander freely over the hillsides feeding on wild grasses and herbs and the medieval hillside villages of the Balagne are enchanting. San Antonio is surely one of the most beautiful with staggering views. Pigna makes pottery and is a famous spot for watching sunsets.
The waters around the town of Calvi on the coast teem with marine life and is one of Corsica's and diving and sailing hotspots. Overlooked by its ancient citadel, it claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

The gentle Nebbio hills and valleys rising up from the Gulf of St Florent is a delightful area of olive groves and vineyards that produce luscious Muscat wine and a range of white, rosé and red wines. Patrimonio is the centre for wine tasting, and Oletta, a large sunny village overlooking the gulf is also a good place for tasting and buying wine.
Saint Florent is a small sheltered fishing port with an ancient citadel and lovely beaches, known as little Saint Tropez. In summer it is possible to take a ferry from Saint Florent to the beaches of the Desert des Agriates.

The drive around Cap Corse is often slow and winding, but the stunning scenery is well worth the effort. Monte Stello is the highest point at about 3,000 feet. The best views can be seen driving in an anti clockwise direction down the west coast, which gives wonderful views of the mountains of Haute Corse as you drive south with villages like Nonza perched high above the sea. Centuri Port, in the northwest, has a distinctly Cornish air and serves very good fish and lobster in its restaurants. Macinaggio, on the northeast side, has a modern marina providing anchorage for many large yachts.

The Castagniccia is an area of lush chestnut tree covered hills and deep valleys descending to the sea at Moriani. From here to Bastia the villages of the Casinca scatter the mountainside overlooking the plain and the sea. Bastia is one of the main arrival and departure points to the island by air and ferry.

Overlooked by an ancient fortified town, Corte was once the capital of the island and is the seat of Corsica's main university. The old town, with its four or five storey houses is fascinating to explore. Corte is also a good starting point for walkers to the Tavignano valley, accessible only on foot, to the Gorge of the Restonica, Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello or further south to Monte d'Oro, the Forest of Vizzavona and the Cascade des Anglais.

The Niolo is the heart of the island and perhaps the most dramatic. At about 2,700 feet above sea level, ringed by high mountains including Monte Cinto and Paglia d'Orba, it was isolated from the other parts of Corsica until well into the 20th century. The only access then was by mule up the through the Santa Regina gorge to the east or via the incredibly beautiful pink granite Spelunca gorge to the west. There is a famous traditional fair at Casamacciolo every year in September.

The west coast from Girolata to Cargese is dazzling with red and gold granite cliffs dropping straight into the sea and few accessible coves and beaches. Porto is probably the most popular beach here and really is beautiful, though many others come close. Inland from Porto is the Spelunca gorge with sheer pink and green granite sides, one of the most spectacular sights on the island.

The elegant town of Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon and capital of the island, is reminiscent of the Cote d'Azur on mainland France. The Gulf of Ajaccio is breathtaking. To the south are beaches around Porticcio and beyond. The Gulf of Valinco is just as gorgeous with more beaches from Porto Pollo on its northern tip to Propriano and on to Campomoro, a pretty little village forgotten by time.

On the southern tip of Corsica, the old town of Bonifacio looks out towards Sardinia. You can take boat trips around the limestone cliffs and caves, or across to Sardinia fopr a day or two. A short drive from Bonifacio are fine beaches and an excellent golf course.

Porto-Vecchio on the east side of Corsica is on a gulf surrounded by sandy beaches. The town of Porto-Vecchio was built in 1539 to complete the defence system of the island and its Genoese origins are evident. Inland are cork tree forests. The Ospedale mountains and the Col de Bavella (spectacular at sunset) are also within easy reach of Porto-Vecchio.


Corsican food is typically Mediterranean and makes good use of herbs; basil, mint, thyme and rosemary, vegetables like tomatoes, aubergines, olives, green beans and courgettes, onions, mushrooms, leeks, artichokes, sometimes stuffed or made into fritters or flans and a variety of salads. Look for prisuttu, finely cut smoked ham from the mountains. Anchovies appear in many dishes, delicious bouillabaisse fish soup, trout and fresh shellfish are others.
Meat dishes include lamb, goat and veal, chicken and woodcock. Pasta such as lasagne and cannelloni made using Brocciu, a soft ewe's milk cheese, have a special flavour of their own, along with pulenta, made from chestnut flour.

To finish: sweet frittas and ice cream, fiadone, a cake made with Brocciu cheese and lemon peel, fruit tarts or candied figs or oranges. Honey, almonds or pine nuts are used liberally in other desserts.

Wine is produced throughout the island, the better known being those from Patrimonio, Cap Corse and the Sartenais in the southwest. The reds are often very good, the delicate pale pink rosé gris is cool and refreshing and there are some excellent white wines. Most famous of all perhaps is Corsican Muscat, drunk everywhere as an aperitif.


The clear turquoise seas are ideal for swimming, snorkelling, diving, sailing and windsurfing. If you like walking, then the island has everything from easy strolls to challenging mountain treks. There is an intricate network of ancient footpaths and mule paths criss-crossing the whole island, linking valley with valley, region with region, making Corsica a walker's paradise. The scenery of course is magnificent and there are plenty of lovely beaches and hidden coves to explore. Riding is popular on the old mule trails as are canoeing and fishing on the rivers and streams.


The first wild flowers appear in February and snow remains on the highest mountain peaks until late Spring. From sea level to about 1500 feet, the climate and vegetation is typically Mediterranean, with long, hot dry summers and mild winters. Between 1,500 and 4,500 feet, the climate is similar but a little cooler the higher one goes. Above 4,500 feet, an alpine climate prevails, the sun is hot in summer, but the nights are cool and in winter there is snow from September to May with skiing possible in many places. The island has an average of more than 2700 hours of sunshine per year and the average sea temperature in the summer is 24 °C.


By Air
Regional airports: Bastia, Ajaccio, Calvi, Figari with daily connecting flights from Paris, Nice,Toulon and Marseille. There are also direct flights from the UK and most other European countries.

Car hire is available at the destination in Corsica. Many choose to fly to Nice,Toulon or Marseille, hire a car, then take the hydrofoil or ferry across from Nice.

By Sea
Ferries from Nice to Bastia take about 3 hours. There are also regular ferries from Marseille and Toulon but these take between 7 and 12 hours. The drive from Paris to Nice takes about 8 hours.

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