We view Corsica as a destination for those who would like to travel in Europe but not travel in the hectic pace of North American tourists. It is not like no one is going there, over 2 million people a year visit Corsica. The scenery is stunning, the people are accommodating, and as it should be, very little English is spoken. You are after all, in a different country.
The food and wine are fantastic. Go soon, as Corsica is becoming more and more popular. We regularly read and hear of more and more people traveling to this island. Let's hope it does not become too popular!
Corse, or Corsica, is part of France. It is an island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the western Mediterranean. About 160 km southwest of the French Riviera and 82 km west of the coast of Tuscany. It is about the same latitude as Rome. Jump on one of the many ferries and in no time you are there.
For our trip we travelled from Nice. We caught one of the hydrofoil ferries which make the trip in a fraction of the time of a regular ferry. Drive to the old port area of Nice and purchase your ticket down on the docks. You can usually get your ticket for the a boat the same day, unless you are traveling in the high season. We had a hectic ride to get there in time as the ticket offices close from 12-2. Remember, you are in France, so plan your arrival accordingly. The hydro-jet cuts the travel time in half. The jet boat takes about 150 cars, travels at 37 knots per hour ( 70 km per hour) and makes the trip in just over 3 hours. If you arrive mid-day you can count on arriving in the island before evening. The regular ferry is only feasible if you leave on one of the 7:30 am sailing.
When we left we travel from Corsica to Livorno, Italy on a regular ferry.
The predominate landscape is that of a mountainous island. The highest mountain is Monte Cintu at 2,710 meters. The island has more than twenty other mountains all over two thousand meters in height. In fact, Corse has the highest mountains and the most rivers of any island in the Mediterranean.
The two largest cities are Ajaccio and Bastia. Large in terms that they have populations of more than 10,000. Other than that, most towns and villages are small and very pleasant to visit. The official language is French, although over half of the population speak Corsican which is not a dialect of French, but rather a separate Latin language.
Ajaccio is a town of white buildings with red tile roofs.
The center of town is the Place Maréechal-Foch, very close to the ferry dock. Lined with palm trees and restaurants it is pleasant to just enjoy being in Corisca.
We did not tour the Napoleonic Museum which is located in the Town Hall so there are no comments we can offer, other than Napolean was "everywhere" when it comes to Corsica. The burial vault of the Bonaparte family is in the Fesch Palace. Of course, Napolean was born in the Bonaparte House and that is open from 10-12 and 2-5.
Bastia, is the other main city of Corsica. The Place St. Nicolas and the old port are the two main centers for this town.
The Place St. Nicolas is where you wil find the locals.
The Vieux Port has the cafes and and much of the street life that goes with tourists and the life they bring.
From Bastia head north and travel the Cap Corse for stunning views, peaceful stops and great wine -- some of the best vineyards are in this area. When were in Corsica there was an incredible wind storm, places where we had hoped to take boats along the west coast were of course closed, but the waves pounding on the rocky west coast were impressive.
St. Florent, on the west side of the Cap, has a scenic harbour, pleasant restaurants, and great vineyards just a few kilometres away.
Make sure you leave time to drive along the coast of the Cap -- the northern tip of the island. It offers great views. The east coast has a gentle characteristics. On the west side, however, the coast is sheer cliffs sea. While we were there a mild hurrican-like storm passed through the area so we really saw and felt the stormy seas. There are numerous little ports to visit.
After touring Cap Corse you can cut off across the bottom on a short route, return to Bastia, and then leave via frequent ferry service back to France or Italy.
Corse rates high in our books as a great place to visit. No heavy influence of North American tourists. You must speak some French or go with a tour. But if you can speak a little French you will find this a great place to tour on your own. The hotels and meals are reasonable. The food and wine great.
We arrived in Calvi to find a scenic town with the feeling of being "with-it". This is no sleepy village. The Marina and the Rue Georges-Clemenceau are the main centres. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. But, it is a town that lives on the arrival of tourists with each ferry. We had a hotel reservation that we made while waiting in Nice, however, when our boat arrived late the hotel gave away the room. The hotels capture the traffic as the ferries arrive! Tight market in Calvi and it can be first rooms to those that arrive on time.
You can walk along the port for the "see" and "be-seen" crowd. Its a nice pace with plenty of places to stop and enjoy a drink and the view. We found a number of good and reasonably-priced restaurants. We at the the U Minellu at 3 bd Wilson twice. One one night we raved it was the best meal we had eaten in weeks, on another night it was so-so.
We did some touring in the area around Calvi and next settled into the Beau Rivage at Algajola - a town and bay just up the coast.
This was one of those real vacation rewards for working hard all year. The Beau Rivage is a basic hotel - nothing fancy here. We took a small corner room (#31) in the Annex that is beside the main hotel. Our room overlooked the turquoise sea. It was wonderful.
There was a beach that curved along the resent-shaped bay. It would take about a 25 minute walk from end to end. For meals we would drive into one of the nearby towns.
We choose to take a route around the entire island. We traveled along the D81B -- very narrow, no guard rails and if there are two in the car, one can enjoy the views!
From Calvi we toured towards les Calanche -- stunning pink cliffs that meet the blue sea.
In the interior, be sure to visit Lama - a great place to walk about for a few hours. Enjoy the scenery, buildings, people and dogs.
Cargèse, along the western coast was especially scenic and we stayed here for a few days. The beach, well it does not get much better. The local wines are great. We made friends with the woman at the local wine store. She was the first to supply us with a cork screw when we realized that one of our most important travel accessories was lost.
We stayed at the Motel Ta Kladia, its much more scenic than its name.
Sartene is an interesting old town. The doors are all at the first floor level. Originally they had retractable ladders as a means of protection. Now you can walk the very narrow streets and stairways.
Bonifacio, located on the southern tip of the island, is very interesting.
The white cliffs are stunning and the old town is located up on the white cliffs overlooking the incredibly blue water. Here there is a maze of narrow streets and when you get to the edge you have incredible views especially at Place Manichella where the old houses just seem to hand on the edge of the cliffs.
You really only get the appreciate the landscape when you look back at the town, on the clifs from the water.
Take a boat trip. Boats are for hire in the port and will take you on a tour of the grotto and along the cliffs. The fortifications at the mouth of the harbour date from the 11th and 12th century. The colours of the water in the Grotte du Sdragonatoare stunning.
Porto-Vecchio is worth a visit. Pleasant streets to stroll. Enjoy your visit here as the east coast is not as dramatic in scenery as the east.
Take one of the routes and take the inner road though Corte to return to the rugged mountains. Corte is an old town perched in the mountains. Walk up to the fortress for a great view.