Corsica Stories and Tips

Island of Paradise

Before I visited Corsica I didn't really know much about the island except that it was owned by the French although the Corsicans will dispute that, Napoleon was born there and they had their own language and a really great flag which I will go into more detail about later.

We travelled in a volvo, packed to the brim with all sorts of things that we never wore or used. Altogether it was a 2 month holiday but we spent 3 or 4 days travelling through Italy stopping at Florence and various other beauty spots and of course time travelling back. We caught a Moby Lines ferry at Livorno which was exciting as I had never been on one of these before. If you are taking a luxurious car be careful as the ferry guys pack the cars in like sardines with literally no spaces in between. It was manic loading, with everyone trying to get out of their trapped vehicles to go up on deck. Health and safety is never mentioned on this ferry line but I am sure things will change.

The journey takes about 4 - 5 hours and it is pleasant enough. There are the usual bars/cafes on board like any other ferry.

The exciting bit after being at sea for a length of time is when you are approaching Bastia which is one of the ports of arrival. It is one of the most beautiful towns in Corsica, steep sided alleys filled with bright coloured mediterranean styled houses. Gold topped churches, cafes where you can sit and relax and take in all the colour and smells.

From here we then travelled to our campsite in Ghisonaccia which as a town gets a lot of criticism from guide books but it is fine enough as a base. We camped with Eurocamp on the Marina d'Erba Rossa site which I have reviewed in another review.

Every day we travelled out of the town either up into the mountains or somewhere different on the coast. I will tell you more about places of interest in a while but first I will tell you a few interesting facts.

Corsican Location

It is in the western Mediterranean, approximately 160 kms south west of the French Riviera and 82 kms west of the coast of Tuscany. It is 14kms north of it's neighbouring island, Sardinia.

Climate.

Mediterranean. Summers can be very long, hot and dry, Highest temperature has been 43 degrees whilst we were there. Cold winters and generally snow. With high mountains the climate changes to Alpine.

Accomodation

Lots to choose from. Campsites, are very popular with German, French and Ialian tourists. They vary in size and price but Ghisonaccia is very popular as there are two large sites there including the one we stayed on.

Self catering Gites

Villas - some with pools and some without. Villa prices can be expensive.

Hotels range from family hotels which are probably classed as two star up to very flashy 4 star hotels. Not many B and B establishments but there are some auberges and chambre d'hotes which are very similar to a B and B.

Corsican Flag

The national flag is called The Testa di Moru. It is a black moor's head on a white background. The Moor's head has a white bandana tied around the head and it became the official emblem of independent Corsica in 1762. The bandana originally blindfloded the eyes of the Moor but it has since been changed so it appears raised to his forehead. It is viewed by many as a symbol of freedom from slavery.

These flags are everywhere on the island and I have always found it fascinating. There is something haunting about the design.

Language

The Corsican language is the Italo-Roman variety spoken now on the island. An ancient language of which very little is known was influenced by people coming from the different regions of Italy (Genova, Pisa, Tuscany and Sardinia) and of course France. Like in most places there is a northern and southern tongue. It is now widely taught and used by many musicians, songwriters and authors. I do own a copy of Corsican/English dictionary but as yet I haven't conquered the language!

I think that covers some interesting facts and now I will tell you about some of the attractions and beautiful towns. You really do need a car on the island - that's if you are not on a hiking holiday as it would be difficult to get around otherwise. The roads are very high and winding and some days it seems to take hours to actually get anywhere. Driving is a bit mad so have your wits about you.
So here is a selection of recommended places to visit.

Corte

This was the capital when Corsica was independent from France.
The town itself is quite small with one main street but it is magnificently wedged against a wall of moody mountains. It has a strong feeling of patriotism, strength and pride. In lots of ways it has a very French feel about it especially at lunchtimes when all the students from the university fill the cafes and bars. In Winter I should imagine it changes character and can be quite inhospitable.

Eating in Corte can be expensive if not at one of the pizzerias or creperies. Best advice is to shop around and go for somewhere that offers home cooking like La Paglia Orba. Vegetarian food is on offer here also as well as pizza.

The main fire station is just outside Corte and I mention this because when we were there one year there was a terrible forest fire and all fire engines, helicopters and planes took off from here. It was very dramatic and well organised. The island has a lot of serious fires because of the climate and all through the mountains at certain spots fire engines are situated on look outs.

Ajaccio

A relaxed town, attractive, filled with old streets and cafes. A wonderful bay. Napoleon was born here so there are lots of streets named after him. Ajaccio is more known internationally for nationalist violence although it very rarely affects tourism. It was here where Claude Erignac, was gunned down after leaving the opera. The town isn't as pretty as Bastia but very pleasant and worth a visit.

Porto Vecchio

Is situated 25km from Bonifacio on a hill overloooking a beautiful bay and harbour. Usually in Summer packed with Italian tourists who go for the spectacular beaches situated south, like Palombaggia. The town itself has a well preserved fortress, and lots of winding streets leading to the main Place de Republique. East of this is the new modern marina overlooking an expanse of salt pans and sea. The marina is lined with hotels, bars and cafes and in Summer is extremely busy.

Bonifacio

Wow! What a location this town has. My favourite place of all. It is Corsica's most southern point. Rising tenement buildings perched on top of limestone cliffs that have been sculptured over the years by the elements. As you sail away to Sardinia the town of Bonifacio looks as if it is dancing on the cliffs trying to escape from the sea. Seperated from the rest of the island by the dreaded maquis it has become detached and is definitely more Italian than French in its character and atmosphere. The language spoken here is slightly different also. With the town being so beautiful and attracting hoardes of tourists obviouly the prices are horrendously expensive. It is definitely worth a day trip as the old town is a beauty - go early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You can also take a boat trip to Sardinia.

There are lots of other places to go but it will take me hours to write about. perhaps I will write a part 2 review. Wherever you go Corsica has a natural beauty. It is wild and untamed yet some of the towns are very chic.

Driving to Cap Corse can be an interesting experience but if you suffer from travel sickness then I don't recommend it as some of the bends are very close to the cliff edge. I spent most of the journey with my eyes closed or so my son tells me. This is a fascinating part of theisland with great views, beautiful mountains, sheer drops into the sea, an abundance of wild flowers and bird life. it is a gem.

Summary

A destination you will never forget and one you will want to return to. Corsican people are very distinguished. Strong and proud. Their language is fascinating as well as their music and culture. Corsican food is okay although I wasn't over impressed. They have some reasonably good wines and very strong flavoured goat's cheese. The scenery in my opinion is beautiful, equal with Croatia - another favourite destination of mine. I thoroughly recommend a trip to this island.

Summary: A Very special and beautiful island.


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