“If you feel like working, sit down, it will soon pass.”
Corsica, a laid-back, sleepy island off the west coast of Italy. While for the last two hundred years or so it may well have been French, to me it has always been simply… Corsica… unique, beautiful, dramatic and largely unspoilt by the mass tourism that blights many other Mediterranean islands.
I have been visiting this magical island for over ten years. It’s the only place in the world that has ever tempted me to even think about leaving my homeland of England (although it hasn’t quite persuaded me as yet). Corsica was one of the first places I ever wrote about when I started my blog 3 years ago but for those of you not familiar with the island here’s a short overview of this very special place, nicknamed the Island of Beauty.
Corsica has over 600 miles of coastline, scattered with literally hundreds of sandy beaches, lapped by the clearest of seas, often with a backdrop of pines giving way to the maquis covered hillsides. The scenery is spectacular with the mountain peaks of the interior reaching up into the bluest of skies and dramatic red-hued cliffs plunging into electric blue water. Where else, other than Corsica, can you sit by a marina, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine in June, softened by a gentle sea breeze and sip a cool Pietra, the local chestnut beer, with a view to the still snow-capped mountains beyond.
In the height of summer the mountains are the perfect place to escape the heat and the busy resorts, the air cooling as you wind your way up narrow roads, clinging precariously to the cliff faces, with a seemingly never-ending number of hairpin bends. Driving here is not for the faint hearted.
Public transport in Corsica is almost non-existent. It was while discussing the reliability of the local bus service, just last week, in Porto Vecchio that I heard the local phrase “If you feel like working, sit down, it will soon pass.” Come to think of it, I can’t remember ever seeing a bus – tourist filled coaches, yes, public buses, no – although I’m told they do exist!
There is, however, a fabulous, train service that runs from Ajaccio in the west, inland and north to the hilltop town of Corte and on to Ponte Leccia. To clarify, I don’t mean fabulous as in ‘runs on times’ and has ‘all the mod cons’ – it’s a rickety little train, known as ‘the bone shaker’ but must rank among the most scenic train journeys in the world. From Ponte Leccia you can travel north-east to the busy coastal town of Bastia or west to the seaside towns of L’Ile Rousse and Calvi. The views along the coast and up into the mountains are stunning. The loveliest are said to be on the journey inland from Ajaccio to Bocognano, where the train passes by the Bride’s Veil, one of the island’s many beautiful waterfalls.
With the end of the summer season the tourist industry, on which the island is so heavily reliant, begins to shut down. However, while smaller towns and villages seem deserted the larger towns are still busy and you can enjoy skiing in the mountains and walking along the sandy beaches all on the same day.
Come spring, the whole of Corsica reawakens. The meadows are ablaze with flowers, the hillsides are lush and green. Restaurants that had shut in late September reopen. Villages and towns welcome the new flock of visitors. The tourist towns, such as of Bonifacio, Calvi and L’Ile Rousse, are once again softly buzzing and the marina’s are full of luxury yachts.
Spring is my favourite time to visit but whatever the season, if you find yourself in Corsica, look out for any one of the many colourful festivals held throughout the year, religious as well as secular, celebrating everything from the town’s Saint’s day to Jazz, local wines or even the wind.
Last week I swam in Corsica’s crystal clear waters, ate many a delicious meal, explored pretty hill-top villages and met some very warm and welcoming people. And I’m looking forward to telling you all about it.