Genovese bridges inherited their name from the time Genoa ruled over Corsica (although some date back to Pisan times), and decided to develop local infrastructure between the villages and improve commercial routes and enhance communications. These are tiny bridges, in general, no vehicles could use them, only walkers and animals; the donkey and horse were the normal transportation mean at that time, no carts on the steep slopes of Corsica! Some of these bridges have a historical importance (Ponte Novo, where a big battle for independence, still commemorated, took place), others are the only way through a valley. . . . but all, despite more or less ruined are beautiful or moving architectural pieces in the wild valleys of high Corsica. Unknown Genovese architects or masons left something beautiful here.
You can discover some of these bridges on the side of a main road, high up on a walking trail, and some are even visible from the train.
Discovering a Genovese bridge when walking on a precipitous trail is something very enjoyable, and having a rest there, even more. . . The Muricciolu bridge, spanning over the small Viru creek (picture 1) can easily been reached west from Albertacce (half an hour), on the Mare a Mare trail.
Ponte Altu (picture 2), over the Golo River is next to a modern bridge, on the scenic D84 road crossing Corsica from Corte to Porto, South of Albertacce
Also spanning over the Golo, is the Ponte de Fontanella (picture 3), ruined, but still passable over the three arches, East of the Calacuccia dam; the bridges are not very high and generally deep in the gorges like this one.
The Muricciolu bridge is quite well preserved and nearby is an old water mill (picture 4); the stream here is quite powerful, and having a rest on the banks, listening to the water, in the shade of the young leaves of the trees makes the coming walk easier. . .
I must admit I like the streams and I am full of admiration for the people who built these bridges, fitting so well in the landscape (picture 5).
Niolu is the name of upper Golo valley region, East and South of Monte Cinto where small villages spot the slopes of the hills on the sides of the valleys.
Niolu is a special place in the heart of Corsican, where resistance against the “foreign” power (Genoa, then France) has always been (and in some way still is) alive and strong; people here love their freedom and independence, this does not mean at all they do not like foreigners, as they are here also very welcoming.
Niolu is best seen from above, like coming from Bocca a l’Arinella pass; you see the villages spotted in the valley and the summits hidden by the clouds; on picture 1, you can see Casamaccioli, on the left, before the Lake of Calacuccia, and behind is Albertacce; in the far is Calasima, the highest village of Corsica; imagine the place before sealed roads have been built. Calacuccia, Locci and Aquale on picture 2, still under the clouds. These are not always “picturesque” postcard villages, but they look nice from above (Pietra Zitamboli on picture 3). I like to see villages from the cliffs (picture 4). The high valleys are the place where the Corsican resistance was strong in the 18th century when Corsica was sold to France by the Genovese, and if the resistant were chased in the villages, they could hide in the higher parts of the valleys and even in the clouds near the summits (picture 5).
At a turn of the Erco trail, when getting over a pass, when having a new landscape in front of us, we like to see an old barn, a solitary tree, to surprise some animal. . . . . . Here, on the way to Erco, I was expecting to discover a small ruined chapel (as my map indicated), and when I walked over a ridge I had to look for some time before discovering the chapel, which was really ruined; only the foundations are left, very low stone walls, renovated walls.
Santa Lisa Chapel, was probably a small hermitage, a retreat place erected in the 14th century; I did not find information about that place, who lived there, what did people did here, but sometimes it is not bad to be ignorant so we are free to imagine about the place, built personal stories (monks retreating here? A mystic lady named Lisa who wanted to live far from the cities? An ex-voto? Whatever. . . ), and travel in time, imagine how we could have lived here in the past, . . etc. . Today few stones, a rest place before resuming the walk up to Erco. . .
One of the reasons which makes us walking in the mountains is the scenery, the wide open view when we reach the divides or summits. Corsica is a beautiful mountain, and the scenery is beautiful from everywhere, on the passes, from lower hills, from the ridges, the summits are never far and in spring, the summits still covered with snow make so beautiful skylines. A few pictures here.
The GR 20 trail passes not far from the Cinto (Monte Cinto, to write it correctly), the highest point of Corsica (2706m); as there was a lot of snow on the GR 20 trail, we visited him, coming from the East, walking up the trail to the Erco hut, starting from Calacuccia. At the hut, you are still 900 m below the summit, but without snow, the walk up is not that difficult, according to my topoguide.
We stopped at Erco, and enjoyed beautiful views up the Erco valley. The walk to Erco takes about 2-3 hours (one way), and the trip is just beautiful in the meadows spotted with crocus, over the stone fields, passing by an old chapel (other tip), bathed by the wind on the ridges, rocked by the music of the small waterfalls and streams.
A few pictures of Cinto, on the way up to Erco; no sun that day:(
The Ercu trail which takes you to the Ercu hut at the feet of the Monte Cinto starts in the small village of Lozzi, next to the camping grounds located North of the village. There are no signs on the trail, but it is very obvious on the stone fields and meadows. It mostly follows a ridge you reach after a not so steep walk, and there, the beautiful views begin! You can look north to Capu Verdatu (picture 1), or west and see the skyline of Cinque Frati (the five brothers) and Monte Albanu (picture 2). Sometimes some “kings of mountains” come gliding not far from you; here a red kite ( picture 3)
If you look south from the ridge, you have a wide view over the Calacuccia Lake and in the background, the Punta Arica covered by snow (picture 4); just back of the lake you can see the trail we walked down two days before, coming from the Sega hut, on the other side. And here (îcture 5) is where you are heading to; Monte Cinto, the highest peak of Corsica.
Mountains have always been places of freedom, places where people have a hard, but rewarding life, where they never are “tamed” totally by whatever authority! May be they take example from the early inhabitants who glide so easily from peak to valley and back to the peaks, I mean the big birds which, with the clouds and the summit lines make the skies of mountains so beautiful. Sitting on a ridge or pass, looking at the birds, we have a feeling of freedom (and jealousy, too, as we cannot fly).
There are still a few dozens of bearded vultures (Lanmergeier, Gypaetus barbatus) cruising in the sky of Corsica and watching tem ascending in vertical air currents is to me a wonder of nature.
The common Raven (Corvus corax) (pictures 2 and 3), is not that common on the French continent, considered for centuries as a bird of ill omen; chased and killed in the cities and countryside it found refuge in the high mountains. This beautiful bird has a wingspan of 120 cm and is a formidable glider, which can even make looping or somersaults in thin air! I love to watch him from above.
The red kite (pictures 4 and 5) (Milvus milvus) can be spotted too on the highest parts of Corsica, and again, watching a big bird gliding in the sky brings some peace to the mountain visitor and makes him dream. . . . .
Tip: watch were you put your feet when you walk, but stop sometimes and look at the sky. . :)
No flowers on the meadows? Not exactly, there are places covered with the tiny beautiful Crocus! From far, like a light coloured veil (picture 2), they cover the winter grass, telling spring will soon be there!
The pollen falling from the blood red anthers spots nicely the light blue petals, and from near the flowers are beautiful (other pictures), but these are not saffron crocus; it would have been so nice to gather some pollen here and take it back to the kitchen! Real spices from the mountains!
It was just a bit early, end April to see the meadows covered with the spring flowers; not only the meadows, the woods also offer flowers, and here (picture 1) the wild cyclamen spot the underbrush with their colours.
If you are an adept of “Natural medicine”, you will be happy to find Christroses (Hellebores) which have no bright colours, but they are said to be very efficient against epilepsy and madness! I do not have a recipe (and don’t need thanks God!), and I only look at them, blooming on the cold windy slopes (picture 2), and if they have only green colours, the dewdrops give them some character (picture 3).
The Asphodele is rather common on the lower slopes, and their high inflorescences are just what the shrines need for their décor (see small shrines tip).
You also can walk flowered shrubs of the lavender family; they are not as odoriferous as lavender, but make nice colour spots in the woods (picture 4).
The coloured spots of the cyclamen in the moss covered rocks (picture 5) are however the nice things which give enchantment to the trails in the woods.
The EEC tax payers may not be aware, but they contribute a lot to the subsidies to the Corsican cattle farmers. . . specially the milk farmers. . . . The cows of Corsica do not give a lot of milk (there are however wonderful cheeses), they mostly roam on the mountains, and if they are declared as “milk cattle” it is only to get EEC subsidies. . nothing to do with the Holstein cattle giving tons of milk a year! Well, in Corsica, they are clever enough to get money with their almost wild cows! But they are so beautiful, look at picture 2, how well combed they are!
Don’t tell me they are milk cows! (picture 3) Nobody milks them!
The curious young calves, running freely in the villages are still marked at their ears, but when getting older, running in the mountains, they loose the marks (picture 1).
Others live wild in the forests (picture 5), or just escape to the people in charge of marking and counting (subsidies!) them. Well, lots of cattle is half wild, but they are peaceful, and you can walk safely in the forests or meadows!
When you leave the Sega hut, heading for Calacuccia, on the “Mare a Mare” trail, you will cross the Pascio Ridge at Bocca a l’Arinella, the Fine Sand Pass, after a 400 m easy climb, walking first under the shade of a pine forest and then on open grass slopes. From the pass, you will have your first view on the Golo Valley and to the highest peak of Corsica, Monte Cinto, if the clouds do not cap it, as it was the case when I arrived there (picture 1); on the way up through the forest, at some turns of the trail, you can look south on the Monte Retondo (picture 2), famous for the glacial lakes spotted around, and on the open meadows, before reaching the pass you can enjoy beautiful views on the “Capu di Facciatu”, still covered with snow (picture 3).
When you begin the descent to the Golo Valley and the Calacuccia Lake, enjoy the view over the Niolu villages (picture 4).
You may of course have rest at the sheep barn (in fact here it is a cattle barn, but it is called “bergerie”) of Boniacce, where you can refill your water bottles and make a prayer to St Antonius of Padua (picture 5); there are lots of those shrines on the trails and near isolated houses or barns in Corsica.
In May, the snow is still melting in the mountains, and walking up a valley is not always easy when you have to cross side rivers or brooks. In summer there is certainly no problem crossing any small to medium sized river, but in spring you must be careful, or ready to get your feet wet, or make some sporty exercise, with your back pack.
There are easy crossings, just some sense of balance is needed when jumping from one stone to the other (beware, water is about 4 degrees C. warm!) (picture 1).
In gorges, you sometimes have to change from one river side to the other, but in Tavignano, there is a modern bridge to help with this exercise (picture 2)
Sometimes, the river is quite impetuous, and you can try to find a narrow area where you first throw your stuff across, and then jump the 2.5-3 m wide roaring waters (picture 3). When you are high in the mountains, the brooks are small, and they are easy (picture 4), just be careful with the wet slippery rocks on the banks.
But of course, the Corsican, since ages cross rivers like on most parts of the planet, and they built bridges, and this is the most easy and efficient way to cross a river; this “Genovese Bridge” (picture 5), about 500 years old, despite being in bad shape still does it duty for the walkers, on the Golo river near Calacuccia.
Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii var. Corsicana is the endemic pine tree of Corsica, but if you are not a botanist, you will, like me, only notice it is a pine tree, not very different of the ones you see in the forests of the mainland. The trails under the trees are very picturesque with the stems covered by the big bark plates (picture 1).
This tree, a subspecies of the Black Pine, endemic to Corsica, is an emblematic tree, very resistant to drought, grows between 1000 and 1800 m elevation, has a relatively good wood quality and is very adaptive, as it is introduced in many areas of the mainland of southern France. Not only is it the most widespread tree species in Corsica, the wood is used from raw timber to furniture, but it is home to a very specific ecosystem, with endemic birds, flowers or insects. According to the French Forests administration (ONF), the ecosystem is not endangered, but that does not mean the hikers and trekkers can just throw away a match after lighting a cigarette, specially in summer, as this resinous tree can burn very easily, and there are lots of forest fires in Corsica. . . .
Corsica is well known for its beaches, the sunny weather on the coast, but I enjoy much more the mountains, the thin air of the summits and the changing skies there. When you walk the trails in early spring you may enjoy the changing shapes and colours of the sky, the clouds forming in the valleys or capping the summits; there is a serene atmosphere, some reason to have a rest, look and dream. . . . The pine trees, the cliffs and the mist suggest in some way we are here at the beginning of the world (picture 1). . . What is this kite looking for, under the clouds? (picture 2); the summits are playing hide-and-go (picture 3), when you are far, and keep playing when you get closer (picture 4). . . . . and sometimes, just keep hidden but let see the valleys underneath (picture 5). I just like this!
People of Corsica are very pious, specially those who live and work in the mountains; you certainly will not miss the many shrines along the trails, dedicated to local or universal saints; some of these shrines are “anonymous” , very modest almost hidden in the Asphodels (picture 1), others have names and ex-votos (picture 2) for the protection these saints gave to some shepherd or traveller; a very popular saint in Corsica is St Anton of Padua, and you find him protecting sheep barns (picture4) on high passes, keeping holy spring water along some small trail, hidden in the woods (picture 3), and even at the fringes of small villages (picture 5). You are never alone on the trails of Corsica, high in the mountains, between the villages in the valleys, there always will be a saint protecting you. . . or are they protecting the guerrillas and smugglers who still (according to local folklore) use these paths, far from the view of the French gendarmes. . . :).
Fantastic views from every direction, lovely staff, pure relaxation in a beautiful settingmore
Route de San Martino, Pietranera, Corsica, 20200, France
Good for: Couples
Lieu dit Cavallo Morto, Chemin de Finocchio, Bonifacio, 20169, France
Good for: Families