Sartène, located on the west coast, between Propriano and Bonifacio, is simply lovely! It is perched up on a hill, and consists of numerous old stone houses. It has about 3000 inhabitants. An interesting fact is, that in the 19th century Sartène was also very (in)famous for vendetta :). There is the church Église Sainte Marie on Place Porta to visit. Another nice building is the Hotel de ville right next to the church. From Place Porta, an archway leads you to the oldest quarter of Sartène. The town has also an interesting cemetary - in Corsica cemeteries don`t have simple graves, but little houses in which the people are buried. According to some corsican novelist, Sartène is the most corsican of all corsican towns. They produce very good wine in that area as well!
Travel Corsica the old-fashioned way!
"U trinighellu" (lit.: the trembler) is it called, the little train connecting Bastia and Ajaccio (via Corte) and Calvi. It has only 110 seats. I went on a scenic railway from Bastia to Ajaccio, which lasted four hours. Mostly standing, as I wanted to enjoy the views! You come through lovely landscape, the mountains, and remote villages. Sometimes you wonder how the little trembler can manage to go to such an altitude :). Apart from the regular stops there are some optional as well, I think you have to tell the driver in advance to stop there. One way from Bastia to Ajaccio costs about 23 EUR.
Bonifacio is in the south of Corsica - you can see the italian island of Sardegna from there. It is a very picturesque town, perched on the cliffs. Bonifacio is divided into the "haute-ville" where you find the old town, and the marina. There is a nice church - Église Sainte Marie Majeur in the city centre. Right in front of it you find the italian loggia. Furthermore, there is a house where emperor Charles V and another one where Napoleon I had passed several days, but you cannot visit any of them. Do not miss to visit the Escalier du Roi d`Aragon when you happen to be in Bonifacio! Entrance fee is EUR 2,50. I was slightly worried when I saw a sign at the entrance, that persons with cardiac problems or pregnant women should not go down the stairs. And indeed, going up the 187 steps of that stair is very hard! Legend has it, that those stairs were carved in one single night by the troops of Kind d´Aragon. You can walk right along the rock, and at the end of the path you`ll find a cave.
Another nice walk along the cliffs goes to the Pertusatu lighthouse. Here again you can enjoy perfect views of Bonifacio and Sardegna.
Of course it is no secret that Bonifacio is so beautiful, so plenty of turism there! Accomodation is high priced, be prepared to pay 250 EUR for a room in an ugly 3 star hotel in high season!
A magical place - Iles Sanguinaires
Iles Sanuinaires are located very close to Ajaccio. Sanguinaire means bloody, because in sunlight you can see the rocks shining in red colour. You can reach them by boat. For example the company "Nave Va" offers those boat trips. They have a stand in Ajaccio city centre where you can get information on that and buy tickets. When I was in Ajaccio weather wasn`t that good, so I didn`t do the boat trip, but took the bus no 5 from the city centre - direction "Parata tennis". From the bus stop it is just a short walk to a hill with a genoese tower on it. By the way, you can find about 60 of those genoese watchtowers on the island. You can hike around this hill and enjoy perfect views of the islands. In case you like birdwatching bring your binocular, numerous sea birds nest in splendid isolation there on the islands! The rough landscape, the stormy sea, and those islands - it was a truly magical scenery! It felt more like being in Scotland or Ireland than in the mediterranean though :). The hiking path is easy, actually I could do it in flip flops!
Porto Pollo - pleasant beach village
Porto Pollo is located at the Golfe du Valinco, close to Propriano. There is a lovely landscape around it. It is tiny, there are just a few houses, small hotels and bed and breakfasts and hardly any shops. The beach is not especially long, but nice and clean. The sea is pretty calm there and it is not as windy as elsewhere in Corsica, so it is also great if you come with your little ones! If you place yourself in front of the beach restaurant you can also enjoy some corsican folk music while sunbathing :). There is a diving school.
Hiking at les Calanches de Piana
Lots of hiking trails exist to discover the beauty of the Calanches. Most start at the north exit of Piana. However, the most spectacular starts a few kilometres further north (past the narrow and most spectacular part of the road) in a large hairpin bend, named after a large rock, la tête du chien, that resembles a dog’s head. The trail starts to the right of this rock and leads via a number of nice views to a fantastic viewpoint with views on the Calanches, the gulf of Porto and ultimately on the “Chateau Fort”, a somewhat freestanding rock (not in the sea) that “resembles” a fortified castle. It takes you about 45 minutes altogether to get there and back + the time to enjoy the scenery.
Seeking Napoleon`s traces in Ajaccio :)
Napoleon Bonaparte, Corsica`s most famous son, was born in Ajaccio on August 15th 1769. Actually Napoleon had been living permanently in Ajaccio only till he was 9 years old, then his family received a bursery, so that they could send Napoleon and his brother to mainland France to be educated there. The house in which Napoleon was born, and which was rebuilt by his mother ("Madame Mère", Letizia Bonaparte) now hosts a small museum, and is open for visitors. Entrance fee is 5 EUR. You can see old paintings and drawings showing Napoleon and the family Bonaparte there, learn about Bonaparte`s family history, see nice old furniture and dresses. The house itself is lovely, you should not miss it. Right now there is an exhibition about draperies on last floor. Descriptions are in French only.
Very close to Maison Bonaparte you`ll find the Cathédrale de Sainte Marie. In this venetian style cathedral, you can still see the baptistery, in which a mini Napoleon was baptized :). When entering the church, the font is just to your right!
Les Calanches de Piana
The westcoast just north of the village of Piana is absolutely spectacular. In this area the rocky coast consists of all kinds of shades of red and orange. Piana itself is of little interest but the coastal road leading north to Porto provides an enormous amount of great views, especially the first few kilometres. Be aware of the fact that the road is very narrow and winding and crowded with cars and buses. Fortunately there are lots of passing places / small parking lots.
U Nebbiu - The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Visit the fine cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (1140), by St. Florent/San Fiurenzu. It was erected on the ruins of an older Roman church, which was once (in the Roman Empire) a temple for Jupiter. It now sits the middle of a field (!!), as the centre of the town moved west! Get the key from the tourist office. It’s a lovely warmish limestone structure with three naves, external decoration of writhing serpents, oriental lions, and other creatures. The interior is simple and elegant with more decorations.
The first bishop of Nebium, Florent, was exiled to Corsica the Vandal King Huneric like any other non Arian Bishop. In the middle ages Treviso got his bones, and finally in 1770 the Bishop of Nebbiu thought there were not enough bones in the Cathedral closet… He persuaded the pope to dig out some dusty bones, which he quickly dressed up as a Roman soldier to be baptized as St.Flor to fit the name of the down, he sits in a nice little glass casket by the door. Every third year, on Pentecost Monday (next in 2006) his relics are taken down to town in a procession. When the bishopric of the Nebbiu was suppressed in 1790 a funny old custom disappeared, our Bishop held a title of a count, wore a sword, and, wait for this … say Mass with two pistols on the altar!!Related to:
- Historical Travel
U Nebbiu - Oletta
Visit the handsome village of Oletta on the D82 between St. Florent and Bastia. It seems the village began its life up the hill in the abandoned hamlet of Romanacce (ask the locals) as a Roman fort. In the late middle ages people felt safe enough to build the village lower down the hills. It was the birth place of Abbe Saliceti nicknamed Peverino (little pepper), who tried in vain to liberate the city from the French in Paoli’s revolution, he and his compatriots were taken to the main square, their arms, legs, thighs and kidneys broken and torn, then raised on a wheel and left to die. Such was the brutality of the French in Corsica, now you know what they are held here with such ambivalence!
Visit the pretty 18th century of St. André, built on top of a 12 century Pisa church from which a primitive relief of the Creation in the façade is all that remains. It contains the miraculous triptych on wood of the the Virgin between John the Baptist and St Reparata (1534). It sat quietly in a house in Romanacce (keys from the mayor) where in 1734 its lady, while baking bread, heard a cry: “Marie, your baby is burning! Save him!” She burst out into the room where her baby slept to find that a log fell from the hearth and the cradle was surrounded by flames. She rescued the baby and noticed the Virgin depicted on the triptych was in tears, she tried to wipe them out, and until this day you can see her fingerprint.Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
U Nebbiu - Désert des Agriates
South of St. Florent is a 40km stretch of wilderness known as the Désert des Agriates. A beautiful rocky expanse of boulders & maquis overlooking amazing beaches and coves. A little history beforehand; It looks like a desert, but the word in fact comes from deserted, it was the breadbasket of Genoa until the 19th century, & “agriates” means cultivated plots, as it once was. Fires, intensive farming, and overgrazing caused erosion and the land became unfit for agriculture – a stark lesson in ecology. The Conservatoire du Littoral bought the entire 40km coastline & protected it, the longest stretch of protected shoreline in the Mediterranean; this means, unpaved roads, no camping, hunting or picking wild flowers.
Now this place is wonderful, there is a silky white sand Plage de Loto, & Saleccia, with a fantastic soft silvery sand blending gently into turquoise sea, decorated with Aleppo pines. A little shepherds stone hut (called pagliaghju in Corsican) serves as an information centre in summer. There are two ways to get to these beaches, by a long hike or by boat. Start your hike along the Sentier du Littoral, the old customs route, from St.Florent’s Plage de la Roya, 2 hours walk along the path until you get to the lovely & mighty 16th century Genoese Tour de Mortella. Its another hour to Loto, so rest and enjoy the place. From Loto, its 45 min to Saleccia, where is the only place you can camp. Otherwise continue for another 3 hours to the beautiful beaches of Malfalcu and Ghignu, the latter with a fresh water spring & a little gite d’etape where you can sleep. The third state is the hardest, about six hours walk to Plage de l’Ostriconi in the Anse de Peraiola. Get good maps (IGN 43480T & 4249OT), food, water, & sun protection, arrange to be picked up by car at Ostriconi.
If you don’t want to hike, take the Popeye boat from St.Florent in the morning to Plage de Loto, and walk to Saleccia from there. Don’t forget to come back by 4pm otherwise you will be sleeping on the beach.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Castagniccia - Mt. San Petrone
At 1767mt, Monte San Petrone, is the Castagnicciaýs highest peak, snowcapped from December to March. Visible from my homeýs window, itýs rewarding to watch the forest change colours from summer to autumn. First, the higher forest transforms into flame colours, and as if by magic, slowly the effect descends.
There is a humbe church on the mountain, S.Pietro dýAccia, that was once a ý cathedral! When Pisa and Genoa battled it out for control, the Pope decided to end the bickering by dividing the island into 2. The only problem was that there were 5 dioceses, so he invented a virtual one on the mt! hence the cathedral. Another reason for this ýingenious solutioný: every August & December the pagan heart of Corsica would lit a fire there to ward off evil spirits, visible from the Italian coast! Mama-mia!! The Pope was having none of this ýshinning beaconý stuff, hence the other reason. Each august 1, local villagers climb up to attend a special mass in the church.
Put on good hiking boots and climb from the Col de Prato. Then continue past the church, and go up the path sign posted ýMt. San Petroneý. It will take you at most 3 hrs till you get to the summit, the last 30 min are the most difficult climb (steep slope, but no equipment nec.), which otherwise is quite easy. Remember your path though (!), its signposted but easy to miss; two girlfriends of mine actually got lost on the way down (ahemm, they were blonds), and I had to drive to a bloody remote village for more than an hour to find them (that gave the locals a story to last for a few months, I can tell you!).
Once you're up on the top (I love double meanings), you'll be rewarded a wonderful view of northern Corsica, the Tuscan coast & its Islands, and if you are really lucky (climb early evening and sleep overnight to get best views early in the morning), you may see the Alps. You can sleep just below the summit in the rock crevices that protect you from the VERY cold winds, a tent wouldnýt do you any harm!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Mountain Climbing
- Arts and Culture
Castagniccia - Morosaglia area
Beautiful Morosaglia, is, in fact, a constellation of little hamlets. It sits below Mt. San Pedrone and holds a special significance for Corsicans, its the birthplace of Pasquale Paoli (1725), the enlightened "babu di patria" (father of the nation) of Corsica (will write about him sometime). You can visit his home which is a nice museum (although poorly explained, so read ahead), that includes many interesting stuff, including a map of the short lived "Anglo-Corsica" kingdom. Also in the village is excellent Le Chalet restaurant run by Bernard (see section).
Above the main village (further up the hill on the D71) is Rocca, which used to be the home of the wealthy aristocratic Castagniccian families. Have a stroll through this nearly abandoned village, feel free (with caution) to enter the deserted houses, some of them have lovely frescos.
Have a look at Sevasi, a lovely hamlet below the cementry of Morosaglia. Leave your car by the ruined romanesque church, and then descend down the village. Consider walking further down the path to the abandoned village on the other side of the little river. Wonderful place, and a great old Genoese bridge too!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Roads on Corsica
In general roads on Corsica are not bad, but since there are no motorways, it simply takes a lot of time to go from A to B. Especially if you got stuck behind a truck or campingcar. Because Corsica is mostly mountains and coastline it is hard to find more than a few hundred metres of straight road. Hairpins however are plenty. So be sure to take a lot of time to reach your destination. As a result, it is easiest to travel around to avoid driving back and forth to your hotel, house, camping, etc. every day. Two main roads are slightly quicker. One is the road along the eastcoast from Bastia south towards Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio in the extreme south (actually the only main road that we didn’t drive). The other is the road that crosses the island and connects Bastia via Corte with Ajaccio. Also Bastia – Calvi is slightly quicker.
The coastal road from Ajaccio via Piana and Porto to Calvi is absolutely stunning, but if you want to drive from Ajaccio to Calvi as quickly as possible, it is much faster to take the road via Corte (even though it is twice as long in distance).
Castagniccia - Carcheto - Nature & History
Carcheto is a lovely small village (20 people!) in the Orezza valley. There are two principal attractions here.
The lovely 18th century Baroque church, Sainte Marguerite, that has been decorated in frescos by locals towards the end of the 18th century. The Stations of the Cross depicts corsican women lamenting (lamenti) the dead Christ. Walk around the alter to look at the wood work carved out of chenut wood, as are the doors of the church.
The beautiful waterfall just outside the village is an easy 10 minutes walk from the cementry, below the church. Its a wonderful shady and refreshing spot in summer, and you could have a swim in its pool. There are further paths leading from it to a ruined Romanesque chapel, springs, and several villages.
A word of caution, if clouds are gathering and it looks like its about to rain, avoid at all costs swimming in the pool as the water levels can swell very quickly!
Piedicroce has a lovely Baroque church with the oldes organ in Corsica. Just next to it is the ruined Couvent d'Orezza. There are several restaurants and hotels, including lovely apartments for rental (ask for U Santu apartments).
Campana, has a nice church called Sant'Andre, that has a wonderful 17th century paiting of the Adoration of the Shepherds.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Hotel Fesch is in a really great location .... in an area of interesting shops, nice restaurants,...more
Av Sampiero Corso, sortie sud de Bastia - rn 193, Bastia, Corsica, 20600, France
Good for: Solo
Lieu dit Cavallo Morto, Chemin de Finocchio, Bonifacio, 20169, France
Good for: Families
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