What to see and do on the Island of Corsica
To do or not to do, that is the question…
For those of you who have been following along, this is Part 4 of the Corsican series.
Below you will find both a fantastic way for you to armchair surf your way around Corsica and its culture, and a fabulous (and quite thorough) resource to keep handy for when you plan your next trip to Corsica.
So with no further ado, here is my “short” list of “must do’s” and “must see’s” for the island of Corsica. Click on a link, or two, or twenty and explore all that Corsica has to offer…
Sunday Drive Ideas (or any day!)
Lazy days are perfect days for a scenic drive around the island…
- Drive the Calanques de Piana (Porto). There are over 600 kilometers of coast around the island, but not all is accessible by car. The Calangues de Piana is spectacular even just for a drive, in case you don’t happen to have a yacht handy. Be prepared for narrow winding roads and crowds.
- Drive the Strada Di l’Artigiani. Balagne’s Artisan Route N197 is a scenic drive that starts in Calvi and drives through mountain villages perched high above the ocean allowing for spectacular views. Stop frequently to discover local artisan works along the way. Visit Pigna if you only have time for one village.
- Drive one or all of the ten regions on the “Route des Sens Authentique“. An awesome way to discover products made on the island directly from the local producers themselves and taste your way around the island.
- Drive the fabulous Spelunca Gorge. The most spectacular part is actually even visible from the road, so you won’t have too many regrets not hiking the gorge.
- Drive the hilly region of Castagniccia with its traditional stone tiled roofs and chestnut trees. The Alesani Convent, and the church Saint-Pierre, Saint-Paul in Piedicroce, along with Notre-Dame-du Mont Carmel churches all have beautiful ornate interiors.
- Drive the mountainous road RN198 to the village of Zonza, and the Col de Saint Eustache and Vallée Chiuvone.
- Drive the Cap Corse (that thumb like extension), Corsica’s wildest coast, in a counter-clockwise direction for the most spectacular views (south in the morning along the west coast, and north on the east coast in the afternoon). Assuming you have plenty of time and are starting early, begin with a visit at the Pisan church of Saint Michel at Murato before continuing on your way… Make a stop at the village and beach at Nonza , the village at Morsaglia, Centuri Port, Machinaggio, and finally my favorite Erbalunga. Either finish the trip in Bastia or head back to St Florent over the gorgeous Col de Teghime (assuming you are still in the mood for a few more hairpin turns). Allow all day for the spectacular 40km journey.
The GR20 is Corsica’s most famous hiking trail, but there are tons of other choices…
- Hike the GR20, a challenging and technically demanding long distance hike, or just hike a portion of the route.
- Hike a waterfall such as Les Cascades des Anglais or Les Cascades de Purcaraccia
- Hike the fabulous Spelunca Gorge and the “Sentier de la Spilonca”.
- Hike the Restonica River and Tavignanu Valley – A challenging two-day hike on the GR20 across the valleys following the Restonica river from Monte Rotondo to Corte through a route of multiple dramatic gorges, waterfalls and five beautiful lakes including Lac de Melu and Lac de Capitellu. There are the shepherd huts of the Bergeries de Grotelle and Bergeries des Cappellaccie on the plateau of Alzu if a stop is needed.
- Hike the Calanques de Piana and Forêt (forest) Communale de Piana in the Golfe de Porto. The Calanques are spectacular, specifically try hiking the “Sentier muletier de Piana” which is the old mule path between Ota and Piana.
- Hike to one of the 80 Genoese Towers built to protect the island from attackers. The best towers are those of Nonza, Turghiu, Porto Oto, Girolata, Capitello, Campomoro, Mortella, Fautea, and Olmeto. Better yet, stay in one! The Tour Micalona can be rented by the week for you to enjoy all to yourself!
- Hike Monte Rotondo, the second highest peak in Corsica. This is a strenuous all day hike with magnificent views as the huge reward. From Corte drive RN193 direction Col de Vizzavona, at the bridge Pont du Vecchio take the little forest road Foret de Cervello to its end and the trailhead. You can also drive D623 to the end to pick up the trailhead to the mountain peak.
- Hike any of these fabulous itineraries from the “Corse Autrement” archives.
A Cornucopia Worthy of a visit
So much to visit and so little time, but variety is the spice of life so pick a few…
- Visit the city of Bastia for its authenticity and as the business hub of Corsica
- Visit the Oratoire de la Confrérie de Sainte Croix in Bastia
- Visit Ajaccio and the Maison Bonaparte for its historical Napoleon significance
- Visit any of several museums including the Fesch Museum in Ajaccio with its extensive collection of fine paintings, and the House of Pasquele di Paoli (head of Corsica’s only independent 18thC republic) in the Castagniccia. An exhaustive museum list can be found here, and here with added monuments.
- Visit Calvi with claims to being the birthplace of Christophe Columbus
- Visit Bonifacio and the never ending staircase “Escalier du Roi d’Aragon” that travels steeply down to the shore
- Visit Porto and its Genovese Tower
- Visit the quaint fishing village of Erbalunga
- Visit the megalithic statues at the atmospheric and haunting site of Filitosa
- Visit the mountain town of Corte and the Restonica River Valley
- Visit the beachside port town of Propriano
- Visit L’Alta Rocca in the Massif de l’Ospedale mountainous region. Don’t miss the village of Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano the Genoese bridge Spina Cavallu, the granite house village of Zonza, and the treacherous Aiguilles de Bavella.
- Visit Corsica the easy way by taking a ride on the “The Trinicellu” (little train). It is a rickety slow narrow gauge railway that travels one of the most scenic train routes in the world.
Beach and Water Fun
Corsica is a paradise for beach lovers and water rats everywhere…
- Get wet at the beach. Try Porto Vecchio with the famous Palombaggia Beach and Plage de Santa Giulia, the Désert des Agriates (think pristine white sandy beaches), the Plage de Lotu or Plage de Saleccia, the Plage de l’Ostriconi and the Plage de Malfalcu. Or, check out the “Best beach guide” and “Wonderful Magical Corsica” for more ideas.
- Get wet Canyoning. Known as “the sport of exploring a canyon” (try the Gorges de Fiumicelle). You will be engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping.
- Get wet Scuba diving. There are great spots all along the coast, but they are especially concentrated in the southern half of Corsica. For an amazing adventure, take the short ferry ride to the Lavezzi Islands.
- Get wet eating lunch. The small beach of Matahari outside of Calvi in Lumio is located in a quiet cove near the train tracks where the “Trinicellu” train passes. There is an excellent small restaurant where you can eat lunch with your toes in the sand or enjoy a romantic dinner under the stars. There’s plenty of parking, turn off the N197 and follow the road to the bottom crossing the railway line.
- Get wet in the river. The most well-known are the natural rock pools of Restonica Valley. From Corte take D623 Parc Naturel Régional de Corse and drive a hazardous 20 minutes to the rock pools.
- Equally worthwhile and less crowded are the rock pools in the Gorges du Tavignano. From the Citadel in Corte, signs indicate the path to the Passerelle de Rossolino footbridge 2 hours hike, and then the Refuge de la Sega for a total of 13km or 5 hours one way.
- You can also drive to the Bergeries de Grotelle about 16km on D623 and park there to follow the river and find those fabulous rock pools.
- The Solenzara River rock pools in the Bavella mountains has accessible canyons with clear blue rock pools. From Solenzara take the Col de Bavella direction and drive five minutes along the Solenzara River to get there.
- Lastly, the Manganello Valley has 15km of cascades, waterfalls and rock pools reachable by RN193 leading to a narrow little side road RD23 between Tattone and Vivario. The start of the trail to the rock pools is at the very end of this road in Canaglia.
- Check out “A Guide to Saleccia and Loto – Corsica’s Hidden Beaches” by fellow blogger Nadine from “Le Long Weekend’ for some off the road 4×4 beach fun!
Please your palate with the authentic foods of Corsica
Corsican cuisine is made of products grown and found on the island, with strong Italian influences…
“Corsican cuisine is as rugged as its landscape, and greatly influenced by the island’s many aggressors over the years.” – Colette Rossant
- Try some Charcuterie. The island is well-known for its artisanal charcuterie and salami. There is such high demand that much of the product is sold by the time summer comes around, so be sure about what you are buying by purchasing from a reputable source. In years past, it was customary for all the locals to hang their home-made salamis and dried meats right in their own basements, and the hooks used back then can still be seen in older homes.
- Try the Brocciu Cheese. Myths report the recipe came from an ogre living on the island… Serve with white wine, preferably from Corsica! Invite an ogre if you can find one.
- Try some fine wine from the Wine regions of Corsica. Corsica’s wines are mainly made from indigenous Corsican grape varieties that were not struck by the virus like those in France: Nielluccio, Sciaccarello and Vermentino. I particularly enjoyed the Muscat du Cap Corse which is a lightly sweet dessert wine.
- Try the Wild Boar Casserole (Civet de Sanglier). Similar to a Boeuf Bourgignon Stew, but with a little bit of a gamier taste. It’s a wild boar after all!
- Try Corsican Lamb Stew (Agneau). Stewed with potatoes, carrots, onion, and fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary) picked wild from the mountains.
- Try slurping down a Pietra beer. A local beer made from chestnuts in the past carried in from the mountains on the backs of donkeys. About 20 kilometers south of Bastia is the hilly region of Castagniccia, which takes its name from the chestnut trees that grow abundantly here. The traditional stone-roofed houses all have chestnut-drying rooms in the attic as the perfect cool, dry environment that is inaccessible to rodents and insects
- Try Fiadone (like a rustic crustless cheesecake), fried Figatellu Chesnut Beignets or Baked Chestnut Beignets drizzled with honey (there’s also a savory version made with goat cheese and mint) with that lovely Muscat wine.
Whew! Are you exhausted yet? That was quite the journey across Corsica… Let me know if I missed anything!
And just in case you are just joining us, make sure to catch up on your Girl Gone Gallic reading today! The previous posts in this series include “Wonderful Magical Corsica“, “Corsica’s Turbulent Past“, and “Picture Perfect Corsica“. Stay tuned for the final segment of this very complete series on Corsica which will describe absolutely everything you will ever need to know on how to get there, and where to stay in style on the magnificent island of Corsica.
-Girl Gone Gallic