Wonderful Magical Corsica

Corsica is a magical place…

Corsica is uniquely beautiful, dramatic, and largely unspoiled by the masses. There is something so very special about this island tied to France, and is in my opinion one of the most special destinations in the Mediterranean.

From the sapphire blue sea to the highest mountain, the landscape is rich and varied. The people are fiercely independent and proud.   This is not your typical French experience; even the government understands this and gives Corsica a little extra leeway. Corsica is as authentic and unpretentious as it gets.

travel corsicaThere is so much to share about this amazing place, I am going to create a short series on Corsica, with my recent experiences, a photo gallery to get you seriously motivated to visit, a listing of the top things to do and see, and finally the practical travel stuff to help you plan your own trip (and now is the perfect time to travel Corsica!).Here is part one of the journey, enjoy!

The people (Les Corses)

Listen to this clip “Corsica” as interpreted by Corsican native “Patrick Fiori” sung in perfect duo with megastar Patrick Bruel and you will immediately get a flavor for the indigenous people of Corsica. It is an adaptation of the song composed by “Petru Guelfucci”.  The song was filmed in the village of Carcheto-Brustico, in the heart of the magnificent Orezza Valley.  The song relays the emotional story of two brothers consecrated with the difficult task of raising and protecting their deceased brother’s daughter.


Corsicans are a proud and fierce people. They have to be considering everything they have been through – such a beauty of an island has always been desirable and fought over throughout the ages.

The terrain is as tough as its people – rocky and craggy. Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaCorsicans have survived the pest (leaving two-thirds of their population underground), the world wars (with significantly more lives lost in comparison to the mainland), and fires burning much of their land. Their quest for independence (the national liberation of Corsica) has created tensions and political unrest between the nationalist and those that supported the mainland.Travel Corsica - Travel Tips Corsica - Patrick Fiori Corsica

They have emerged intact but hardened with plenty of attitude and distrust towards strangers and those outside their clan. Blood feuds were very common in the 1800’s in the primitive feudal community that it was, taking 4200 lives through family vendettas between 1821 and 1852 (or about 5% of the population).

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaBlood feuds are not completely a thing of the past in Corsica. Families continue conflicts started long ago, just with a little less of the blood part. Mysterious bombings and fires are not uncommon as a way to settle disagreements. Occasionally you will see burned cars on the side of the road, so be careful about upsetting anyone while you are vacationing there! I came across a few burned cars in my travels, and a spectacularly burned truck full of merchandise. Thankfully no one was hurt, as is usually the case.

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaCorsicans are very much attached to their land, and foreigners trying to purchase homes and settle in Corsica will often receive polite notices to leave their homes or they will burn it to the ground. My uncle who inherited land from his Corsican grandmother was never able to claim it as he was born and has always lived in mainland France. Each request to file his claim on the land magically disappeared with no trace…

Let’s not forget the Corsican mafia either, it is rumored to control the better part of the famous “Cours Mirabeau” stretch of restaurants and shops in Aix-en-Provence. From what I have heard, owners must pay up or have their restaurants put in jeopardy. The “Pasino” also in Aix was the stage for a full machine gun episode a few years back for which the hearsay is the Corsican mafia is to blame.

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaCorsica has strong Italian roots, not surprisingly since it is closer to Italy than it is to France. The dialect is a spin-off of Genovenean, called “Corsu”.  Corsu was THE language in Corsica until 1859, alongside Italian. Although the island was acquired by France back in 1768, French only became the primary language gradually over time and establishing itself permanently after the World Wars. Today, very few Corsicans still speak Corsu, it is primarily only the older generations found in tiny villages in the back country. Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaYou can easily recognize place names in Corsican > they often end in “U”, whereas for example Italian place names often end in “I”. For translations from French to Corsu, visit www.parlamicorsu.com.

Of the over 300,000 people who inhabit the island today, only half have a rudimentary knowledge of Corsu, and just 10% still speaking the language fluently as a first language.  The one and only exception to this is the Corsican mafia, who still prefer to converse in Corfu for obvious reasons.

Working in Corsica

I have a few clients in Corsica (La Corse), so I am lucky enough have an excuse to go over there from time to time, which of course I never let pass. Working in Corsica is a little different from mainland France , the people are very friendly and agreeable – but the follow through isn’t always the best. I think they just want to be agreeable and not disappoint you directly to your face, so it’s hard to know what is going to stick and what isn’t. They also prefer to work with locals rather than outsiders which definitely leaves me out, similar to what I experience when working in Monaco.  Not the easiest place to do business!

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips Corsica

Sand on my arms, salt in my hair, the sea at my feet….

However, any difficulties in working there are quickly surmised by the surroundings. The undeniable beauty of the environment and the accessibility to beaches and mountain springs always quickly make me forget any disappointments that I may have had in my business dealings.

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaIn fact, don’t tell anyone, but I always wear my bikini bottoms under my business suit so that at lunch time it’s a quick change for a dip into the clear waters. Actually, if you look very very closely as I try to be quite careful, you will likely see a grain or two of sand peeking out from underneath my business attire… or perhaps a glistening of dried salt deposited across my forehead.

Landscapes

Corsica is a land of contrasts, and one of the highlights is being able to hop from sea to mountain at will. Where else but in Corsica can you go from ocean to mountain top in just 30 minutes??? The island itself when seen from above looks much like a left foot with the bid toe protruding out (the rugged 25 mile long “big toe” part is known as the “Cap Corse”, with the city of Bastia at its base).

The many faces (or toes) of Corsica…

…I really need to find time to paint my toenails.

The west coast is the more wild of the island, the eastern coast flat with long stretches of beach. Scuba diving is awesome anywhere on the island, but particularly spectacular in the southern half. Most divers revel in the diving possibilities around the marine reserves: The Cericales Islands, the Lavezzi Islands, the archipelago of Finocchiarolo, and Scandola.

Beaches

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaFor all you sun-seekers out there, the beaches are the obvious first places to explore. Corsica has over 600 miles of coastlines, with hundreds of beaches hidden throughout. Clear blue skies, transparent water, dramatic cliffs…it’s hard to go wrong. You can pick up the multi-language guidebook “Guide des plus belles plages de Corse” by Marie-Hélène Ferrari on Amazon as a helpful beach finding tool if you like, or try the website PlagesTV or Corsica Experience.  If all else fails, here is a short list of my favorites:

Mountains

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaOnce you tire of the beaches (and it might take a while), Corsican mountains are a perfect way to escape the heat and the invading tourists of the summer months. The scenery is spectacular, the air is cooler, the crystal waters of the rivers invigorating and the pine forest scents the air you breathe. One of the particularities is the tiered rock pools in the Spelunca Gorge which are one of the top “must do’s” of the island. The spectacular Cascade de Piscia di Gallo waterfall is also another site not to be missed.  Believe it or not, the highest mountain peaks (Monte Cinto is 2710 meters) are still covered in snow in the summer months.  If you like getting off the beaten track, it’s in the remote mountain villages that you will get a better sense of Corsican culture.

Travel Corsica - Travel Tips CorsicaTo get there, you are going to have to be brave, very very brave…

Why, you ask ?  Well to start with, there are the narrow winding roads and hairpin turns off precarious cliffs. Then, there are the random napping wild cows that you might encounter in the middle of the road. There is also the complete lack of signage in some of the furthest corners of the island (is this is on purpose ???). I got pretty lost once but figured it is an island after all, and eventually I hit ocean. Finally, there are the locals. Remember, Corsica has close Italian ties and if you have ever driven in Italy you will know exactly what I mean. Give wide berth to any cars with Corsican driver’s license plates… Driving here is not for the faint hearted.

From Virtual to Reality

So start planning your trip today to travel Corsica, and let yourself be dazzled by the rocky coasts, beautiful bays, hidden coves, plunging cliffs, jaw dropping gorgeous beaches, and the hundreds of miles of magical Corsican coastline.

As always, feel free to reach out if you need any advice!

Happy Travels,
-Girl Gone Gallic

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  15 comments for “Wonderful Magical Corsica

  1. operalphotography
    January 4, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Hello ! Thanks you for this article, it is very helpful 🙂
    I also went in Corsica last summer. Marianne

    • January 7, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Marianne, I also really love Corsica (way better than Sicily i my opinion).

  2. Ruth
    June 10, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Wow! Great insight into Corsica. I tend to like this out of beaten path, unique places. I know I would love Corsica. I found very interesting the parts where you discussed the mafia activities. My husband is from Central America nd certain criminal groups operate in a similar way.

    • June 12, 2016 at 11:23 am

      You would definitely love Corsica! I think there are still many cultures where the mafia activities are still rampant, but it’s still surprising and rarely discussed. It would be very interesting to compare Central America and Corsica!

  3. Diane Oui In France
    June 3, 2016 at 4:47 am

    Ahhh the memories! Loved this post and it reminded me of my family’s trip there last year. Insanely beautiful. Would go back in a heartbeat! #allaboutfrance

  4. June 2, 2016 at 3:43 am

    Oh this has made me want to go back to Corsica again. I’ve only been once which seems absurd considering ferries leave from just down the road in Nice all the time, but the thing is there are just so many beautiful places on this planet and not enough time (and money) to get to them all as often as I’d like! Thanks for inspiring me to go back again (love that you have your bikini on at the ready!) Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

  5. June 2, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Looks stunning! Definitely on the visit list. Think we can get flights direct from Limoges too… #AllAboutFrance

    • June 2, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Well worth it! I will be following up with some travel tips in another post, so stay tuned!

  6. June 2, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Sounds wonderful! The beaches look sandy and relaxed and not too busy and I love you are beach ready in between meetings. I imagine the food is amazing too – does the cuisine have a french or italian influence or is it a magical mix of both?

    • June 2, 2016 at 9:56 am

      I would give it more of an Italian influence, lots of chacuterie. I’ve got another blog post coming up that talks a bit about the cuisine and what to look for… Girl Gone Gallic, always at the ready!

  7. June 2, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Really glad to have found your blog via the #AllAboutFrance linky. I’m a Corsica nut and, although we’ve lived in SW France for nearly 20 years, we have been to Corsica 6 times! As you say, a lot of people think Corsica belongs to Italy and it seems to get bypassed by tourists. We love it. As well as being a fabulous and scenic destination, it also has a fascinating history and culture, which I see you talk more about in your other post. I love Corsican polyphonic chanting and we have been to some fantastic and really atmospheric concerts on Corsica. We are mountain rather than sea people and love the walking there – although the GR20 is beyond us! Look forward to reading more about Corsica – and other places – here.

  8. June 1, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Lucky you, being in Corsica. I love the proximity of the mountains and the sea, and the way you can go hiking for a day and then dash down to the sea for a swim. I wish I’d read your 2 posts before I went – the history is fascinating (I couldn’t leave a comment on the other post, for some reason) and I understand why the Corsicans must be furious about ‘Asterix en Corse’. Did you listen to any Corsican music or were you too busy with your clients?

    • June 2, 2016 at 12:00 am

      It’s surprising more people do not visit Corsica, and some even do not realize it’s a part of France! I admit to frequently dashing off to the sea between meetings – so hard to resist (and I have zero self discipline). I did listen to some music on the radio, but mostly I just enjoyed the crashing of the waves… I was adding a Pinterest button, perhaps that’s why you could not leave a comment. Should be fine now!

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