Rural Corsica – France

Rural Corsica – France

Jutting out of the Med like an impregnable fortress, this French island is beloved for its beaches but also has saw tooth peaks, pretty valleys, dense forests and enigmatic villages.

Villages

SARTÈNE

SARTÈNE

With its grey granite houses, secretive dead-end alleys and sombre, introspective air, Sartene has long been said to encapsulate Corsica’s rugged spirit. There’s no doubt that it feels a long way from the glitter of the Corsican coast; the hillside houses are endearingly ramshackle and life still crawls along at a traditional tilt. It offers a much more convincing glimpse of how life was lived in rural Corsica.

OTA & ÉVISA

OTA-&-ÉVISA

High up in the hills above Porto, the villages of Ota and Evisa make a fabulous day trip. Ota is quiet, mountainous and unperturbed by the ebb and flow of seasonal visitors. Further up the mountain on the D84, Evisa is a trekking hotspot. It’s also known for its chestnuts, which are turned into flour, jam and candied sweets. The scenic and informative Sentier des Chataigniers (Chestnut Trail) crosses some of the village’s groves; find the start opposite local restaurant A Tramula.

STRADA DI L’ARTIGIANI

STRADA-DI-L'ARTIGIANI

This signposted route links the Balagne region’s most attractive villages, and details workshops of artisans inspired by the hinterland. Particularly charming is Pigna, a mirage of burnt-orange rooftops and blue-shuttered houses, just over four miles south of Tie Rousse via the D1 51. Artisan workshops are scattered among the sweet cobbled streets both here and in the hamlet of Sant’Antonino, a little further south along the D151.

Landscapes

VALLEE DU TAVIGNANO

passerelle-de-rossolino

Passerelle de Rossolino footbridge

Corsica’s deepest gorge is an off-the-beaten-track wonderland only accessible on foot, despite being on Corte’s doorstep. From the town, a signposted track leads to the Passerelle de Rossolino footbridge, idyllic for picnics and dips in natural pools. The valley can also be explored on horseback; enquire at local b&b L’Albadu.

AIGUILLES DE BAVELLA

AIGUILLES-DE-BAVELLA

L’Alta Rocca, north of Porto-Vecchio, is a world away from the bling-bling and bustle of the coast. It’s a wilderness-like mix of dense, evergreen-deciduous forests and granite villages strung over rocky ledges. The jagged red peaks of the Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles) jab the skyline at more than 1,600m. This is one of Corsica’s most iconic landscapes, as well as being prime walking and climbing territory.

FORET DE VIZZAVONA

cascades-des-anglais-vizzavona

The Cascades des Anglais at Vizzavona is a good picnic spot

South of Corte, the cool mountain hamlet of Vizzavona is a mere cluster of houses around a train station, and an ideal base for exploring the Fork de Vizzavona. Here, 1,633 hectares are covered by beech and laricio pines, and threaded with lots of excellent hikes. Look for the signpost to a short, gentle path that meanders down through beautiful forest to Cascades des Anglais, a sequence of gleaming waterfalls.

Country cuisine

HÔTEL-RESTAURANT LA CORNICHE

HÔTEL-RESTAURANT-LA-CORNICHE

A bouqet of salad levaes at Hotel-Restaurant La Corniche

Perched in the hilltop village of San Martino di Lota, La Corniche is close to the Cap Corsewilderness. Family-run since 1934, it woos travellers with a fabulous location and locally sourced food such as fish soup or ravioli with Brocciu cheese. A CASARELLA

Flee the coastal hullabaloo at this lunch place in the Balagne interior, down a serpentine country road that trails countless valleys. A Casarella is a gorgeous informal eatery with tiered terraces and fine views. The menu features tapas-sized local charcuterie and cheese, along with a salad of the day and a wide-ranging drinks selection.

AUBERGE DU COL DE BAVELLA

AUBERGE-DU-COL-DE-BAVELLA

This rustic roadside inn near the summit of Col de Bavella is the spot to slake post-hiking hunger. Here you can feast on roasted baby goat, wild-boar stew and other hearty Corsican food, and there’s a particularly welcoming fireplace for cooler days. If you’re staying overnight, the auberge also has swish dorms.

A CASARELLA

A-CASARELLA

Flee the coastal hullabaloo at this lunch place in the Balagne interior, down a serpentine country road that trails countless valleys. A Casarella is a gorgeous informal eatery with tiered terraces and fine views. The menu features tapas-sized local charcuterie and cheese, along with a salad of the day and a wide-ranging drinks selection.

Essentials

TRANSPORT

Corsica has four airports but the two main ones for UK arrivals are Ajaccio and Bastia, both of which are sewed by easyJet with direct flights from around April to October. Bastia can be reached from Manchester and London Gatwick, and, with Flybe, from Birmingham and Southampton. Public transport in Corsica only operates between large towns and cities, meaning car hire is a must for rural forays. A detailed road map is indispensable, such as Michelin’s Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse, which covers the entire island in a scale of 1 : 150,000.

WHERE TO STAY

camping-les-oliviers

Swap fold-up camping stools for loungers at Camping Les Oliviers

  • Wooden chalets, colourful caravans and campsites are up for rent at Camping Les Oliviers, an idyllic spot near Porto set among overhanging olive trees. The steeply terraced site climaxes with a swimming pool surrounded by rocks.
  • For a taste of rural life, Maison Battisti is a chambre d’hote hidden in a beautiful golden-stone house. Furnishings in this old honey-maker’s workshop charm vintage lovers with historical romance.
  • A boutique farmhouse with a vegetable garden and herd of pigs, thoroughly contemporary. A Pignata has 16 rooms and two family-friendly treehouse cabins. The restaurant is among Corsica’s best.

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