When we decided to go on a holiday this summer we had no real plans on where to go. We thought we’d take pot luck and see if we could get a bargain on flights. Flights came up to a place called Bastia, not knowing where this was a quick look on the map showed it was in Corsica. I have to admit I didn’t really know much about this island. I knew it was French and I knew that it had connections to Napoleon. Looking at photos online I was stunned by just how beautiful it looked there, so that was it, decision made, it was time to book the flights.
Flying into Bastia, the plane came into land after following the dramatic and beautiful peninsula of Cap Corse, on the northern tip of the island.
We decided to stay in the heart of the island that way by hiring a car we could explore as much of Corsica as possible in the week’s stay. We came across a tiny hilltop village called Tralonca, and booked to stay in an Airbnb which offered absolutely stunning views across the central mountains from the apartment’s terrace.
The village of Tralonca perches up from the valley and overlooks farmland, with charming houses clinging on to the edge of the hillside. At the heart of the village is the village square with the local bar and the token boules area and church. Locals would often be found here whiling away time chatting over a café or something stronger and would always make the time to say hello to us.
The journey up to the village was a bit hair-raising with winding roads, sheer drops and limited passing spaces. I must admit I was grateful that it wasn’t me driving at this point as although the views were amazing, I had my eyes shut for most of this bit! By the end of the week though I was brave and would just soak up those views.
Tralonca is just a short drive from the heart of Corsica, and the once capital of the island, Corte (Corti). Corte still very much remains staunchly Corsican from the days of Pasquali Pauli making it the capital during the times of the Corsican republic.
Corte is an ideal place for picking up supplies, particularly if you are self-catering, with several food stores and supermarkets here. The is a wealth of history in and around the town with the citadel perched high up over the more modern town. There are plenty of restaurants dotted around the town, many of which offer traditional Corsican fare, consisting of charcuterie, cheeses and pizza and Corsican wine. There are also lots of opportunities to pick up a souvenir of your holiday, whether handcrafted items or antiques.
From this region of Corsica, there are several walks that you can do. One of the walks we decided to embark on was the Vallée du Tavignano walk which started just on the outskirts of Corte. The route follows along one of the river gorges and passes clear pools where you can take a dip to cool off from the warm Mediterranean sun. The scenery along the way is truly beautiful with views overlooking the mountains, the gin-clear water and pine forest. Giant boulders lined the way and made great places for pitching up with a picnic. I would highly recommend that if you do choose to go on this walk that you go in walking boots, I was in trainers and the terrain was tough in places underfoot so unfortunately for that reason we didn’t make it all the way to the finish of the route (the walk is approximately two and a half hours each way). That said, we did spend a lot of time dipping in and out of the water, warming up in the sun and then cooling off in the fresh water. There was hardly anyone there, despite it being July and we were mainly joined by basking lizards and fluttering butterflies.
Staying in Tralonca meant that we had an ideal base for exploring most of the island. That said, we were surprised at how long it would take to drive to different corners of the island. Although there are some national roads, many of them follow along mountain routes and aren’t always the easiest of journeys. Our Airbnb host did warn us that it can take nearly three hours to get to Bonifacio, in the south of the island, for example. In the end we decided to take day trips to L’Isle Rousse, Piana and Bonifacio.
One thing that struck me on this visit was the strange mix of cultures here. Signposts and towns would have a mixture of French and Italian sounding names, showing the influence of the two nations on the island and Corsica’s close proximity to Sardinia (there are only 14 miles between the two islands). Both French and Italian culture are very much ingrained in everything Corsican, although along with that there is a very strong sense of independence, particularly in the central region of the island and you will often find signposts or posters eluding to this. In fact, unbeknown to me before this trip, many Corsicans do not consider themselves French and the regional dialect is widely spoken in this central region. Luckily, French is still widely used too so I could get by with French from my A-level days.
Although I only had a week here, I found Corsica a very intriguing island. It has a wealth of history and some truly beautiful scenery. I would love to return here, particularly as we didn’t get to explore much of the south of the island, or to Ajaccio, the island’s current capital. Next time, I’ll be sure to take my sturdy walking boots with the aim of embarking on some of Corsica’s longer trails.