Corsica, situated in the Mediterranean Sea, has the Italian Peninsula to its east, the island of Sardinia to its south, and the French mainland to its northwest. Being two third mountainous, it is a lovely island and France is very happy to be its owner (though not every Corsican would be happy with this sentiment, I shouldn’t think).
Corsica has its own, much defined character, including its own language. Though French is the official lingo, Italian is also spoken in the touristy areas. The island has gone through several different owners, including Genoa and Pisa. It has been French since 1769, however, though it does enjoy a special constitutional status.
Corsican food shows a mixture of French and Italian influences, albeit retaining its own distinctive character. One of its most popular ingredients are chestnuts, which are used in both the main course and the dessert. A large population of pigs (a very attractive breed, I must say!) is left to roam semi-wild for most of the year, and supplies very tasty cold cuts and roasts. Its local pastries – Canistrelli – are also delicious, not to mention (okay, I will anyway) a surprising choice of local beers and wines.
The island also produces a uniquely flavoured olive oil, which is made from fruit fallen from the trees.
Corsica is a popular water sports destination, as it offers wonderful sailing, scuba diving, wind surfing, kite surfing and swimming opportunities. It also has amazing hiking trails for those who love the island’s rugged nature, two specific hikes cover the entire area from Sea to Sea (Mare e Mare) and Sea and Mountain (Mare e Monti).
To experience the island’s true ancient feeling, inasmuch as it still present to this day, take a trip to the village of Sartène, on the west coast, between Bonifacio and Propriano. Perched upon a hill overlooking the Gulf of Valinco, Sartène, named “the most Corsican town” by French dramatist and historian Prosper Mérimée, offers a very real glimpse into Corsican life as it once was, before tourism diluted it somewhat.
Until defeated by the Genoese in the 16th century, the village was, at one time, home to the all-powerful Della Rocca family. You can still see castle ruins dating back to the 13th century, and its mysterious and guarded dead-end alleyways and ramshackle granite houses will transport you back to the internal vendetta days of the Corsica of old (but don’t be concerned, Corsica is very safe these days). In the early 1830s, a bloody feud between two families led to guards patrolling the streets and windows being bricked up!
Some noteworthy attractions include the Eglise Sainte-Marie church, which dates back to the 1760s, the former palace of the Genoese rulers (now the town hall) and the Musee de la Prehistoire Corse. There is also a nice square, Place de la Liberation, with its lovely views overlooking the surrounding valleys and where you can stop and indulge in a local pizza or coffee from one of the attractive pizzerias and cafes.
If you want, you can also rent audio guides that will steer you round the town. These are available from the Sartène tourist office at +33 (0) 4 95 77 15 40
It’s best to rent a car on your visit as public transport is very limited.