Ever since I caught wind of Corsica, hearing stories of mountains dipping into pristine Mediterranean beaches, wild forest walks, crisp white wines, and unruly natives, I’ve wanted to go experience the French island for myself.
Read about my travel adventure Corsica for Two in Curve magazine now out on Barnes & Noble newsstands, subscribe to the best-selling lesbian magazine, or spy my itinerary below to start planning your own trip.
Before departing, may I suggest:
- Enrolling in the Global Entry program to bypass airport lines.
- Taking a conversational French class. My neighborhood travel bookstore Idlewild Books’ 10-week course served me well. The Living Language book and app are also great.
- Buying the Local #345 Michelin map, especially if planning to drive, which you should.
A Two-Week Itinerary for Corsica
Fly Delta/Air France directly into Nice and transfer to Air Corsica for a quick flight to the northern port town of Bastia. Going through Paris often entails switching airports.
Rent a car from Hertz at the airport. Driving is necessary–especially if you want to to reach the hilltop towns, pottery studios, and hiking trails as we did. A U.S. drivers license will suffice; no international license is required. Take note: many rentals require diesel instead of gasoline so be sure and ask.
Head for the hills and stay at Hotel La Dimora. Tucked in the craggy northeast, the three-star spa hotel is surrounded by wild fennel, lavender, rosemary, and the fragrant native maquis shrubbery. La Dimora doesn’t offer a full restaurant service, but they do have a delicious a poolside menu, including local brocciu (ewe’s cheese), figs, and rosé wine from the nearby Patrimonio region boasting the must-have AOC stamp of approval.
Breakfast in the lively harbor town of St-Florent and stroll along the seaside promenades, cafés, and boutiques before setting off on D81 for a drive across the green, wildflower Désert des Agriates. Wander along the Strada di l’Artigiani the “Artisan Trail” for tastes of regional delights and handicrafts. Definitely stop by Poterie Terra e Focu by Isabelle Volpei in Occhiatana and follow the signs to Poterie du Nebbiu near Oletta.
I suggest staying at least two nights, but whenever you’re ready to move on, grab the Michelin map and take the scenic route to Corte. The Parc Naturel Régional de la Corse protects nearly two-thirds of the island’s central forests and mountains. Enjoy the craggy, green vistas along D2/N193. This “two-lane” road winds around villages, sky-scraping pine trees, mouflons, purple thistles growing on serpentine limestone, and ancient arched Genoese bridges.
In June of 1769, the French won ownership of the island. Yet, approaching Corte, it is apparent that the dream of an independent Corsica is still very much alive and surging. Black spray paint slashes through French names on bilingual road signs, leaving only the Corsican. From every shuttered window, tourist trap, and car antennae, Corsican flags wave. Tour the Citadelle, where from 1755 to 1769, the castle served as the island’s capital and definitely take a gander from the top of the Eagle’s Nest.
Stay in the valley of the Gorges de la Restonica at the Hotel Dominique Colonna for at least two nights. The three-star, family-run hotel is named after a beloved soccer hero and is surrounded by thick forests and a valley stream perfect for rock-hopping along to secluded swimming spots.
Eat lunch and dinner at the restaurant across the pebble parking lot, but enjoy the Dominique Colonna’s bountiful breakfast. Get a jump on the morning foot traffic to the glacier Lac de Mélo (the parking lot fills up by 9AM). The 1.5-hour trek to the first glacier lake was rigorous enough. Before heading back to the room, stop by the giant Casino supermarket in town and stock up on supplies, ranging from water shoes and six-packs of Pietra beer.
Next, head south to Bonifacio. Go N193/D69/D344/N198 and experience the island’s mountains, forests, a super-long tunnel, and ocean views all in one epic drive. At the southern tip, Bonifacio appears to rise directly from the jagged white limestone cliffs. Check into the three-star Hotel Santa Teresa for at least a night. Take a wander around the medieval city center, buy a souvenir Ceccaldi vendetta knife, climb the awesome Escalier du Roi d’Aragon, and treat yourself to the best gelato at Ghjacci Les Glaces Corses.
At this point of the trip, we were ready to stop and soak up the sun. After a petit déjeuner in town, pack up and drive along the Mediterranean coastline to the luxury beach resort Domaine de Murtoli.
Along the way, swap out your compact car rental for a four-wheeler from Europcar at the Figari airport. You’re going to need it. Check out these all-natural hydraulics.
Now, brace yourself. Domaine de Murtoli is one of the most spectacular places on earth. The domain flourishes over 4,900 acres of rugged ancestral land that has been handed down generation after generation since the 16th century and where for the past twenty years owners Paul and Valerie Canarelli have transformed it into the extraordinary Andrew Harper 2012 award-winning destination. Our villa, one of nineteen, was a meticulously restored sheepfold a la Provençal chic with a private pool and outdoor kitchen. Murtoli is so private, with such back-to-the-earth sensuality, that it redefined my notion of an exclusive beach vacation to mean zero tan lines.
Attempt to leave, at least once, and visit Sarténe, the oldest and most Corsican of Corsican towns.
Stock up on charcuterie, cheese, olive oil, jam, and honey at La Cave on Place Porta.
Along the way, keep an eye out for a roadside sign for the Vitalba Huiles distillery for local essential oils. The native maquis plant smells like warm maple syrup mixed with honey and when distilled into a healing oil works wonders on sore, tired muscles.
Back at Murtoli, enjoy the five-mile stretch of beach, the delectable restaurant built into an olive grove and the other in a candlelit cave, the house Clos Canarelli white wine, the garden, daily bread, and horseback riding. Once you’re in the magical hands of Valerie and her expert staff, you’ll believe the land to be enchanted. Everything is so at ease, so thoroughly perfect, so wonderfully timed, all you have to do is say, Merci. The worst part, the only regrettable thing, was leaving. Good luck passing by reception without booking your return trip. We couldn’t. We’re going back in July.
Fly out of Figari airport to Nice. Transfer or stay a night as we did in Monte Carlo. Helicopter is the only way to get there.