BEAUTIFUL ISLAND WITH STUNNING BEACHES AND CLIFFS, MEDIEVAL TOWNS AND VILLAGES; CORSICA, FRANCE
Day 1 – Arrive Ajaccio, Corsica; Drive to Propriano
There are direct flights to/from USA to Paris and connecting direct flights from Paris to Ajaccio, Corsica. Upon arrival at the Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport, we pick-up our rental car and drive around 1 ½ hour south-west to the seaside town of Propriano. We spend a few hours at the beach in front of our hotel, then have dinner at the hotel. Note: During the summer season, there are seasonal direct flights to Corsica from other European cities. Private boats or the ferry system are alternative transfer routes to Corsica from mainland France.
Day 2 – Bonifacio, Plage de Tonnara, Sartène
In the morning, we drive south 1 hour and 20 minutes to the medieval city of Bonifacio. We park in the large parking lot near the Bonifacio marina, then take a fee-based tourist train, called Le Petit Train, uphill to the walled city (Haute Ville). We discover the Old Town’s stone houses, historic churches, specialty shops and follow the cliffside pathway (King of Aragon Steps) to view the magnificent limestone cliffs along the sea. After having lunch in the Old Town, we drive 15 minutes to the Plage de Tonnara (route T40 toward Sartène, then route D358 to the beach) and spend the afternoon on the beach. Later, we drive around an hour to visit the picturesque village of Sartène and have dinner. In the evening, we drive 20 minutes back to our hotel in Propriano. Note: The Bonifacio harbour has frequent boat tours to the Levezzi Islands. If time permits, we recommend visiting these beautiful uninhabited granite islands.
Day 3 – Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano, Porto-Vecchio, Plage de Palombaggia
In the morning, we drive around 45 minutes, traversing the Alta Rocca (Alta Mountains) to the village of Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano. We discover the old churches, charming square and the olive oil mill. Next, we drive an hour through the pine forest, passing small villages, to the seaside town of Porto-Vecchio. We visit Porto-Vecchio’s Old Town and degust authentic local cuisine. Afterward, we drive half an hour to the Plage de Palombaggia, a long stretch of white sand beach. We take the southern route (an hour and a half drive) back to Propriano and have dinner in our hotel.
Day 4 – Plage de Campomoro, Propriano
After breakfast, we drive a half an hour to the Plage de Campomoro, a long stretch of white sand beach. We spend time swimming, sunbathing and having lunch at the beachside restaurant. Late afternoon, we drive half an hour back to Propriano to visit the city and its seafront promenade. We select the Terra Cotta Restaurant to have dinner, degusting excellent local seafood served on the terrace.
Day 5 – Propriano Departure; Piana, Calanques de Piana, Porto, Arrive Calvi
In the morning, we depart our hotel in Propriano and drive north toward Calvi. We drive two and a half hours to visit the village of Piana and have lunch at the nearby Les Roches Rouges, a hotel with restaurant. The route D81 from Piana toward Porto runs along a steep coastline. We stop at the Calanches of Piana, the magnificent red granite cliffs and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We drive half an hour to the seaside town of Porto, to explore the Genovese watch tower and picturesque marina. Afterward, we follow the route D81 for two hours to our hotel in Calvi. We have dinner at the Restaurant La Table by La Villa, situated in our hotel.
Day 6 – Calvi, Gulf of Calvi
After breakfast, we drive a few minutes to the Genoese Citadel, situated atop the hill in the town of Calvi. We visit the impressive medieval fortifications, historic churches, souvenir shops and the marina. Calvi has a collection of great restaurants, located in town’s center, by the marina and along the bay. After lunch, we drive along the Gulf of Calvi and visit the long stretch of white sand beach. We have an early dinner in Calvi, then drive back to our hotel.
Day 7 – Sant’Antonino, L'Île-Rousse, Belgodère, Saint-Florent
In the morning, we drive around half an hour (route T30 to route D71 to route D151) to visit the beautiful village of Sant’Antonino. We climb up the narrow alleyways to discover the stone houses, ancient walls and panoramic sea views. Next, we drive half an hour (route N151 to route D513) to visit the pretty town of L'Île-Rousse and sample the local cuisine. A half an hour drive (route T30 to RT301) takes us to the village of Belgodère, affording beautiful view of the Regino Valley and the ruins of the 13th century castle. An hour drive farther north (route T30 to route D81) leads to the ancient fishing port of Saint-Florent, a nice town where we enjoy a light dinner. In the evening, we drive an hour and a half back to our hotel.
Day 8 – Bastia, Corsica Departure
After breakfast, we depart our hotel in Calvi and drive about two hours to the Bastia-Poretta Airport. We fly to Paris, then we take an international flight to the US.
Corsica – Corsica, also called l’Île de Beauté, is a mountainous island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is situated south of mainland France, west of northwestern Italy and north of Sardinia, separated by the Strait of Bonifacio. Corsica’s independent spirit is reflected in its historic battles, territorial disputes and French revolutions. Corsica was ruled by the Republic of Genoa before it became part of the French Republic in 1764. Corsica, officially called Collectivité Territoriale de Corse, has great autonomy and retains its identity. The island preserves its Corsican culture and Italian culture, underscored in the Corsican language and flag, the ancient Italian city names and in its culinary traditions. Corsica has a diverse topography of mountain peaks, dense forests, dramatic cliffs, moon shaped bays and gorgeous beaches. In the heart of the island, the Regional Natural Park of Corsica encompasses dense forests with scenic hiking trials and wild mountains called “Le Maquis”. Across the island, winding roads connect traditional mountain villages and reveal a picturesque countryside and simple rural life. Summer is a high season in Corsica, attracting a large number of visitors. Our Corsica Itinerary takes place in the beginning of September, ensuring fewer visitors, reduced traffic and lovely weather. We book in advance a quality car with an automatic transmission with Hertz Car Rental. Corsica has well-maintained roads, winding cliffside roads and scenic routes leading to the mountain villages, requiring full attention while driving and passing in the narrow sections of the road. In Corsica, knowledge of the French language is very useful especially in the south of the island. Corsica is an extraordinary island with a spectacular coastline, beautiful mountains, fascinating Corsican culture and excellent cuisine.
Bonifacio, Plage de Tonnara, Sartène – Corsica’s southern coastline is blessed with beautiful white sand beaches, the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, dramatic limestone cliffs and the medieval city of Bonifacio. The Strait of Bonifacio separates Bonifacio from Sardinia and encompasses the Lavezzi Islands, uninhabited granite islands with pristine beaches and crystal clear waters popular with snorkelers and scuba divers. The Bonifacio harbour offers frequent boat tours to the Levezzi Islands to explore the protected marine life. A small tourist train offers visitors a comfortable ride from the harbour to the walled city of Bonifacio. Bonifacio’s medieval Genoese Empire is on display atop the limestone cliffs in the upper walled city (Haute Ville). Bonifacio boasts a beautiful architecture, ancient churches, narrow streets, a majestic Citadel and a splendid scenery at the King of Aragon Steps (Escalier du Roi d’Aragon). During the summer, Corsica’s southern coast is an ideal beach destination with its white sand beaches, turquoise sea, tropical temperatures and sailing activities. Beach enthusiasts visit the Plage de Tonnara, by taking the route T40 toward Sartène and then route D358 leading to the beach. The Plage de Tonnara is a vision of calmness, revealing a white sand beach, clear waters and beautiful rock formations emerging from the sea. In route to Propriano, we visit Sartène, a picturesque village with the grey stone houses, the church Église Santa Maria Assunta situated in the central square and the narrow streets of the Old Town (Vieille Ville).
Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano, Porto-Vecchio and Plage de Palombaggia – While traversing the Alta Rocca (Alta Mountains), we observe the sweeping views of the mountains, the beautiful pine forest, the fertile terrain and the tranquil Corsican villages. Nestled in the mountains is Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano, a quaint village with red roof tops, old churches, charming square and fertile terrain used for growing olives and the making of local specialty, the olive oil. The scenic route to Porto-Vecchio passes through the quaint mountain villages of Levi and Carbini, winds through the beautiful pine forests and a black pig farm. The fashionable town of Porto-Vecchio enchants us with its magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea, luxury yachts docked in the marina and its beautiful Old Town. La Porte Génoise is the historic gateway to the Old Town that boasts striking architecture, the remarkable Église de Saint Jean Baptiste, the Bastion de France and narrow streets lined with upscale boutiques and quality restaurants serving Corsican and Italian food. Corsica’s coastline north and south of Porto-Vecchio is known for its pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, granite rock formations by the sea and beautiful pine trees. The Plage de Palombaggia is an unforgettable long stretch of white sand beach lined with red granite rocks and green pine trees. The nearby Plage de Santa Giulia, a crescent shaped lagoon with sparkling turquoise waters, is the perfect beach to enjoy swimming and water sports.
Propriano, Plage de Campomoro – The Golf of Valinco, located on Corsica’s south-west coast, is the natural setting for the vibrant port city of Propriano. A walk through the city reveals its Roman and Greek influences and the reconstructed 19th century architecture. Propriano is a popular southwest resort town with wonderful beaches, tranquil villages and impressive views. The town has a beautiful Church of Notre Dame de la Miséricorde and lovely narrow streets lined with shops. The seafront promenade shows colorful yachts and fishing boats docked in the harbour and is lined with plentiful restaurants and cafes. The Terra Cotta Restaurant has a lovely seaside terrace and serves excellent seafood, including our preferred, the Mediterranean lobsters. A journey along the coastline reveals its breathtaking natural beauty. We drive half an hour from Propriano to the Plage de Campomoro, a long stretch of white sand beach along the crystal clear sea water. This tranquil beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, enjoying lunch at a beachside restaurant and admiring sweeping views of the mountains and of the colorful small boats anchored in the sea.
Piana, Calanches de Piana, Porto – The northwest of Corsica is blessed with magnificent red granite cliffs, lively resort towns, pretty villages, beautiful nature and parks. A visit to the charming village of Piana affords panoramic views of the Gulf of Porto. A walk through Piana presents the 18th century Church of Sainte Marie, stone houses, souvenir shops, narrow streets and lovely views of the surrounding countryside. We walk for a short distance to Les Roches Rouges, a lovely hotel and restaurant offering classic French cuisine. We have lunch on the terrace, overlooking the red granite cliffs, the village and the sea. The route D81 from Piana to the town of Porto runs along a steep coastline. The awe-inspiring coastal route is called the Calanches of Piana (Calanques de Piana), listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sharp edged red granite cliffs stand 300 meters above the sea, affording stunning views. We arrive at the popular seaside town of Porto and visit the historic Genovese watch tower, lovely beach and pretty marina. The northwest coastline of Corsica is the location of the Scandola Nature Reserve, accessible by boat and situated within the Corsica Regional Park. The boat tours depart from Porto and from Calvi, located farther north, bringing visitors to observe the magnificent rock formations, bird species and marine life.
Calvi and Gulf of Calvi – Situated in northwest Corsica, Calvi is a beautiful and lively town, dating back to the Middle Ages. Calvi boasts an impressive 15th century Genoese Citadel situated atop the hill, narrow cobblestone streets, lovely shops and quaint restaurants. The 13th century Cathedral of Sainte-Jean-Baptiste regularly hosts music concerts featuring traditional Corsican folk songs. A walk through the Old Town reveals pretty narrow streets, historic architecture, traditional shops and the 17th century Church of Santa Maria. The picturesque harbour is full of energy with luxury yachts, sailboats, tour boats and plentiful restaurants. Calvi is a sophisticated town with many attractions, including summer music concerts, nature cruises, beach activities and historic sites. The Gulf of Calvi is crescent-shaped and encompasses a six kilometers long stretch of white sand beach with imposing views of the Citadel and the sea. A picturesque promenade runs from Calvi and along the Gulf of Calvi, passing a beautiful pine forest (La Pinède) and seaside restaurants.
Sant’Antonino, Belgodère, L'Île-Rousse, Saint-Florent – La Balagne, a region in the northwest of Corsica, has vibrant seaside towns, mountain villages, lush forests, fertile farmlands and winding scenic routes. Sant’Antonino, a hilltop village encircled by ancient walls, is recognized as one of the most beautiful French villages. Climbing up the narrow alleyways, we observe pretty stone houses and quaint restaurants, and admire panoramic views of the region and the sea. La Balagne is a highly praised region for its specialty agricultural products and regional art. We travel to the Belgodère village, surrounded by rolling mountains and the Regino Valley, to discover the remnants of a 13th century castle and its artistic character. The winding inland routes showcase the Balagne region’s beautiful countryside where Corsican rural life retains its simplicity and traditions. A visit to L'Île-Rousse showcases a French Riviera style of town, established by Pasqual Paoli to compete with the harbour of Calvi. L'Île-Rousse has a central square, narrow streets, beautiful white sand beaches and a seaside promenade overlooking L'Île de la Pietra tower and lighthouse. In the north coast of Corsica, the ancient fishing port of Saint-Florent is the symbol of a laid back town with pastel-colored buildings, Genoese Citadel, Saint-Florent Cathedral and squares where the residents play Pétanque, a traditional French outdoor game.
Beaches, Cliffs, Mountains – Corsica’s expansive coastline is defined by its crescent shaped bays, sharp-edge granite cliffs and beautiful beaches lined with green pine trees. Traversing Corsica, we encounter spectacular white sand beaches, shimmering Mediterranean Sea and vibrant coral reefs. The coastal route from the village of Piana to the seaside town of Porto is called the Calanches of Piana (Calanques de Piana). The sharp edged red granite cliffs shaped by erosion, extend 300 meters above Mediterranean Sea. The scenic route runs along magnificent cliffs on both sides, affording stunning views. The Regional Natural Park of Corsica covers 40% of the island and protects its flora and fauna. The topography of Corsica includes mountain peaks, nature reserve, scenic gorges, mountain lakes and beautiful pine forests. Across the mountainous terrain and the countryside, the native Corsican black pigs, wild boars and goats graze the fertile lands. Corsica is a very beautiful island that retains its fiercely independent spirit, unspoiled nature and traditional Corsican cuisine.
Corsican Charcuterie – The Cuisine of Corsica is a delicious medley of Corsican, French and Italian culinary influences. Corsican charcuterie is an acclaimed specialty food, awarded AOC Protected Designation of Origin, the label that validates the quality and origin of the products. Corsica’s mountainous terrain and dense forests are ideal grazing lands for wild boars and the Corsican wild black pigs, traditionally fed on acorns and chestnuts. The free-roaming black pigs are essential ingredient in the artisanal production of Corsican specialty meats. We degust Prisuttu (a cured ham), Coppa (cured pork shoulder) and Lonzu (cured pork tenderloin). Lonzu, our favorite Corsican charcuterie, is made of a whole pork tenderloin that is seasoned and dry-aged over a period of time. Lonzu is served thinly sliced, exploding with complex flavor and aroma. The Corsican Saucisson Sec made with the meat of Corsican wild black pigs is exceptionally delicious. The Saucisson Sec, a cured sausage, is made of chopped lean pork meat and seasoned pork fat, embossed in pork casting and dry-cured. In autumn, the visitors can sample Corsican Boudin, the blood sausage made of pork blood, pork meat and other ingredients, served pan fried or grilled. The first time we sampled Corsican Boudin Noir was in Paris, at a farmer’s market featuring artisan traditional products sold by Corsican farmers.
Note: While visiting Corsica and mainland France, we recommend organizing excursions with an allotted lunch time between 12:00 and 2:00PM. The majority of restaurants in Corsica and France stop serving lunch after 2:00PM.
Miramar Corsica – Situated in southwest Corsica, the Miramar Corsica hotel is ideally situated a few minutes away from Propriano, the resort town set along the Gulf of Valinco. This Mediterranean style hotel showcases a modern architecture, a stylish interior décor, expansive gardens and a serene swimming pool. Located atop a hill, the Miramar Corsica hotel offers chic suites and lovely rooms with terraces, overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Valinco. The breakfast is served by the pool affording views of the picturesque bay. A road running below the hill can sometimes be noisy during the day. Guests can reach the beach along the bay by crossing the road and walking down the hill or be transferred in the hotel’s golf cart. The Miramar Corsica hotel is located within a 15 minutes’ walking distance from Propriano, a lively town with a picturesque harbour and plentiful restaurants. Note: The Miramar Corsica hotel (miramarboutiquehotel.com) is open during a tourist season, and we advise to visit the hotel’s website to check the availability calendar.
La Villa Hotel, Calvi – Situated in northwest Corsica, Calvi is a historic city that enchants visitors with its beauty. La Villa Hotel is situated in a hilly neighborhood within a 20 minutes’ walking distance to the Old Town of Calvi. This lovely boutique hotel offers stylish villas, an outdoor swimming pool, manicured gardens and distant views of the historic Citadel and the Mediterranean Sea. La Villa Hotel provides a fee-based shuttle transfer to Calvi’s Old Town and to the beach equipped with beach chairs and parasols. Our recommended Suites with Sea View offer a simple décor and modern luxury. The Restaurant La Table by La Villa has a romantic setting and delight its guests with delicious Corsican and French cuisines. La Villa Hotel (hotel-lavilla.com) offers luxury, tranquility and relaxation.