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Report 2028: Two Travellers on Corsica

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2012

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Page 14 of 14: Resources and Recommendations

photo by Doug Phillips

Villefranche-sur-Mer

Resources

First, an acknowledgement of the assistance of Kevin Widrow. His advice made our planning much easier and our experience of Corsica much more complete and enjoyable.

The topical guides we used were The Rough Guide to Corsica and Top 10 Corsica. The Rough Guide was OK. The text was fine, but there were mistakes in at least two of the city maps - Ajaccio and Corte - which caused some delay and confusion. This was the first time traveling with one of the DK Top 10 books - pleasantly surprised at how much we used it. Michelin map #345 was also an asset on our travels and excursions on the island.

In addition, I purchased, viewed and took with us a DVD of the 2009 movie Queen to Play (Joyeuse, is the original title), a French movie set on Corsica and starring Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline. A few years ago we came across the movie set of A Good Year at Chateau La Canorgue just outside Bonnieux in the Luberon. The movie is a good introduction to that part of Provence. Queen to Play is also as relevant for a visit to Corsica.

Which brings me to Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington. Dorothy Carrington first came to Corsica in 1948. She spent most of the rest of her life, until her death in 2002, living on and writing about Corsica. Granite Island, her masterpiece, was first published in 1971. It is a mixture of folklore, history and travelogue. I found it a bit difficult to read before we arrived on the island – not a big fan of the folklore part – but my appreciation grew the longer we were on Corsica. Besides, The Rough Guide has extensive quotes from Dorothy’s book. Why not read the original source? This is a great book to take on any visit to Corsica.

Recommendations

Corsica is different. I commented to a friend that I thought Corsica was perhaps similar to what familiar areas of Provence, especially the Luberon, were like 25 or 30 years ago. His opinion was that you would have to go back a bit farther in time. While there are many areas of stunning physical beauty, a diversity of experiences available to the visitor, a thriving tourism economy, innumerable beaches, at least one attractive urban setting, in my opinion the uniqueness of Corsica is found away from the coastal areas. Our few hours in Sant'Antonino, the day trip to Vico and beyond and our drive through the middle of the island from Ajaccio to Bastia, with a stop in Corte, are what will remain fresh in my memory for a long time.

On a map, Corsica appears quite small, especially compared to Sardinia, its southern neighbor. However, its size is deceiving. The terrain and small population means that it is very reasonable to move around on any visit to the island.

If you like hiking, Corsica would be an ideal destination. There are several long-distance, multi-day trails in Corsica, as well as shorter ones suitable for day trips.

We visited Corsica in early October, beyond the end of the tourist season. The weather was pleasant, the water warm, and crowds almost non-existent. However, May, June or September would likely be better options. Many seasonal enterprises - restaurants, excursions, shops - had recently closed.

There are two or three areas that I would recommend as a base to anybody considering a visit to Corsica.

  • The Balagne in the northwest. From our limited experience I think either Saint Florent or L'Ile Rousse would be good options for places to stay.
  • The West Coast. Cargese, Tiuccia or Piana would be my suggestions, based on our time in the area. There are likely other possibilities. I would most definitely not recommend Porto.
  • The Sartenais in the southwest. An odd suggestion, since we were only in Sartene for a few hours one Sunday. But the area has been described as the most Corsican part of the island. And Bonifacio is an easy day trip. Perhaps recommended more for those who have read and were attracted by Dorothy Carrington's descriptions.

Will I return to Corsica? Probably not, unless we are enjoying an extended trip to the south of France or the coast of Italy. Then, it might be an attractive option for a week or two. Otherwise, there are a lot of other places that are easier to get to. But I'm glad we went.

Resources

Best Western Corsica Hotels Bastia Centre

Best Western Hotel Roosevelt, Nice

Cantina Grill, Bonifacio

Cargese Studio Apartment

Corsica Ferries

Discuss this trip

Hotel Centre Nautique, Bonifacio

I Scalini, Sant'Antonino

Le Tire Bouchon, Nice

Les Roches Rouges, Piana

Les Zephyrs, Bastia

Petite Marie, Bastia

Read Doug's Other Contributions

Trattoria al dente, Bastia

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