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Report 2028: Two Travellers on Corsica
By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2012
Page 5 of 14: Sant'Antonino and the Balagne - Thursday October 4
Much of the north-west side of Corsica is called the Balagne. It is very popular with visitors, featuring seaside communities like Calvi and L'Ile Rousse. It also includes spectacular views away from the coast, a reconstructed village (Pigna) in the interior, and the stunning Sant'Antonino, one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Before reaching the Balagne, we again drove through the wine-producing area around Patrimonio and Saint Florent. Our first stop was at L’Ile Rousse, a small, attractive village with a busy ferry port. Obviously economically dependent on holiday visitors, L’Ile Rousse features include palm trees, several beaches, many restaurants and a few shop-lined streets. We spent a couple of hours in the village, with a pause for a morning café. A very pleasant interlude, but perhaps L’Ile Rousse might lose some of its charm at the height of the tourist season.
On the edge of L’Ile Rousse on the way to Calvi, we turned left, away from the coast and drove up into the interior. Our first stop was at Pigna, the site of an ambitious cultural and ecological project. The village had been restored to a traditional settlement out of ruins. It features a recovered mairie (town hall), church, theatre, several artisan workshops and a typical architectural street plan. Motorized vehicles are restricted to parking areas at the edge of the village. But on that day, much of the commercial enterprises were closed for the season. A pleasant place to walk around, but not much reason to linger.
A few kilometers farther along, and after an uphill hairpin turn or two, we arrived at our goal.
Sant'Antonino is a small village perched atop a large rock outcropping in the Balagne region of Corsica, inland and up a winding road about midway between L'Ile Rousse and Calvi. Until about 20 years ago the only way up the outcropping was on foot or a donkey ride. However, now cars and buses can drive to the base of the village. Also, Sant'Antonino now appears as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, so it is a popular spot and was a "must-see" on our time in the area. The views were unforgettable and well-worth the effort of getting there.
An unexpected bonus was our decision to pause for lunch at I Scalini, at the top level of the village. We had a light lunch - a pichet of red wine, a salad, some bruschetta and a couple of espressos. The food was good, the prices reasonable, the two guys running the place were great and the view was spectacular. I Scalini greatly contributed to our enjoyment of Sant'Antonino.
The following video provides a panoramic view of part of the Balagne from I Scalini.
Back down the hill to the main road and a drive along the N197 into Calvi for a brief visit, before retracing our route to Bastia. The Balagne would be near the top of our list for an extended stay on a return visit.
Again this evening, we walked back down to the old port area of Bastia, searched for and found the family-run Petite Marie restaurant on the small rue des Zephyrs, just behind the touristy Quai des Martyrs de la Liberation. We the only English speakers present, and had a great time. My plate was heaped to overflowing with grilled and herbed langoustines. Our interactions with the owners and other patrons were positive and the price was reasonable - approximately €75 for the two of us, including a bottle of wine, one dessert and two espressos. A highlight of our time in Bastia! Go there if you want to try langoustines!
Next: Off to Bonifacio
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