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Report 2028: Two Travellers on Corsica

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2012

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Page 10 of 14: Vico, Soccia, Orto, Murzo - Wednesday October 10

photo by Doug Phillips

Orto

Today we drove into the mountains inland from the coast to where the roads stop. We drove over to the crossroads village of Sagone, turned north and took the D70 up into the hills. Our first stop was Vico, described in one source as displaying “authentically Corsican atmosphere”, with narrow streets, a cafe-ringed central square, signs of erstwhile significance (it was once the capital of the Sagone region), a generally dour facade to many buildings with some attractive exceptions. We parked and walked around the village, considered pausing for an espresso, but decided to press on. We had little idea of what we would find beyond Vico.

Soccia was our next stop. Smaller than Vico and much more remote, it is in almost every way a more attractive place. It is situated in a wooded area along a high spur against a backdrop of rocky outcroppings. It is a popular starting point with hikers and is about a 90 minute walk to the interesting Lac de Creno. Perhaps unwisely in retrospect, we passed on the three-hour walk. Soccia has at least one cafe and a recommended restaurant, but there were no signs of commerce in the village on our visit. The only people we saw were three workmen. The season was over by the end of September.

Continuing on to the end of the road, we saw an amazing site. There was a road crew, pausing for their lunch break. One guy was sitting down and enjoying his lunch in the middle of the road – we had to navigate around him. In fairness, beyond Vico we saw very few vehicles – along with a fair number of cattle, pigs, goats and donkeys walking along and grazing at the side of the road. Orto was where the road ended. From a curve in the road a few kilometers from the village, Orto presents an attractive and dramatic appearance, but it is a very quiet place. We only saw one person, an elderly lady in her yard. Apparently senior pensioners make up the entire population. Food is provided by a delivery van or younger relatives who bring supplies when they visit. One of the vehicles we did encounter today was a small van coming from Orto. Perhaps it was the food truck.

We left Orto and headed back down the winding road. We assumed that Vico was going to be our next stop for a drink and something to eat – not exactly an enticing prospect. Fortunately we came upon a friendly, lively spot, the Auberge U Fragnu, at the side of the road as we passed through Murzo. The setting (outside under umbrellas and some very attractive trees on a warm sunny day), food (pizza from a wood-fired oven), ambiance (among a variety of groups of family and friends) and service (including a complimentary glass of eau de vie offered by the owner who visited each table) combined to provide an unexpected and very pleasant experience.

One other feature of our road trip deserves mention. We knew that chestnuts had been an important feature of Corsica's economy in the past. While of much less importance today, la châtaigne is still found in many products, from restaurant desserts to Pietra beer, as mentioned in the introduction. But we had never seen a chestnut tree until today, when we noticed that much of the roadway in the higher elevations between Soccia and Orto was lined with chestnut trees. The chestnuts were ripe – many had already fallen from the trees while others, still on the branches were about to be released from their spiky pods that were partially open.

On our way back we stopped at the SPAR supermarché in Sagone, much larger than the one in Cargese, and bought some supplies for a couple of meals, including tonight's dinner. Back to the apartment in time for a late afternoon ocean swim.

A slightly different day trip for us - visits to two deserted communities, many more encounters with animals than vehicles, a stop to inspect some trees and a lunch break at the first place where we saw people. It may not sound exciting, but it certainly was memorable – and also, I suspect, perhaps an almost uniquely Corsican experience.

Even in mid-October tour buses are a common site on the roads of Corsica. We didn't encounter any tour buses today.

Next: Les Calanche de Piana

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