Before moving to Europe, I had never heard of Corsica. I didn’t know that it belonged to France, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to identify it on a map. If you’re like me, let me help you out…
It wasn’t until my second summer in Switzerland that I realized several of my French colleagues visit Corsica regularly. Some of them have traveled all over the world, and yet, there is something about Corsica that keeps them coming back again and again. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a third European summer to plan a visit, so I put it on my list for a future adventure.
The opportunity came sooner than expected when I decided to go back for a visit late-May / early June. While I wanted to spend time visiting friends, I also wanted to go somewhere new. I decided to kick-off my European holiday by spending a week on the island of Corsica. After all, I needed to see what all the fuss was about!
After a tumultuous start to my trip (courtesy of a flat airplane tire at the St. Louis Airport that wreaked havoc on my itinerary), I made it to Paris and to my flight to Corsica with only a few minutes to spare. I’m so grateful I made it!
Corsica is incredibly diverse. There are HUGE mountains, sandy beaches, port cities, coastal drives, delicious food, fortified cities, and stunning views. Friends told me I needed 2-3 weeks to see the whole island, but of course, I saw a lot of it in only a week. A few more days would’ve been helpful to allow for a more relaxing pace, but since I’m not typically a repeat traveler, I’m glad I saw as much as I did.
I landed in Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon. From there, I drove a couple of hours to Col de Bavella to see a view of Les Aiguilles de Bavella (or, the Needles of Bavella). I was too jetlagged to really enjoy my food at lunch, but this view was amazing!
[How fun to spend the week driving a Megane!]
The mountain roads were intense! Switchbacks galore! And apparently, Corsica is a destination for motorcyclists to come and ride. The entire week I was surrounded by motorcycles – typically driving way too fast on the windy roads and often passing me at high rates of speed. With poor visibility due to all of the curves and often a cliff on the right hand side, I was pretty nervous most of the time I was in the car! Yikes!
I was EXHAUSTED when I arrived at Ferme Auberge A Pignata. Driving upwards of three hours on the first day in Europe following three flights was a little too ambitious. Thankfully, my first night was at an incredible place – completely adorable and utterly peaceful. Dinner and breakfast were served in the farmhouse, and there were beautiful views from the pool and the terrace. It was the perfect place to help me slip into vacation mode.
I drove out of the mountains the next morning and down south to Bonifacio – a fortified city perched on top of the cliffs. I loved this stop! I stayed at Hotel Genovese, which was located in the city wall. My room was adorable and had a beautiful view down to the harbor below.
I had a delicious meal of mussels & frites at La Minute Moule before starting my exploration of the city and my coastal hike.
First, I descended the Stairway of King Aragon (Escalier du Roi d’Aragon). There are 187 stairs cut into the cliff. The legend says these were carved by his troops in one night in 1420, but that seems impossible, even if they had power tools (which of course, they didn’t)! Regardless of how they were built, they likely served as a way to access a freshwater well.
I strolled through the Citadel and visited the Bastion, which had amazing views!
And finally, I did the Phare de Pertusato hike along the coastline to the lighthouse at the end of the island looking out to Sardinia. It’s a 5.6km hike to the Pertusato lighthouse, but it turns out the lighthouse you can see in most of my photos was a “false summit.” It wasn’t the lighthouse, but rather, a lighthouse on the way. The one I was aiming for was quite a bit further beyond the first one. The views along the way were really beautiful, but it was hot, and I had a fraction of the water I should’ve had. Whoops! Glad I got a lot of walking in before two days of relaxation at the beach!
In the evening, I walked down to the port, which turned into a bit of an adventure finding one hidden staircase after another.
The evening was beautiful by the water. I love the colors of the sky at sunset!
I spent the next day at Santa Giulia beach, which was my favorite of the beaches I visited on this trip. I nabbed a chair at one of the beach clubs – Les Trois Deux, which meant drinks and lunch were served to my chair. It was delightful!
After the beach, I drove to Porto-Vecchio, where I stayed two nights. I had a delicious dinner at La Maison Blanche, including foie gras, sea bass, and a yummy dessert! The views were a bonus!
My second beach day was at Palombaggia. I spent the day at Tamaricciu – another beach club. While the crowds were really light, I still ended up next to a family with two children who were shouting, whining, and crying all day. A friend said their parents probably felt badly about it, but I don’t think the topless, sunbathing mom was very concerned – ha!
I went up into the Old Town for dinner at Bistro La Table de Nathalie – a tiny, tiny restaurant with delicious food!
The next day, I drove up the coast to Erbalunga. On the way, I stopped in Bastia to walk around the town a bit and to have some delicious ice cream at Raugi – mint chocolate chip, coconut, meringue, and whipped cream!
In Erbalunga, I stayed at Castel Brando – an old mansion that’s been converted into a hotel, and it was adorable!
Erbalunga is a tiny, tiny village, and it was adorable! I took a quick walk in the afternoon to snap some pictures.
Somehow there is a 1-star Michelin restaurant in this little village! I had an amazing six-course tasting menu at Le Pirate. Every bite was INCREDIBLE, and the view of the tiny port was lovely!
I got a little ambitious the following day and drove the coastal road around Cap Corse – the most northern tip of the island. The views were GORGEOUS the entire drive, but the roads were wild! So windy, so narrow, and with a cliff almost constantly to my right! It was an all-day adventure, which was pretty exhausting.
I don’t know if this was anything more than a lookout, but I took a picture to remember how much POOP there was! I don’t know what kind of animal hangs out in this area, but there have to be thousands of them given the amount! You can see it all over the ground in this picture! So gross!
I stopped for lunch in the tiny village of Centuri. I had the lobster pasta at Au Vieux Moulin – the grandmother’s recipe that’s remained unchanged for more than 50 years. It was delicious, but oh-so-messy! Sauce was everywhere by the time I finished!
My drive took me to L’Île Rousse, where I stayed at Hotel Perla Rossa. When I arrived and spoke with the hotel reception, I learned that I had another four hour drive ahead of me to get to the Ajaccio airport the next day…longer than I thought. I was exhausted after spending the day in the car, so I only managed a walk and a quick dinner at A Casa Corsa, where they serve delicious charcuterie & cheese platters.
The next morning, I bought some items at the farmers’ market in town before starting my drive back to Ajaccio. I drove through Les Calanques de Piana (the Calanche Cliffs), which were beautiful!
My lunch stop was in Sagone at Glaces Pierre Geronimi – where they served salads with a scoop of ice cream! I tried a Caesar Salad with mustard ice cream!
After a week of driving the crazy roads of Corsica, I was happy to return my rental car. However, I was sad for a week of amazing food and beautiful views to come to an end. It was so fun to be back in Europe, speaking French, and exploring new places!