Corsica is best known for its beaches, and to a lesser extent its mountain scenery. For me one of the best ways of discovering the island is behind the wheel (in a convertible if possible) and hitting the secondary roads. Over a series of post I’ll cover our road trip around the Cap Corse and the North Western coastline and interior of the island.
Day 1: The Cap Corse
From our base in St Florent we hit the D81 towards Bastia through the AOC Patrimonio wine region. It was a little early in the morning for wine tasting, but if you get the chance the region produces some of the best reds, whites and muscats (a sweet desert wine) of the island so stop by the small family-owned wineries dotted along the road.
It’s not unusual on the back roads of Corsica to come across roaming cows, wild pigs and goats…
We didn’t stop in Bastia either, but the old town and port are quite quaint. We continued on the D80 that traces the outline around the Cap Corse. As you head North leaving Bastia in your back mirror, you’ll go past beaches (pebbles closer to Bastia and sand further up) and old Genoese watchtowers protecting small harbours and villages squeezed between mountain and sea.
We stopped in Macinaggio a village where fishing boats and yachts share a busy marina. Here the D80 turns towards the port of Centuri on the West coast and we pressed on. Hikers might well appreciate an old trail called the Sentier des Douaniers (once used by customs officers to control smuggling activities) hugs the coastline taking in wild beaches.
The small fishing port of Centuri was our next stop where 3,000 kg of lobster is landed annually for consumption in local restaurants, although we enjoyed a more modest lunch!
We continued South stopping along the cliff road, careful not to get swept off our feet by the strong gusts of wind battering the coast as we snap some shots.
As you drive past Pino there are a number of Maisons d’Américans – ‘palazzi’ built by returning Corsican expats who made their fortunes in South America. The drive continues past Canari, that grew prosperous in mid-20th Century from a local asbestos mine. Aside from an ugly ruin, pollution from the mine has left a remarkable mark in the coastline in the form of black sand (I’ve read it’s safe to walk there although the sea is dangerous because of waves).
The village of Nonza provides a breathtaking sight – pastel coloured stone houses cling to a cliff overlooking a black sand beach. After a quick photo stop, our hotel in St Florent was a 25 minute drive. St Florent is a compact harbour town with a nice promenade and old town filled with boutiques, café bars and restaurants.