The back roads of Balagne

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.

Seb.

Day 2: The Artisan’s Road in Balagne

There’s no better way to start the day then with a large continental breakfast sitting at an outside café terrace looking out to the sea in a town like St Florent (ok, some eggs benedict really would have made it perfect). We’d hoped to spend the day at the deserted beach of Saliccia in the Desert des Agriates (which we thought was only accessible by boat), but strong winds put an end to those plans…

A window shutter in St Florent

So we decided to head out of St Florent and hit the Artisans Road, a route that covers the most characteristic craftmen’s workshops of Balagne. We headed East on a rather windy D81 (and realised we could have actually made it to Saliccia on a 4×4 shuttle) and briedfly the main road (N197) before turning inland towards Belgodère on the D71. Our first stop was due to be Occhiatana known for its sandstone wares, but the village was a bit of ghost town – lunch / siesta time unfortunately I think…

We stopped for lunch in the hamlet of Costa in a little roadside restaurant by the road. Bemused, we watched the waiter put out scraps of meat on the little wall across the road wondering what was going on. Next thing you know a convocation of eagles was diving down one by one to sweep in on the meat. Lunch and a show – priceless.

Our next stop was Feliceto to see some glassblowing. We also stopped and took some snaps of the church with its cute blue door.

Cat and a old door in a Balagne hamlet

The glassblowing workshop was interesting (but don’t make the same mistake we did – you can drive all the way down rather than walking), although we didn’t really see anything to our liking (or budget).

A glass blowing workshop in Feliceto

Back in the car and we continued on the D71 then the D151 towards Pigna, but then something caught my eye… To my right was a village perched atop a hill with the road seemingly circling around it like a snail’s shell – we had to check it out. It was the village of Sant’Antonino, and unfortunately the tour buses had discovered the place too. We enjoyed a fantastic (although very strong!)  lemonade made from Balagne lemons and a freshly pressed grape juice at this place below.

Enjoying a homemade lemonade in Saint Antonino

I don’t tend to notice these things so much, but Cat picked up on all kinds of elaborate floors:

Cat's feet againCat's feet and featureCat's feet

Throughout the day we’d been somewhat disappointed stopping through villages looking for arts and crafts and local produce, but not finding much, although we did add some cool doors to our photo collection.

A green door in BalagneDoor latch in BalagneA door in St Florent

We drove back down from Sant’Antonino towards Pigna not expecting much, but I have to say that this is the place that really did it for us.  On top of being another charming village, Pigna seemed to be where all the shops we’d been looking for had been hiding (as well as a hotel called the Palazzu that had a really cool looking restaurant).

If you’re pressed for time, ignore the rest of the Artisan’s Road and head straight for Pigna as you’ll actually find everything here! We brought some fabulous olive oil and honey from this shop below that looked more like a mid-20th Century living room than shop…

Pigna shop

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