Corsica is unspoilt compared to other Mediterranean islands, which is a surprising fact, given its attractive vital statistics: a mild climate with 300 days of sunshine a year, over 200 beaches along 1000 km of coastline and its status as the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean.
Its beauty is beguiling: twisting roads thread through the mountains, joining picturesque medieval villages clinging to steep hillsides. Along the coast are sheltered coves with white sand beaches lapped by impossibly turquoise waters. A series of invaders, from Romans to Moors to Genoese, have left a rich architectural imprint of historic fortress towns, lofty citadels and baroque churches, while the capital, Ajaccio, is a stylish city, packed with designer boutiques and hip bars and restaurants.
Mountains account for two thirds of the island’s area. It has 20 peaks over 2000 m, the highest point being Mont Cinto at 2706 m. Despite its Mediterranean position, Corsica’s granite peaks are snow-capped in winter and some even have glaciers and ski resorts. Corsica has one of the most famous walking trails in Europe, the GR20. It’s also one of the most challenging, covering 180 km through the rugged interior of the island.
Corsica has many settlements in stunning locations. On the island’s southern tip is the ancient town of Bonifacio in a dramatic setting, clinging to dizzying weathered limestone cliffs. At the heart of island, Corte has a citadel balanced on a craggy hilltop. The wild Cap Corse peninsula in the north has a ridge of mountains running along its spine, topped by Mont Stello at 1307 m, and pretty fishing villages strung along its coastline.
Napoleon is Corsica’s most famous son and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Corsican capital, Ajaccio, where there are many statues of him and streets named after him. Born here in 1769, his childhood home is now a museum. Another famous native of Corsica is Christopher Columbus, said to have been born in the sprawling citadel of Calvi, a harbour town in the north, with a 6-km-long beach.
Located 160 km southeast of the French mainland, it’s closer in distance to Italy, separated from the Italian island of Sardinia by a mere strait, which at its narrowest point is only 11 km away. The island is decidedly un-French and definitely Corsican in many ways, from its culture to its cuisine. It even has its own language, Corsican, which is closer to Italian than French, and road signs on the island are in French and Corsican.