Corsica Highlights

As those of you who subscribe to the free C&Z newsletter already know, Maxence and I have just come back from Corsica — the French island that’s floating in the Mediterranean between France and Italy, just above Sardinia — where we spent an altogether enthralling vacation with my sister and brother-in-law.

It was our first time there after years and years of thinking we absolutely must go, and although our expectations were as lofty as the accounts made by friends who’d already been, they were exceeded by the reality of this insanely gorgeous piece of land and sea.

We stayed in Cargèse, a small village with twin churches on the western coast of the island, about an hour north of Ajaccio. There we devoted our time to exploring the coast, swimming and snorkelling in limpid waters, hiking, boating, and swimming some more. We ate extremely well, too, even in the simplest of places, and took full advantage of the local produce and seafood.

As can be expected after such a wonderful trip, it’s a little hard to get back to work, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I savor some of my fondest memories:

~ Spending a whole day in Girolata, a hidden village that’s only accessible by boat or a hiking trail, and feeling very Pirates of the Caribbean.

~ Establishing that there is no more pleasurable swim than one that’s earned after a strenuous hike to a remote beach or cove.

~ Collecting dining experiences at tables with breathtaking views, and confirming it makes the gargantuan octopus salads, the friture (fried whitebait), the seafood tagliatelle, the zucchini fritters, and the peach and melon sorbets even tastier.

~ Drinking our body weight in chilled Orezza, the ubiquitous local sparkling water. Alternating with the occasional Corsica Cola, and taking a liking to Cap Corse, the local apéritif, a close cousin to martini rosso.

~ Watching perfect sunsets and getting dangerously accustomed to skies like this:

~ Taking a boat ride to explore the Piana calanche and the nature reserve of Scandola (both part of a Unesco world heritage site), and wanting to stay on that boat forever.

~ Playing “Where’s Waldo” trying to spot the feral goats that live on the Scandola reserve (dating back to the time shepherds brought them here to graze each year, and lost a few when leading the herd back to the mountains) and climb down the steep cliffs at dusk to lick the salty rocks by the shore to balance their sodium intake.

~ Feasting on figs and, just like in Croatia, wishing I could bottle up the heady, coconutty scent of the fig trees that grow just about everywhere. Eating the juiciest, sweetest nectarines of my entire life.

~ Finding out there is such a thing as a sea tomato (Actinia equinia).

~ Driving up and down tortuous, narrow, potholed mountain roads and sharing them with completely unfazed cows, goats, and black pigs.

~ Tasting crêpes and canistrelli made with the local chestnut flour (which benefits from a PDO) and buying two kilos of the smoky stuff, dried over a wood fire, to experiment with. Buying local chestnut cream, too, and myrtle jelly. And boar saucisson. And olive oil. Praising Air France for their charitable luggage weight policy.

Like most everyone who goes to Corsica it seems, we have vowed to go back at the first opportunity, next summer we hope. What about you, have you ever been? What are some of your favorite memories from your trip?

[Read more travel posts on Chocolate & Zucchini.]

  • http://www.epicurien laurent

    I ve been to corsica in june too and i can only confirm ur opinion, it’s amazing : one of the greatest island where i ve been, great food, great landscape, great wine, great sea ;-)

    it reminds me i still have figatelli saucage and i think i ll prepare oggs with figatelli, an amazing brunch ;-)

  • http://amandamantes.blogspot.com Manding

    Stop it. Anchovies and all the salty fishies are almost the best part about the Mediterranean.

  • http://kityoon.blogspot.com Kit

    By far, our favorite place on earth! My husband and I have been to Corsica twice, and look forward to going back…now with our children in tow. It’s heaven on earth! Thanks for bringing back the fond memories of the island.

  • http://www.culinaryjourneybyme.com/ Gourmet

    I love Corsica! Les Calanhes in Piana are amazing! And the beaches, mountains… and of course the food! Like the cheese, caneloni au brocciu, terine de sanglier… everything is special.

  • http://www.purepanache.blogspot.com Katelyn @ Pure Panache

    Breathtaking! I must get here before I die…sounds like you had a fabulous trip!

  • chefjosh

    haven’t been to corsica but i sure would like to now. tell me more about those figs!

  • http://ofagatesandmadeleines.wordpress.com/ Emma

    Wow wow wow. Yum yum yum.

    I visited Corsica in 2007, but it was a whirlwind trip featuring lots of train travel and two ferries. I didn’t get to spend much time in one place, or learn too much about anything, really. But the food was delicious… I stayed away from horse meat, though. The scenery was delicious, too. And riding through mountain passes on trains that seemed too old to hold their own – that was thrilling!

  • http://lemonsandolives.blogspot.com/ Enzo

    Many years ago I got my first job as a junior officer on a beautiful small liner connecting Livorno, Bastia and Porto Torres (Sardinia). I loved Corsica and even made friends there. The food was out of this world. I would love to go back there soon. Thank you for your post.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Sounds dreamy! I have always wanted to go. Your post has completely convinced me.

  • http://foodlovefood.wordpress.com/ Harriet

    I spent a week in Corsica in May, an amazing island, so different to any place I have been before. I loved the markets (the cheeses! and saucisson!) My favourite meal was at a tiny portside restaurant in Bastia and I ate the most incredibly delicious moules et poireux pie. Thanks for your post!

  • Kathryn

    I loved Corsica when I was there! It was so beautiful. I spent time in Corte and Bastia (so not the cities you visited), but your pictures bring back fond memories.

  • http://sweetalchemies.blogspot.com Maia

    Your photography is spectacular! They seem to have captured the essence of what appears to be a magical, colorful, flavorful, “dolce vita” kind of trip.

  • http://rileymadel.blogspot.com Snippets of Thyme

    Share away! We’d love to see your photos of this enchanting island. I love photo tours as well as delicious food.

  • http://fresh-foodblog.blogspot.com Inki (fresh: a food blog)

    We also spent 3 AMAZING weeks in Corsica this past summer. We went for a week last year and vowed to return for a longer period in future because we loved it so much. We stayed in Cargese for the first week. Did a few gorgeous hikes in the area & drove the breathtaking coastal road between Piana and Porto. Spent some time in Corte walking the Vallee du Tavignanu and Restonica. Ended with a week in the Bastia region. My personal highlights were wine tasting in Patrimonio and watching late afternoon boules games in Saint Florent. But there are so many more things I love about Corsica. And I’ll definitely go back there again soon!

  • http://www.foodyoo.com love cooking

    French is so far from my home. But really make me looking forward the vacation at the end of this year. Your beautiful photos really making me planning for an island trip this time. :)

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.com barbara

    It sounds delightful Clotilde.

  • blandine

    Shame on me!!
    Having travelled around the world and never been there yet in spite of being told so many times it is like “Cévennes plus the sea” (when one knows my love of Cévennes!)
    Yes, on top of my bucket list is “Corsica in June or September” the privilege of the “nearly retired”

    Welcome back, and thank you Clotilde for featuring me among your guests bloggers this summer…

    Have you ever written about this phenomenon : why does the food we buy there doesn’t taste as good back here?
    How does figatellu taste in Paris? i wonder…

  • http://www.confessionsofapickyeater.com Erin

    Corsica looks absolutely beautiful! Sounds like I need to add it to my already very long list of travel dreams.

  • http://www.mineralifeonline.com Neil | Butterfield

    These pics are stunning, I am glad that you enjoyed yourself in Corsica and you sharing your experiences have made me want to go on holiday too :-)

  • http://bewitchingkitchen.com SallyBR

    Having lived in Paris for several years, it kills me to admit that I haven’t made that trip… :-(

    Worked too much, I guess. Silly me!

    but, I did to go Provence, and fell in love head over hills with Roussillon…

    Wonderful photos, loved the write up on your trip!

  • Hannah

    The pictures are absolutely beautiful! I’m definitely adding this to my list of destinations. Plus, I love seafood!

  • http://lemontarteinparis.blogspot.com Lemon

    I love you photos and text memories of your vacation in Corsica. Sounds like a great holiday and definitely makes me feel like I should not wait any longer and go thereto. I remember, some years ago, we had neighbours who went thereto every summer, and brought back palm and lemon trees for their garden. One summer night they made us listen to Corsican music, I remember I enjoyed.

  • http://www.davidlebovitz.com David

    I keep meaning to go as well, and somehow, I’ve never made it. Thanks for the prompting though…and hope to go next summer!

  • http://diningwithdusty.blogspot.com Katy from DiningwithDusty

    Looks gorgeous! I’ve never been, but maybe one day!

  • http://www.realepicurean.com/ Scott at Real Epicurean

    You are far too lucky! Can I be your best friend? Best friends go everywhere together…

  • http://www.tandcake.wordpress.com Tamsin

    Oh I love Corsica so much, my mum and I rented a tiny cottage in Serriera three years ago and I’m desperate to go back! Your holiday photos look so much like my mine. My favourite memories?

    Swimming in such beautiful, clear water; picking fresh figs from the tree next door; the friendly boulangerie lady who came in her van with fresh bread and pains aux raisins; the wonderful mix of French and Italian that is the Corsican dialect; jambon corse, tarte aux myrtilles, terrine de sanglier, kumquat jam made by the owner of our gite and sipping Cap Corse at the beach while the sun set; hiking through the calanches and enjoying a picnic looking out to sea; bullet holes in French-language signs(!)…

    I could go on for hours! I’m glad you had a great trip.

  • Richard

    I so love Italy and their culture. You must have had a wonderful time! I have been all over the Italian coast but never to this island! Now you inspire me to go.

  • http://www.6inthemorningside.com Mich @ 6morningside

    Wow- these pictures look amazing. I would love to transport to that scene at this very moment. And I’m suddenly hungry for seafood…

  • http://www.ParisWeekender.com Abby

    As everyone seems to agree, Corsica is a magical place. If you have any interest in hiking, the GR20 is a challenging but amazing experience, even if you only pick a section of it. (Although the food options are a bit sparce!) If you are looking for restaurant recommendations, try:
    –Calenzana: Hotel A Flatta, Tel: 04 95 62 80 38 (absolutely incredible)
    –Bonifacio: U Castille, 7 Rue Simon Varsi, Tel: 04 95 73 04 99
    –Bastia: Le Lavezzi, 8, rue Saint Jean, Tel: 04 95 31 05 73
    –About 10km east of Calvi: Le Pain de Sucre (www.le-pain-desucre.com, 04 95 60 79 45)
    –Porto: Hôtel Bella Vista, route de Calvi, Tel: 04 95 26 11 08, info@hotel-bellavista.net.
    Enjoy!!

  • Honeybee

    My husband and I went a couple of years ago, to the Cap Corse first and then to the west coast. The scenery and the sea were absolutely stunning. Sadly we were rather disappointed with the food (maybe just unlucky?) and felt a bit unwelcome more than once (end of season symptom?). The fact that we both had to see a doctor didn’t help… ;) However, the hotel Castelbrando we stayed at the first week was a true find! Can’t beat a copious breakfast served on such a beautiful patio!

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    I went there once, too many years ago – seems like a lifetime really. I went camping in the Southern part around Bonifacio: it was the first time for me on a Mediterranean island so I was a real revelation. It was July. I did not have much money, but I remember everyone was really friendly, maybe because I did not speak French then and got by with just Italian :) I remember drinking muscat, eating soft and slightly overripe apricots, pissaladiere, and pecorino wrapped in chestnut leaves. I was listening all the time to a record of Keith Jarret and to me that album will always have the smell of the Mediterranean.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Sounds like a perfect vacation indeed. :)

  • http://www.sailblogs.com/member/steenrally voahangy

    Hi Clotilde,
    Oh this brings back terrific memories of a family cruise we did 4 years ago. It all rings so true! We’re back sailing again and tried to convince my other half to go back to Corsica, but sadly it’s not on the itinerary this time around. I remember becoming addicted to brocciu and niolu, chestnut cakes, even hubby reckoned that Pietra beer was one of the best he’s ever tasted (from an australian guy that says a lot!)Thanks for such a great post.

  • Amanda

    I loved Corsica. We stayed in a simple and beautiful art deco hotel in Piana… I read the amazing Dream Hunters Of Corsica by Dorothy Carrington when there, which brought out the wild, evocative, darker side of the island… especially when descending those twisty, misty mountain roads in the black of night…

  • http://MadAboutMacarons.com Jill Colonna

    I can’t believe I have just discovered your site. It’s wonderful – and love this post. I have a soft spot for the island as I ended up marrying a Corsican (that’s what happens when you don’t study French properly at school ;-) and so I can relate to many magical moments there. Last year we finally saw a goat up the cliffs at Scandola. Breathtaking.
    Particularly appreciate that last photo of the shutters. In fact, it looks like the ones belonging to my parents-in-law!

    Cheers to you and congratulations on your 8th Anniversary. Sounds like a great excuse to reach for that Cap Corse in the cupboard.

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