visiting the island of corsica

by Sharon Santoni

The island of Corsica is famous for being the birthplace of Napoleon,  It lies a few hours by boat south of the Cote D’Azur and  through the centuries has wavered between French and Italian ownership.   Since 1769 it is French.

The natural beauty of the island is astounding, it’s not a big place, rugged and wild,   rich and green, its perimeter bordered by stunning seashore, and the centre by dramatic mountain ranges.   In a few hours drive it’s possible to move from sandy beaches, to breathtaking hilltops to rocky and wild coastlines punctuated by  turquoise creeks.

For many years, the Corsicans turned their backs to the sea, and most of the older villages are to be found perched in the hills, hidden in the depths of forests of chestnut trees, with beautiful rivers running nearby.

My husband is Corsican, which is why my name sounds Italian.   The first time I visited the small family house in the mountains, was a lesson in mountain living.    Corsicans have a reputation as a pretty wild bunch.   They are certainly proud.   Fiercely autonomist for centuries, they have their own ways of getting things done.  Nobody talks about mafia, but it is present.   Discretion is second nature, you trust those you are close to, and stay wary of strangers, especially those who ask questions.

The first time I arrived in our tiny village up in the mountains, as a young bride, to a village boy, everyone noticed my arrival.  For most of the family friends and acquaintances I was immediately accepted, and by some even adopted.  I think they related to the girl that I was, coming from another island, albeit one with a monarchy.

Those who didn’t know where I sprung from, would challenge me outright as I walked through the village to buy bread.  They’d never ask my name, or my occupation… the only question that was repeated to me was “de qui tu est?”    which would best translate as “which family are you from”.   I quickly learnt how to reply succinctly and effectively.   What they needed was a rapid genealogy tree. I gave the names of my husband, my parents in law, the grandmother of my husband, our cousins on the plain, and if confirmation were still required I threw in a couple of well respected neighbours for good measure.   They asked the question once, but not twice.

The casual visitor is unlikely to come into contact with this very private corsica.   Most head to the south, where the beaches are spectacular and the hotels busy.   My heart lays further north.   I like my beaches sandy, long and empty except for driftwood and pinecones.     I like to dine with a view out across the mountains and down to the sea.  I love the mountain villages with their paths bordered by billowing blue hydrangeas.

I love the drive back from the sea to our village, through the chestnut trees, and maybe a little beyond for one last dip of the day in the fresh mountain river, that slightly takes my breath away, but leaves my skin so soft.

If one day you go to Corsica, be sure to find yourself a car and explore.  Don’t be afraid of heading up into the mountains, you won’t regret it.   Try to see some of the sights in the south such as the old town of Bonifacio, but then head back up north, and enjoy some  quieter areas, maybe find a little house to rent, or a smaller boutique hotel.

And just remember, …. don’t ask too many questions!


Carole J July 6, 2017 - 6:08 pm

Hi Sharon, great pictures!!! Mountains, greenery and the ocean. Looks wild and wonderful.

Sandra @ Maison De Jardin July 6, 2017 - 6:14 pm

Absolutely beautiful – looks like such a wonderful place.

Madonna July 6, 2017 - 6:18 pm

Sharon, I love this post. Thanks for taking us to Corsica. You have posted some lovely photos.

I probably would tell you most anything, but I get uncomfortable when people start asking questions. I always wonder what what are they going to do with the information. 🙂

Gail July 6, 2017 - 6:24 pm

Lovely. Thank you for sharing. We’ve wanted to go there for a long time.
My heart lays further north. Sorry–it’s “lies further…”
Chickens do the laying.

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2017 - 11:22 pm

thank you Gail, done! I’m lucky to have eagle eyed readers to set me straight 🙂

Hattee Christian July 6, 2017 - 6:35 pm

Sharon, I learned more about Corsica from this post than I’ve ever known. For some reason, I thought it was all wild – landscape and people – and totally uninteresting. Not so. It’s perfectly beautiful and, due to your insider’s viewpoint, quite fascinating. Thank you!

Sandra T. July 10, 2017 - 6:06 am

+1. I had no idea that Corsica was so varied and interesting.

Marsha Scott July 6, 2017 - 6:37 pm

Oh, goodness, that water !!
Beautiful, looks untouched and enchanting.
sending love…

Emm July 6, 2017 - 6:38 pm

Beautiful landscape.
Is the local French very different from mainland in accent or words?

Ceew July 6, 2017 - 6:45 pm

Years ago my young, single, college son and two friends took the ferry to this island and rented a car to do some sightseeing. As darkness approached and driving on unfamiliar roads, they soon realized they best turn around and head back to their starting point – and where they had a waiting reserved hotel room for the night. Using a small residential turnaround (what we call here in the US) they were soon surrounded by an angry mob of men. And by surrounded I mean their rented car was destroyed as rocks were used to smash and destroy, women screaming encouragement, men yelling – all while these three college friends sat within their rented car. I am making a very bad story short here. How my son and his 2 friends escaped unharmed is a miracle. Not a window was left remaining in the car. Imagine a group of men slamming rocks down on every inch of your vehicle, and how that vehicle would end up looking. Once these three made it back to the hotel, shell shocked so to speak, they were advised not to file a report, “As such things are just not done here”. And all because they dared to turn around on a residential dead end road.

San July 6, 2017 - 7:04 pm

When we lived in France, we spent a summer month in Corsica. We rented a car, stayed near the beach, & had a wonderful time. We went back over Xmas, took two friends with us, and stayed in the North. Again, rented a car & and explored everywhere, including going back to the beach. My husband speaks French and Italian , so we felt at home. We are now back in the states, but Corsica is still one of our favorite place.

Valorie July 6, 2017 - 7:12 pm

That is amazing! I learned a lot from your post, thank you! So beautiful! I must say in these crazy times we are living in, I’m quite envious of these folks and the isolation they enjoy. They have certainty in their lives it seems at least to me, something I miss. <3

Pamela July 6, 2017 - 7:29 pm

Beautiful photos,

Mary July 6, 2017 - 8:49 pm

At Ajaccio in Feb. with a Viking cruise… of the nicest stops we made! Found the island mesmerizing and would go back in a heartbeat! Love history so the information about Resistance leader Diane Casanova was inspiring.

Our French Oasis July 6, 2017 - 9:03 pm

I love Corsica, having spent several holidays there with friends in my London days pre children! One of the things I love most about living in France are all the islands and the ease in which we can get to them and enjoy them. We are quite spoilt here with the Atlantic islands right on our doorstep within half an hours drive. But there is always something extra special about the Mediterranean.

Taste of France July 6, 2017 - 10:48 pm

Gorgeous, gorgeous.
Corsicans do have quite a reputation for being independent.
The natural wildness is what lures me.

Trudye July 6, 2017 - 11:14 pm

Such a beautiful place and stunning pics!
Looks to be a perfect setting for one of your short stories!
T xx

Colleen Taylor July 6, 2017 - 11:28 pm

How absolutely gorgeous Sharon! What a beautiful country it is. A must stop is Corsica;on my list! X

Vicky from Athens July 7, 2017 - 1:07 am

How special! I would love to visit Corsica! Other than the Napolean connection, I really have known very little of Corsica – thanks so much for opening my eyes to this very special place!

Pat July 7, 2017 - 1:13 am

Beautiful…reminiscent of our Blue Ridge Mountains here in Virginia

Brenda Chambers July 7, 2017 - 2:01 am

My goodness what a great post. I love seeing beautiful pictures of places I wish I could visit. In Texas, we have a beautiful state, going from the Piney Woods of East Texas to the desert areas of West Texas and everything in between, the Hill Country in central Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. But pictures of foreign lands does make one’s mind wander of our beautiful planet and places.

Leslie in Oregon July 7, 2017 - 2:54 am

Your comments leave me very much wanting to spend time in the north of Corsica. Since I have no Corsican relatives or other Corsican connections, how would you suggest I answer the query “de qui tu est?”

Esmer July 7, 2017 - 5:49 am

Beautiful story. Strange, but asking “which family are you from” is traditional in Caucasus, and Corsican polyphony similar to Georgian.

Kimberly July 7, 2017 - 12:27 pm

Just got back from wonderful stay in mountain village of Zilia in a beautiful Corsican stone villa overlooking mountains. We explored the North like crazy, both mountains and sea. So much to see and do. I loved the raw beauty and agree North is more relaxing and chill. It’s a very special place for sure.

stacey snacks July 7, 2017 - 3:12 pm

Ah…..this is a lovely post (Henry enjoyed it as well!). So many places to see….and Corsica is one of them.
Grazie & Merci!

xo Stacey

Marla July 7, 2017 - 9:31 pm

Bless you Sharon. Thank you for the armchair travel today. I’ve been sofa or bed ridden for days trying to rid of an infection.I have many more days of rest ahead of me. The photos so gorgeous. It helped me breath.
We stopped in Corsica on a small cruise line, some years ago. I wish had been more than just a stop. Ah that ocean!!!

franki July 7, 2017 - 11:57 pm

Do you know the Durrells in Corfu?? 🙂 franki

Roxane Lacroix July 8, 2017 - 10:35 pm

It is so stunning!! Your photos are beautiful and makes me want to add this island to my travel list. Thank you!

jeni maus July 9, 2017 - 7:37 pm

Beautiful….love seeing these gorgeous photos of the island I have heard so much about from you and Eric. Hope you guys had a lovely time!

Susan July 10, 2017 - 10:16 pm

Oh so beautiful! How I would love to travel to this beautiful spot. Sigh…..

Isadora Guidoni July 15, 2017 - 12:03 am

Looks like a great, beautiful place – magical even! There are already so many places I’d like to travel to, and this one just made the list as well.


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