Please fill in all fields and then click Submit.
Once submitted, your comment will be sent for approval by one of our editors.
Corsica, nicknamed île de la beauté (island of beauty), seems to be off the beaten path for many American travelers in France, despite the rich natural beauty and culture the island has to offer. I traveled through Corsica for a week in June, conducting research for a university thesis, enjoying the picturesque cities, incredible food, and Mediterranean lifestyle. Despite the fact that Corsica is often known for its rocky relationship with mainland France, the Corsican people were anything but hostile and said that those who still protested for complete separation from France were a minority. Corsicans seemed (rightfully) proud of their unique customs and heritage that make them different from France, such as their language and cuisine, which are both influenced by the proximity and former ties with Italy.
For travelers in France, Corsica is not a huge leap, but a simple plane or boat ride away. The French is easy to understand without a marked accent (like one would find in Quebec, for example) and many people speak English. However, since English-speaking travelers are less common here than in Paris, the Corse are less likely to notice your accent and automatically switch to English, making it a great place to practice your French. I was constantly amazed by the diversity that such a small island could offer, from white sand beaches and palm trees to jagged mountains. Corsica is a great place for a varied vacation: from snorkeling one day to canyoning the next.
My own journey to Corsica began in Nice, where I took a ferry to Bastia, the largest city in the north of the island, with a population of roughly 40,000. The boat for the five-hour voyage was incredibly comfortable, practically a cruise ship, with several bars, lounges, game rooms, and the option to rent a cabin to stow luggage and catch up on sleep. The town of Bastia was instantly endearing when I arrived in the evening and began the trek to my hotel. The buildings were stained and crumbling in a charming way that suggested that they had seen a lot of change and remained weathered but unyielding; a sentiment likewise reflected in the spirits of the Corsican people. I stayed in Hotel Le Forum, on Boulevard Pascale Paoli, one of the large roads bisecting the city. Paoli, the leader of the short-lived 18th century Corsican nation, is honored in every city here it seems, as there is always at least one road, place, or statue that bears his name.
Walking around vieux Bastia only reinforced the impression of a weathered charm. I arrived at the old port area just in time to see the sun set over the Mediterranean. The port was dotted with simple sailboats and fishing vessels. The surrounding buildings, still damaged from WWII, steadfastly looked on. Shortly after, I got my first taste of Corsican cuisine at U Tianu, where I splurged on the €23 fixed price menu. Though I was dining alone, the portions seemed as if they were made for three; beginning with the entrée, Corsican charcuterie, chickpeas and bread, and continuing with a large carafe of wine, the plat (sheep cheese cannelloni, lamb with pasta, and lentils), a cheese plate, coffee, and dessert (fiadone, a Corsican cake).
The following day, I wandered around the city on a self-guided tour of the sights, beginning on rue Napoleon, where former stables have been converted into shops, including some delicious bakeries where I picked up a beignet (doughnut) for breakfast. Along the way, I stopped at the St. Roch brotherhood oratory and the Immaculate Conception brotherhood oratory, whose simple exteriors revealed beautifully detailed interiors. The église St. Jean Baptiste, the largest church on the island overlooking the vieux port, came next with its impressive two towers and elegant interior (where the unusual scene of the baby Jesus’ circumcision is depicted in a stucco relief). The path around the vieux port led up stairs to the Jardin Romieu and then the citadelle, with postcard-worthy views of the port below, and a maze of cute streets and alleys.