Bonjour from Bastia, Corsica
La Corse is a rugged Mediterranean island closer to Italy (83 km) than France (170 km). At 180 km long and 80 km wide, it's easily traversable in a few days. Bastia is the original port city.
For the long, hot summers, Renaissance architecture, pristine beaches, rugged granite mountains, and large nature reserves. And Le Tour has never been to Corsica, so why not join the celebration?
Don’t miss the marquis de la Corse, which refers to large areas of herbs growing wild – like a magical scented scrubland – on the plains and in some mountain areas. These herbs are the hallmark of Corsican cuisine and include rosemary, lavender, fennel, myrtle, thyme, juniper and oregano. Corsicans use nepeta (catmint) as a key ingredient in many dishes.
Corsica is alive with summer festivals and these celebrate their agrarian economy:
Wine Fair in Cap Corse, 6–7 July; olive festival in Montegrosso, 20–21 July; almond festival in Aregno, 4–5 August; hazelnut Festival in Cerrione, 17–18 August.
Seafood is prepared simply with a drizzle of the Corsican olive oil, marquis herbs and seasoned with salt and pepper. Wild boar is available during the hunting season from August to January. Corsicans are really proud of their dried and fresh pork sausages and charcuterie.
Look out for sweets like doughnuts, cheesecakes and tarts made with chestnut flour. Try the brocciu, a soft, ricotta-like cheese made with sheep’s milk.
Corsica is famous for St Georges mineral water, packaged in a sleek Philippe Starck-designed bottle. There are two main grape varieties indigenous to Corsica: nielluccio and vermentino. Nielliccio presents as a Rosé, but can be a big, red, tannic wine. Vermentino is the most popular white. Antione Arena is the most famous vigneron in Corsica. Importer Andrew Guard says Arena’s biodynamic red wines are “largely wild and dramatic, very unspoilt, much like the island itself. The vermentino is an invigorating, minerally and refreshing white.”
Best food souvenir
Honey (miel), particularly chestnut and marquis. Locals sell autumn, summer and winter miel.
Getting there and around
Fly direct from France or UK, or catch a ferry from Nice, Marsaille or Livorno in Italy. The best public transport is bus. Timetables are a little, er, relaxed and in the mountain areas there may only be one bus daily. Taxis are cheap, but maybe rent a car as many villages are remote. Or take a leaf from Le Tour and hire a bike!
Honorable Bandit: A Walk Across Corsica by Brian Bouldrey.
Granite Island: Portrait of Corsica by Dorothy Carrington.