For thousands of years, visitors have arrived in Corsica only to be dazzled by its beauty: the ancient Greeks declared it ‘Kalliste’, the most beautiful, while an inspired Henri Matisse declared that ‘everything is colour, everything is light’. The ‘Isle of Beauty' is a miniature continent where the further inland you go, the captivating scenes transition from sparkling turquoise bays and pastel-hued coastal cities to an undulating landscape marked by jaw-dropping sawtooth mountains and green hills capped by ancient villages forgotten by time. Perhaps most distinctive is the ubiquitous myrtle-scented maquis, a tangle of aromatic shrubs and low trees that Napoleon – Corsica’s most famous son – swore he could smell from the sea.
Corsica has passed from the Romans to the Pisans and in 1284, the Genoese, who established an impressive network of coastal citadels and watchtowers to deter seaborne invasions. The Corsicans enjoyed 15 years of independence in 1755 under local hero Pasquale Paoli, with Genoese control kept to a few coastal towns. In retaliation, the Genoese ‘sold’ Corsica to the French in 1769 for 40 million francs and the island has since remained part of France, except for a brief period of English domination in the late 18th century.
Although the Italian and French influences are undeniable, Corsica very much has its own identity evident in everything from customs to cuisine. French may be the official language, but Corsu is also widely spoken, with various dialects scattered across the island. Local pride in the Corsican identity and government incentives have nurtured a revival of traditional arts and culture.
Our tour takes you from the unspoilt coast across sweet-smelling scrubland and fertile valleys to the mountainous interior. We’ll discover Corsica’s compelling history and its local heroes, time-forgotten villages, centuries-old traditions, and incredible flora and fauna. Then there are the awe-inspiring views of sweeping bays, magnificent citadels, staggering summits and marvellous red-rock formations. To soak up the splendid scenery from different perspectives, our tour includes relaxing journeys by coach, train and boat.
As you might expect, Corsican cuisine is steeped in tradition and draws on French and Italian influences, but it’s still flavoured with its own distinct character. The island’s diverse landscapes are key to understanding the variety of local produce: fertile vineyards yield excellent grape varieties, chestnut forests offer up a versatile ingredient and fodder for wild boars, healthy livestock in green pastures provide milk for an array of cheeses and meat for charcuteries, and the surrounding seas produce a bounty of fresh fish, from red mullet and sardines to oysters and langoustines. If it’s authenticity, natural beauty and a quieter pace of life you’re after, our itinerary offers all this and more.