This August, as part of an intentional “Let’s really take a holiday!”, we took out first trip to the Mediterranean island of Corsica otherwise known as the Ile de Beauté…
Everybody I had spoken to in advance had the same thing to say: “I’ve heard it’s paradise!” from those who hadn’t been, and “It’s paradise, you’ll love it!” from those who had.
A lot to live up to yes, but having already seen pictures of heavenly looking beaches and lush green landscapes, I was getting very excited. I think what I didn’t understand was quite how perfect it would turn out to be…
But first things first! Staying at Villa Torraccia belonging to the Simpson Travel portfolio (*our stay was a complimentary week-long press stay) located just 2o minutes from southern town of Porto Vecchio, we booked our Easyjet flights to Figari, one of the four airports on the island; yes four!
Although the island isn’t overly large – approx. 3,300 sq metres, and essentially one big mountain! – driving takes time on the mountainous roads and there are no motorways to shortcut you places. Figari, to the west of the island, was a 40-minute drive from the airport.
(Although we paid for our own rental we were still welcomed and quickly processed by the Simpson Travel representative at the car hire – if you book through Simpson, car hire & flights are rolled in which makes for a very seamless experience. I met a couple of people at the airpot on the way back who had stayed other Simpson villas on the island and they loved this aspect).
- Complimentary villa stay with Simpson Travel – do check out the Corsia I & II Stories highlights on my Instagram too!
As our villa wasn’t available until 4pm, we drove to Porto Vecchio for lunch – the Corsican cuisine has a legacy of Italian-influence with lots of delicious pizza, pasta and mouth-watering salads, though there are some exquisite French restaurants too. (Part of the Genoese empire for centuries, Corsica became part of France in 1769, but the Corsican nationality prevails – road signs were in both Corsican and French. For a half-Italian who loves and speaks passable French, I found this a wonderfully familiar and quite perfect cultural mix; the Corsican “u” instead of “o” is the same as my father’s Ligurian dialect.
Arriving at our villa was such a treat! Immediately I was hit by just how wonderfully tucked away and private it was, hence no pictures of the exterior as there’s no main viewpoint of it! In the hilly Cavo neighbourhood – and just 10 minutes from Pinerello beach and restaurants – and surrounded by trees and foliage to the extent that the only exterior aspect you could see easily was from the entrance. I loved this! And it meant that once we got down to the glorious wood-decked pool, we were in a world entirely of our own.
Our first night we just chilled, with supplies we’d picked up at a big Porto Vecchio supermarket and the charming villa welcome pack; everything we needed for a plate of spaghetti & glass of wine, plus breakfast the next morning – we supped and enjoyed the pool before falling into bed.
Beaches! If you love beaches this is the island for you. They range from gloriously white and white-sanded to charming tucked away coves down through the trees. We made it our mission to get a few under our belt, although you could spend weeks ticking them off! I just couldn’t get over how beautifully warm & calm the sea was at all times of day…
Beach parking was always available, mainly free, and on Palombaggia we actually drove past the paid area to find loads of free parking…! There were the bigger more popular beaches and then my absolute favourites – like a beautiful hidden cove we stumbled upon on our drive back from Aleria, the quite heavenly tucked out of sight Place de Canella Corse Sud. We did take a look at the famous Plage de Santa Guilia (not least because of the name!) but found the attached hotel and general commercial vibe a bit full on.
Palombaggia, rated one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, did not fail to delight but was absolutely chocablock with people, and Tamaricciu less so, but no avoiding the paid parking there! Definitely the more off the beaten track ones, like Vardiola, would be my recommendation; nice and close to the Pinarello restaurants for a lovely evening meal and a little people watching.
Beaches aside, I think what astounded me so much about the island was the sheer diversity of the landscape and the myriad options of things to do. Once morning the boys set off to a nearby climbing centre, Gus is obsessed with these! And that afternoon we drove up high the Alta Rocca mountain to go on a waterfall hike – the highest in Corsica! Along the way, we passed the most stunning reservoir, the Lac de L’Ospedale – I couldn’t believe my eyes!
The Piscia di Gallu waterfall walk did turn out longer than expected, but if you do your research properly (lol, we didn’t!) you would be prepared for that! Nevertheless we quick-marched there and back through the rocky route in under an hour, astounded by the sheer natural beauty surrounding us.
Another day we headed to Aleria for the Etruscan archaeological site & museum (my father is obsessed with the Etruscans and suggested we go on his behalf!) and dragged Gus around the museums and old ruins. Yes, there was an ice cream involved… and it was on the drive back that we stopped at a nearby port and then found the magical Plage de Canella Corse Sud beach cove and had the most gorgeous end of day dip.
But my absolute favourite outing on our trip had to be the clifftop town of Bonifacio – I’d already seen pictures of the stunning cliff face and was hankering to go. In the end, despite our intention to miss the crowds and set out early, we headed there in the afternoon and were pleasantly surprised at how manageable it was. Yes, there were lots of visitors but there was loads of parking and it didn’t feel too overwhelming. Even just the drive into the town was something to behold!
First we explored the charming old town with its super narrow streets and then we decided to brave the steep cliff built Steps of Aragon. This was spectacular – I’ve never had such an incredible experience of the ocean or seen such beauty! Clambering down the 187 high steps and back up again was all part of it! If we had had more time, I would have loved to take a boat from Bonifacio to view the cliffs from that aspect and to sail to nearby Sardinia (just seven miles away) for the day!
Each day was a lovely, relaxed adventure and it was so much fun looking at the map and decided where we’d set off too. Of course we got a lot of villa time in too, and top marks to Simpson Travel for having found such a beautiful location and making sure the villa was perfect in all aspects – we had three bedrooms with en suites, and a huge top floor very well-kitted out kitchen/living space with sliding doors onto the terrace and a fabulous view all the way to the sea.
The Corsican peaches I must mention, as they were absolutely divine, the most lush I’ve ever tasted and a couple of nights we made life easy and picked up a roasted chicken on the way home – near the main roads, small grocery shops did these!
Such a fabulous place to visit, I could not recommend more. And definitely somewhere you could easily go back to and explore and entirely different part of the island. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, do check out Simpson Travel’s Corsica villas.