8 Days in Corsica--Not Enough!

Old Aug 7th, 2009, 10:05 AM
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Days 8 and 9: PIANA AND PORTO

Since I loved almost every part of our trip, it is hard to speak of a highlight, but Piana lived up to my expectations: the beautiful historic hotel; our huge room with a sweeping view of the countryside, the tiny town with its pink houses, and the sea; the hotel dining room which is itself an historical monument. The eroded red rock calanches. The two churches facing each other of different denominations but sharing the same priest.

Porto is more touristy and we didn't linger there. It is where the boats leave from to go to the nature reserve of Scandola that is off-limits to hikers and can only be seen from a boat. We chose one of the smaller boats, piloted by a tall, craggy, dark-haired man dubbed Elvis by my friend. Elvis piloted us into the narrowest of caves and pointed out birds' nests that we could barely see. The boat went pretty quickly across the open sea. We were sitting in the open bow and when the crew member closed one of the doors we didn't know why until we were soaked by a wave. This happened again and again, with one door or the other, but the sun was shining and we just enjoyed the showers. When he closed both doors, we knew we were going to get completely drenched. And we did.

We drove into the spectacular Gorges de Spelunca and saw orange granite walls, rushing rivers far below us, a few villages with orange tile roofs perched in the chestnut forests. We stopped again and again for goats and pigs that were in the road.

It was time to return to Ajaccio to catch the morning ferry back to Marseille. We still didn't have a place to stay. Fortunately, my habit of picking up every piece of tourist literature I see, paid off. In one booklet of accommodations I saw a pension that wasn't listed anyplace else. I called and the proprietor said she was sorry, they were full. Desperate, I asked if she knew anyone who rented rooms. She said yes, she had a friend who did, and she would call her and I should call back. Her friend had a room!

In Ajaccio, we returned the rental car, dropped our bags off at the pension, and explored for a few hours. We had dinner in the pension and her friend came and drove us to her house, 10 minutes away. Our room was spartan but clean. In the morning we were offered a copious breakfast that she had bought just for us, as she never eats breakfast. She took us to the ferry, told us to please look her up if we ever returned to Ajaccio, and said we were adorable and young. Adorable, perhaps, but young we are not. It was the perfect goodby to a nearly perfect trip.

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT CORSICA

I should have started my trip report with this. Corsica is called "a mountain in the sea" and "isle of beauty" and it is both those things. It has incredible natural resources in a fairly compact area. Dramatic forbidding mountains, breathtakingly beautiful coastlines and beaches, blue and green waters of every hue, cities and villages that show you centuries of history. Delicious food, wonderful wines.

Tourism is expanding in Corsica, which was a part of France long neglected by the French government. t is only recently that money has been flowing into Corsica. Thus there are new hotels and the roads are in mostly decent condition. It is easy and always rewarding to get off the beaten path. I was nervous about driving, having heard that Corsica has the most dangerous roads in France. True, there are hairpin turns and narrow roads, but we enjoyed driving there and had no problems because we were there in the off-season. (In fact, everything we did was more enjoyable because it was the off-season.) Only once did we encounter what must be a frequent occurrence in July and August: two tour buses meeting head-to-head in the Gorges de Spelunca.

The people we met were welcoming, friendly, open, and proud of Corsica. We spoke French whenever we could. No one would mistake us for fluent in French, but people were appreciative of our efforts and I do think it made a difference. We were able to talk with the shopkeeper in Bastia who told us how the French government discouraged the use of the Corsican language when he was a child, and how his grandson is now studying Corsican at the university in Corte. In our hotel in Zonza, I walked into a crowded room to watch a soccer game on TV. There was an empty chair in a prime spot and I sat in it. I sensed a reaction around me but didn't realize what it meant until the patriarch came in. Obviously, I had taken his seat! He told me to stay but I got up and he sat down. Before we left the hotel, he told us about some of the changes he has seen. Some people we met, including the gracious woman who rented us a room and complimented us, spoke no English.

There are so many places we didn't get to see in our 8, or rather 9, days. I hope to go back soon. The problem is, I would want to repeat almost every part of this trip.
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 10:42 AM
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Could you please post the names of hotels and restaurants that you enjoyed? We will be in Corsica for three weeks and would like to try a variety of places.

Thanks,
Mrs. Laidback
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Laidback: Have a wonderful time. 3 weeks sounds great. I'd like to hear what places you discover and like. These were our favorites:

Bastia: A Casarella
Vizzavona: Hotel Monte d'Oro
Sartene: Auberge Santa Barbara
Figari: Les Bergeries de Piscia
Levie: A Pignata
Piana: Les Roches Rouges
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 04:35 AM
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Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jun 9th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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Great info! Thanks. We're going in September.
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Old Aug 20th, 2010, 12:32 AM
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Old Aug 20th, 2010, 01:55 AM
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Old Aug 20th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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I was happy to rediscover this thread. Corsica is indeed overlooked too much. I bet that a lot of the people who spend their time in Provence would actually prefer Corsica if they knew better.
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Old Aug 20th, 2010, 01:04 PM
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I was in Corsica for the first time this past Spring in the month of May. It was one of the MOST beautiful places I have ever been to. Hiking the cliffs surrounding Bonifacio was SUBLIME!!! I also saw them by sea on the ferry to and from Sardinia. Corte was a VERY pleasant suprise. I took the train from Ajaccio to Corte round-trip through the mountains. BEAUTIFUL!!!Ajaccio was pleasantly likeable for the largest city on the island. I took the bus back and forth from Ajaccio to Bonifacio and saw a good deal of the Corsican countryside that way. If you get the chance GO!!! It's TRULY a BEAUTIFUL place!!!

Ross
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Old Aug 20th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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I was so interested in your report. We were in Bonifacio for only a day off of a sailboat, and we thought it was beautiful and interesting. It's a place we have always thought that we would return.

So many places, so little time & money!
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Old Aug 21st, 2010, 07:09 PM
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I am currently planning a return trip to Corsica with DH and DD, deciding where to go and wishing we could go everywhere, and was surprised to see my own trip report turn up.

goodtwogo: We're going in Sept too. I hope we all have good weather. Where are you going?

kerouac: I agree with you, I've been living in Provence the last few years and it is beautiful, etc., but Corsica takes beauty to another level.

newyork: Were you in one of the new train cars or an old one? I've just heard there were problems with the new cars and they've been taken out of service. We're going to take the train from Bastia to Vizzavona and plan to stop in Corte.

TPAYT: I thought we were going to skip Bonifacio but I think we have to include it. I hope you get back to Corsica some day.
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 05:56 AM
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I am leaving this weekend for a one week sailing trip on the west side of Corsica, and am very much looking forward to it.
It's an organized teaching trip, so the instructor will probably be deciding which ports to stop in, but any hints and tips on small late afternoon excursions and dinner tips are more than welcome !
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 02:28 PM
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Thanks so much for your wonderfully detailed report. I am just in the very early planning stages of a trip there next Sept. so am loving the info.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 05:32 PM
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I know this is an old thread, but i just re-read it again.

I see that you ate at A pignata in Levie. Is it worth all the fuss about it? I'm debating adding a night in Zonza just to eat there. I'd rather spend the night in either Santa Giulia or Porto Vecchio to not have a one-nighter, but I think it would be a pain to drive up the mountains at night if you're not staying somewhere up there. Where did you stay?
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 08:45 PM
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