The Corsicans have long been the subject of a nationwide stereotype which brands them as lazy. Whilst completely untrue, this island in the middle of the Mediterraean is a great place to unwind. Looking out into the distance, hands in pockets or sat on a bench, Corsicans appreciate the myriad opportunities to admire the beauty of their island, and who wouldn't take an opportunity like that? Corsica is not idle; it is merely contemplative.
In terms of nature, its considerable vegetation is primarily what sets it apart from its Mediterranean sisters. The Regional Nature Park, located between Calvi and Porto-Vecchio, in itself covers more than a third of the surface area of the island and is home to no fewer than 2,000 plant species.
With its international marine park, its Cerbicale islands, which are a sanctuary for crested cormorants, its Lavezzi islands, where 68 species of fish have been identified, its Scandola island, France's first land and marine reserve, and its calanques, one of the most impressive areas of Corsica, what else would you want to do but be contemplative? Particularly since, as reflected in the calanques, nature takes care of everything, the elements carve the landscape as they wish, creating admirable natural sculptures and tumultuous landscapes of caves and ravines.
When you see the architecture of the island's towns and villages, such as Corte, the capital of the Corsican nation, nestled up in the hills and protected by the mountains, you'll see that exploring these towns is by no means restful. You will have to climb way up the rocky spur to where the fortified town of Bonifacio reigns over the surrounding area, proudly revealing its imposing Sainte-Marie-Majeure church.
Likewise, visiting the old port and the winding, sloping alleyways of Bastia will take its toll on your shoes and calves! Ravenous, you'll sit down to lunch and realise that walking really helps to work up an appetite. All the same, you will never have a large enough appetite to sample all the local specialties. With pork-based dishes (from animals raised freely and fed on chestnuts and acorns), such as figatellu (liver sausage), coppa (pork ribs), salamu (sausage), prisuttu (raw ham), polenta made using chestnut flour, brocciu (a cheese made from ewe's or goat's milk), olive oil and honey... the Corsican kitchen is as varied as its landscapes!
Surface area : 3351.0 km2
Population : 302000 inhabitants
This dish is characteristic of Corsican gastronomy and is renowned for being adaptable in many ways to any part of the pork. This recipe is based on a pork stomach stuffed with a mixture of tongue, liver, heart and rather fatty cuts (all taken from the pork) which must be finely chopped and seasoned with pepper and garlic. Once stuffed with this mixture, the stomach is stitched up, placed in salted water and brought to a boil. The dish is cut into slices and served cold.
This traditional Mediterranean dish is a cousin of the Provençal bouillabaisse fish soup. The choice of fish used, whether bream, whiting, mullet, grunt, grayling, rockfish, red mullet, John Dory, turbot or langoustine, determines the success of this very colourful dish. Once it has been prepared, the fish is put into a large cooking pot, herbs and other condiments are added, and copious amounts of olive oil poured over the dish. The major difference between aziminu and the bouillabaisse served on the continent lies primarily in the excellent quality of Corsican fish.
Bruccio (or brucciu or brocciu)
Even though the Corsicans incorporate it into many different recipes, brucciu, known as "the king of Corsican cheeses", is not really a cheese. It is, in fact, a fresh, creamy cottage cheese. It is made using whey, which is then mixed with pure ewe's or goat's milk. It can be enjoyed fresh as a dessert in season (i.e. from autumn to spring) or can also be preserved with salt and used later as a filling or topping for all sorts of things: omelettes, ravioli, doughnuts, pies, artichokes or fish.
You cannot come to Corsica and sample its cheeses without being tempted by one of the many wines produced in one of the eight classified AOC (controlled term of origin) regions (Ajaccio, Calvi, Cap Corse and Patrimonio, Porto-Vecchio, Figari, Sartène and the Vin de Corse AOCs). The red wines, although some are bitter and powerful, can provide a perfect balance, making them an ideal accompaniment to cold pork meats, cheeses and game.
The white wines have floral aromas and are the perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood. The Renucci white for the Calvi region, the vineyards of Marfisi and Orenga de Gaffory (which is excellent) for Patrimonio, the Tanella estate for Figori and the Nicrosi vineyard for white or Muscat from the Cap Corse region are all noteworthy examples.
To get to the "Island of Beauty", any way is a good one. However, one of the most cost-effective solutions consists in taking the ferry from Marseilles with your car to avoid having to rent one once you get there.
Obviously, Corsica is one of those destinations which is most appealing in summer but like all sunny locations, the island is very busy during this period. Finding somewhere to stay at the last minute can be very difficult; we recommend you plan ahead for your trip and book in advance (even before spring for some places).In July and August the island's beaches, restaurants and attractions are often completely packed. The prices may also be higher than usual.
To really be able to take advantage of your trip to Corsica, it's better to visit before or after the school holidays, if possible. Its Mediterranean climate means that in spring and autumn the temperatures are more mild and the days full of sunshine. There are also less tourists during these periods, which means that the locals are more relaxed. Even in spring, be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
This is especially important for those who are planning on taking on the famous GR20 trail during their vacation. It is best to be prepared before setting off on this hiking trail; it may be beautiful but it is also tough. Walking under a blazing sun on sometimes fairly steep slopes and over particularly difficult terrain are all part of this adventure. However, nothing is impossible; you just have to do your research before setting off on this trail amidst rare beauty.
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