Cor­sica call­ing...

NEW DI­RECT FLIGHTS HAVE IM­PROVED AC­CESS TO THE WILD AND SCENIC MEDITER­RANEAN IS­LAND. BEV­ER­LEY ROUSE DIS­COV­ERS ITS AP­PEAL

The Chronicle - - Get Away -

COR­SICA may be the birth­place of French mil­i­tary leader Napoleon Bon­a­parte, but there is so much more to this beau­ti­ful, laid-back is­land.

Its cap­i­tal, Ajac­cio, is the lo­ca­tion of the Bon­a­parte fam­ily home, where Napoleon was born in 1769 and which is now a mu­seum.

The port city, sit­u­ated on the west of the is­land, is one of the destinations for Air Cor­sica’s new di­rect sea­sonal flights from Lon­don Stansted.

A moun­tain­ous Mediter­ranean is­land off the west coast of Italy and the south-east coast of France, Cor­sica has been gov­erned by the French since it was handed over by the Repub­lic of Genoa to pay debts in 1768.

But what can you ex­pect from a trip to this dy­na­mite des­ti­na­tion?

ON THE ROAD

AF­TER fly­ing into Ajac­cio, we take a scenic two-and-a-half-hour drive from west to east to the Sunelia Perla Di Mare re­sort, near Ghisonac­cia.

The route takes us along quiet, wind­ing moun­tain roads and through green coun­try­side and dense pine forests. Traf­fic lights are few and far be­tween, so if you’ve never driven abroad, Cor­sica is an ideal place to start – as long as you can hold your nerve when a coach comes the op­po­site way, when you’re on a nar­row road next to a steep drop.

The is­land is home to the GR20 – said to be one of the most dif­fi­cult hik­ing trails in Europe – and is pop­u­lar with cy­clists, al­though e-bikes are avail­able to hire for those whose legs need a lit­tle help.

I de­cide to give my legs an eas­ier chal­lenge with a cy­cle round the bumpy paths of the pine for­est near my fam­ily-friendly lodge (bike hire is €12/£10 a day for adults or €50/£45 per week).

The re­sort is right on the beach and there is a kids’ club to keep chil­dren en­ter­tained.

There is also a beau­ti­ful spa (€60/£53 for a 50-minute mas­sage), and yoga takes place on a quiet decked area within the spa com­plex.

Even­ing en­ter­tain­ment near the bar area is great for par­ents who want to dine while their chil­dren are hap­pily oc­cu­pied by karaoke or a conga led by Sunny, Sunelia’s la­dy­bird mas­cot.

EX­PLOR­ING THE IS­LAND

COR­SICA has plenty more to of­fer for those who hire a car and leave the site. The me­dieval town of Boni­fa­cio, on the south­ern tip of the is­land, is a must-see, with a breath­tak­ing view from the restau­rant-lined har­bour of the Bas­tion d’Eten­dard.

This formed the most im­por­tant part of for­ti­fi­ca­tions which date back to 1195, and were built to de­fend the city.

Walk up the steep hill for a closer look or, like me, take the Petit Train de Boni­fa­cio (€5/£4.50) and save your legs for the walk back down.

NAT­U­RAL AT­TRAC­TIONS

A 30-MINUTE boat trip with SPMB Prom­e­nades en Mer (€35/£30) from Boni­fa­cio to the na­ture re­serve at Lavezzu – part of the ar­chi­pel­ago Iles Lavezzi – is one of the high­lights of my stay and shows how close the French is­land of Cor­sica is to Sar­dinia, its Ital­ian neigh­bour which is just eight miles away.

We have a pic­nic lunch on Lavezzu, an un­spoilt is­land of gran­ite rocks where there is lit­tle but an aban­doned shep­herd’s hut and a ceme­tery hous­ing the re­mains of 700 sailors who died in a ship­wreck in 1855.

On the hour-long jour­ney back, it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see the sheer white cliffs and caves, one of which lo­cals say is the shape of Napoleon’s hat.

The boat even goes in­side one cave to see a hole to the sky, which is said to be shaped like Cor­sica. It’s an im­pres­sive feat when they turn the boat around to get it out again! There is also a fan­tas­tic view of the King of Aragon’s Stair­way, 187 steps which were said to have been cut into the cliff by in­vad­ing sol­diers in 1420, al­though the less dra­matic truth is that it was cre­ated by lo­cals in a nat­u­ral rift in the cliff to ac­cess drink­ing wa­ter. For those stay­ing longer, Delphine – who has been a tour guide for nine years – rec­om­mends a trip to see the spec­tac­u­lar rocky red gran­ite needle­shaped peaks of the Aigu­illes de Bavella in the south of the is­land.

DELV­ING INTO HIS­TORY

WHILE we don’t man­age that, we do squeeze in a visit to the Ale­ria Mu­seum (€2/£1.70) where fas­ci­nat­ing ob­jects from the his­tory of Cor­sica in­clude fer­til­ity sym­bols and drink­ing vessels in the shape of an­i­mals’ heads.

The ticket price in­cludes a look around the re­mains of the an­cient town of Ale­ria, built be­tween the first and sec­ond cen­tury BC, with parts of the fo­rum, shops, tem­ples and baths vis­i­ble fol­low­ing ex­ca­va­tion.

Ajac­cio

A chalet at the Sunelia Perla di Mare re­sort

The pool at Sunelia Perla di Mare

Bev­er­ley on a cy­cle trail in Cor­sica

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