There are long stretches of Corsica's coastline so stunningly beautiful and wild they make you feel like you could be in one of the Mediterranean's most legendary spots—like the Amalfi Coast or the French Riviera—of a hundred years ago. As you drive miles and miles of narrow and often rutted two-lane roads through knuckle-whitening turns, it's difficult not to be awed by the scene. Corsica's west coast is nearly devoid of mankind's influence—it's just you and steep, granite cliffs in shades of red and gold that plunge to a pristine sea.
Corsica welcomes 2 million visitors, mostly from mainland Europe, annually to its beach resorts and rugged mountainous interior, yet the island remains a secret to most Americans. Corsica is well worth discovering-mixing a slice of Provence with a helping of Italy, yet all the while proudly and stubbornly Corsican. If it had only gorgeous scenery, great beaches and picturesque villages, it would be enough to fill any dream vacation. But Corsica also offers a singular, authentic culture, a rich cuisine and exciting wines produced from local grapes with tongue-twisting names.
Corsica's travel season runs April to October. Avoid the crowds at the height of August tourism; balance a trip with time on the beach and explorations of Corsica's inland areas. The best ways to explore the island are by car, on foot or by boat. Corsica has several ports with ferry service from mainland cities such as Nice, France (as little as three hours), and Livorno, Italy (about 2 hours 15 minutes). Flights from the continent arrive at airports in Bastia, Ajaccio, Calvi and Figari.
Note: When calling the establishments featured in this story from North America, dial 011, then the telephone number. Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars using the exchange rate at press time ($1 = 0.76 euros) and rounded to the nearest dollar.
Chemin St.-François, Monticello
Telephone: (33) 495-60-07-00
Who doesn't love discovering a place like this—a brand-new boutique hotel in a quiet mountain retreat, run by an enthusiastic couple with great taste? The hotel spreads 13 rooms and a spa through three modern villas set 1,100 feet above the Vallée du Reginu in the Balagne. With its pool and Jacuzzi set amid olive trees and lavender, A Piattatella has polished stone floors, modern wood furnishings and whimsical touches throughout. All rooms feature private terraces with valley views. Owners Thierry and Valérie Servant eagerly plan activities and walks for guests and suggest dining spots in nearby villages. The hotel serves light fare of local products, including salads and Corsican cheeses and charcuterie, as well as a small but solid collection of Champagnes and Corsican wines.
Route de la Forêt de Bonifato, Calvi
Telephone: (33) 495-65-93-00
Private villas: 5
Built around an 18th-century Genoese manor house at the edge of Calvi under umbrella pines and palm trees, La Signoria's colorful hotel complex—spread among four main buildings—feels like a storybook aristocratic rural estate. Elegant trompe l'oeil wall murals and oil paintings in common areas set the mood. In the lush Mediterranean gardens, with views over the Balagne, you can hear the bleating of a neighbor's sheep. Antique stone fountains and the weathered stone swimming pool look like they've been there for centuries. Soft pastel rooms and suites—all with private terraces—combine old touches like weathered oak floors, vaulted ceilings and antique bathroom tiles with modern elements such as bold art, oversize tubs and showers, and iPod docks. The hotel features a full-service spa with a giant Jacuzzi housed in a garden gazebo. A private beach and beach restaurant are minutes away by hotel shuttle.
U CAPU BIANCU
Domaine de Pozzoniello, Bonifacio
Telephone: (33) 495-73-05-58
Corsica's southeast coast is dotted with high-end resorts, but the Limongi family uniquely manages to blend luxury with true Corsican flavor. The setting of their hotel is unbeatable—a maquis-covered hill that slopes to a pair of private beaches and a gorgeous bay of aquamarine waters framed by limestone cliffs. Rustic elements accent the plush amenities: A family of pet donkeys roams near the helicopter pad, and a wellness cabin offers massages as well as a donkey milk bath. The three restaurants—gastronomic, wood-fired grill and beachside—base their cuisine on local products and herbs, and the wine cellar is 80 percent Corsican. The multiple dining terraces, the lagoonlike swimming pool and most room terraces provide sea panoramas. Each of the light-filled rooms and suites features a different decor, mixing antiques, rustic woods and modern furnishings to lend an island feel.
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