Corsica (Corse in French) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea that is also one of France’s 26 regions. It is part of Metropolitan France despite its being separated from the mainland and closer geographically to Italy. For fourteen years in the 1700s it was an independent republic, but was incorporated into France in 1770. It is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Continuously occupied since the Mesolithic, its indigenous population was occupied by many peoples during its long history, including Carthaginians, ancient Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans. After the fall of Rome, it was invaded by Vandals, Visigoths, Saracens, Lombards, and Genoese, who governed from 1347 to 1729 with a brief interruption by a Franco-Ottoman alliance in 1553. An independent republic from 1755 until 1769, it was incorporated into France in 1770.
Corsica is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean, being formed of ancient volcanoes. The highest peak is Monte Cinto, at 2,706 meters. Mountains make up two-thirds of the island, and one-fifth of the island is forested. Almost half of the island is dedicated to nature reserves, and the island is home to the GR20, a notable hiking trail. Though 80% of the population is fluent in French, Corsican is the everyday language.
Much of Corsica is unspoiled, since it has not been as intensively developed as other places in the Mediterranean. The biggest tourist cities are Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio in the south, and Calvi in the northwest. Corsica owes much of its agricultural heritage to the Genoese governor of the island in the 16th century who, in 1584, ordered all the landowners to plant four trees each year: chestnut, fig, olive, and mulberry.
Corsica’s culinary tradition is not as developed as that in mainland France, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Corsica produces gourmet sausages, cheeses, and wine, and there are six official varieties of Corsican honey that are sold in the mainland.
Cap Corse is a finger of land at the northern tip of the island that is populated by fishing villages and Genoese towers. At the southern end of the peninsula is Bastia, the second largest city on Corsica. This area is rugged, with gorgeous beaches on the eastern and western shores. The northernmost tip is not as easily accessible, but the terrain is worth seeing for those willing to make the effort.
Desert Des Agriates is actually a sun-burnt, uninhabited area full of scrub and cacti. But during the time of the Genoese it was intensively farmed with grain. However, soil erosion and fires took its toll, reducing the area to a moonscape by the mid-20th century. However, if you make your way through it, you’ll be rewarded by the amazingly beautiful Plage de Saleccia, which is blessed with crystal waters.
Calvi, on the northwest coast of Corsica, is the home to lots of festivals, as well as a lovely, long beach. It has all the comfort of a modern resort, but also maintains many elements of traditional Corsican culture. If you can arrange to go there by ferry, you’ll be able to really take in the mountains, pine forest, and the Citadel.
Going on vacation in Corsica lets you see a unique part of France, disconnected geographically, but filled with stunning scenery and its rich, unique history.