Seniors Travel to the Isle of Corsica

Sep 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Travel

My last trip as a tour group leader was to Corsica.  It was the first time I had been to this island in the Mediterranean just off the coast of Italy and north of Sardinia.  I had done my research prior to arrival and discovered that if you wad up a newspaper and toss it on the floor… that’s Corsica.  It is all mountains.  Roads crisscross the island and a few go around the perimeter however most are very crooked and around every corner a new adventure. 

It is said that Corsica is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and with 600 miles of unspoilt and uncrowded coastline, and wild scenery soaring dramatically to nearly 9,000 feet at Monte Cinto, it seduces every visitor. Apart from wonderful sunshine, the quality that makes Corsica so special is its rich variety of people, scenery, traditions and dialects. Although Corsica is still ruled by France, one can hardly deny the Italian atmosphere the island exhales. The population is about 275 000 people and about half of them live in the two cities of Ajaccio and Bastia. It has 365 villages (one for each day of the year…), many inhabited by less than 100 people. The “Official Tourist Website” has some fantastic views of the island for starters and additional information.

I love maps.  Two map websites here and here can help pinpoint Corsica for you. Corsica is part of France and was ruled over the centuries by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Goths and Saracens. Famous for its independent spirit, rugged beauty, olive oil, wine and citrus fruit, Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Its major industry is tourism. It is referred to as the Mountain in the Sea and has the highest mountains and the most rivers (small streams) of any Mediterranean island. The island is loaded with green chestnut and pine forests, pastures and fragrant maquis scrubland. The word maquis comes from the kind of terrain in which the armed French resistance groups hid covered with this scrub growth.

Our Elderhostel group landed in Ajaccio, the capital and then took a bus to nearby Sartène.  Sartène is known as the “most Corsican village” and it was a wonderful village to explore. Sartène is often used as a base for exploring the major prehistoric sites of Corsica at Cauria and Palaggiu, with their fine dolmen and menhirs.  Ajaccio is located on the west coast of Corsica, Ajaccio (population about 50,000) has wood covered mountains circling it to the rear, and the port and citadelle towards the sea, on the Gulf of Ajaccio. This combination means that Ajaccio remains mild even during the winter months – hence the town is popular with tourists for much of the year around due to its fine climate and sheltered position.  Ajaccio’s more recent claim to fame is as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte – this will not escape your attention on your visit to the town. Things to see and do will keep you occupied on your visit.

Unlike many crowded Mediterranean resorts, Corsica remains largely untouched: wild untamed mountains meet beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear waters; hilltop villages brimming with genuine Corsican character have changed little in centuries.  The earliest Corsican inhabitants date from around 3000BC; they left impressive menhirs or standing stones, carved with staring faces, which can still be seen at Filitosa. French is Corsica’s official and working language, although many Corsicans are bilingual or trilingual, speaking Italian and the native Corsican language (Corsu), which you will regularly hear in Corsica’s more rural areas. Many of the island’s villages also hold a fete or festival to celebrate its local crafts and produce as well as religious or historical events. For more details see ‘Festivals and Events’. Spring is a fantastic time to visit the island. The flowers are in bloom and the island is a mass of vibrant color; deep red of the wild poppies and the bright yellow of broom complementing the soft violets. At this time of year, Corsica is lush and verdant, the rivers full.

Corsica enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, with summers being hot and dry, and remaining mild even in winter, at least at coastal level. The mountains are of course a little cooler all year round. See Corsica weather and climate for details of the best time to visit. The Natural Regional Park of Corse (Corsica) has been set-up to protect part of the rare and unusual habitats found on the island. The park includes some of the highest mountain peaks on the island, and much beauty. The Scandola Nature reserve is also stunning, but only accessible by boat. Many Brits vacation in Corsica and this site caters to their needs and will help you as well. FAQ at can be very helpful to the first-time senior visitor.

Visit these towns of Corsica:
Ajaccio – western Corsica
Aleria – eastern coast
Bastia – north-east Corsica (and access to Cap Corse)
Bonifacio – southern Corsica
Calvi – Balagne region (see also Balagne)
Cargese – Balagne region
Corte – central Corsica
L’Ile-Rousse – Balagne region
Porto – western coast
Porto-Vecchio – southern Corsica
Propriano – southern Corsica
Saint-Florent – north-east Corsica
Sartene – southern Corsica

Lastly I leave you with a series of photos of Corsica to explore:
Enjoy the Isle of Beauty…Corsica…       jeb

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