........... Pleasures of Corsica

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Invitingly clear aqua seas, white sandy beaches and sun-kissed Mediterranean skies...

Corsica comes with all the pleasures of a semi-tropical paradise, but it's much more... It is an island of majestic snow-covered mountains that trail to the sea, intricately sculpted crystalline granite of amazing beauty, palm trees and olive groves alternating with forests of chestnut and pine...and miles upon miles of undisturbed nature, its natural beauty protected by strict environmental and zoning laws. (To see photographs of Corsica, click here).

It’s hard to pick what is "most special" about Corsica, but natural fragrance is high on my list. It’s noticeable the minute one steps from the plane. Walking along small dirt roads outside any village, one becomes surrounded by the scent of the maquis—a wild scrub area between the sea and the tree line filled with fragrant herbs and shrubs.

Of the maquis plants, many are fragrant and all are unique to the mediterranean. Powerful scents radiate from the leaves, thanks to their high levels of aromatic oils. The resulting ‘live’ potpourri is fantastic—even mesmerizing. Once inhaled, the fragrance is never forgotten, its absence greatly missed. (To see Corsican Maquis plants, click here).

If you weren’t interested in Corsica for its natural beauty, Corsican history and culture is quite fascinating. Pascal Paoli was instrumental in the shaping of Corsica. After he came into power in 1755, he created a Corsican Constitution, established courts of law, created an army, encouraged the development of farming and founded L’Ile-Rousse to counterbalance the mighty power of Calvi, a neighboring Genoese city nearby.

Napoleon was, of course, the most famous Corsican, however few people realize that Christopher Columbus was born in Corsica. His house in the citadel village of Calvi, still (partially) stands today and comes complete with a historical plaque. (To see a photograph of the house [left side behind pole], click here... or the official plaque, click here).

The Corsican language is very beautiful, reminiscent of Italian, but unique to its own. Most Island residents also speak French and a little English. One of the best ways to enjoy the Corsican dialect is through Corsican music, which is exceptionally popular in Corsica and of growing regard in Europe.

Once a vanishing art, a cultural resurrection movement was instrumental in collecting shepherd’s songs from the hills, the repertoire expanded as the movement gained popularity . Often songs are in “Polyphony” style, a Corsican “a cappella” style of music with weaving harmonies and tones that are hauntingly beautiful. The music connects the Corsican people's long history of struggle, to the Corsica of today’s world.

Thanks to this movement, the number and popularity of Corsican groups has greatly increased over the last decade. Probably the most famous is "I Murvini” ( E move-Ree-nee) who performs sold-out world tours, as well as concerts on the island. Each Corsican group's sound is wonderfully unique and regularly scheduled music festivals and concerts around the island allow one to experience Corsican music firsthand! (To see concert photographs of our favorites groups , I Muvrini, click here, or L’Alba, click here ).

If you're thinking of touring the island, Corsica's cities, towns and villages are old, beautiful and fascinating to explore. The larger ones: Bastia, Ajaccio (the capital), Bonifacio, Porto-Vecchio, Corte, Calvi and Ile-Rousse offer a wide variety of local shops, restaurants and magnificent views. Most are easy to get to, positioned close to airports, and ferry terminals. A railway network crossing the island links many of these cities—and viewing the countryside from the small railway cars allows one to appreciate the spectacular scenery along with the locals. Smaller towns also have lovely shops, restaurants and beauty, and let one enjoy life away from the tourist spots. Even the smallest of villages up in the hills, with perhaps only a couple of buildings, will have a church overflowing with history.

Corsica’s main industries are fishing and agriculture. Because Corsica is a Mediterranean island, the varieties of seafood sold in farmer’s markets are incredible. Livestock is usually managed ‘free-range’, so don’t be surprised to find beautiful longhaired goats wandering the narrow mountain roads or cows near the shore.

This free-range grazing on the wild plants of Corsica—especially the maquis—means that Corsican meats are very full flavored! With the large number of sangliers (wild boars) running through the countryside, its no wonder that sausages have become a staple at every lunch and dinner.

Speaking of sausages, you wouldn't want to miss Corsica's sumptuous pork sausages—and how could you when they're prominently displayed hanging from strings in every small grocery or supermarché?

No dinner would be complete without a little Corsican cheese,and the varieties found in local groceries and supermarkets are varied, fresh and wonderful—the local brebis made from sheep's milk is lovely, their goat's milk chèvre is also very good, but the islands' pride and joy is the local Brocciu, a soft white cheese (distantly reminiscent of ricotta) made in the fall from goat or sheep cheese. To compliment the cheese, pick up some fig jam to serve on top of the hard cheeses—it's a wonderful combination that's very Corsican! To see photographs of Corsican charcuterie, seafood, wine, herbs and baked goods, click here). Or... to learn how to make your own Corsican Pizzas, click here.

Corsican wine is both excellent and quite affordable, making it a perfect compliment to any meal. Of increasing complexity and variations of flavor, the amount of local varieties available at the grocery will astound you. Or refill your bottles at the neighborhood cave or vineyard for real authenticity. Corsica also produces wonderful aperitifs and digestifs including Cap Corse, liquor of myrtle (especially magical with its scent of the maquis), liquor of chestnuts, cream of chestnuts, and Corsican brandy. Another quite popular aperitif, though not produced on the island, is Pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur popular in the south of France that turns cloudy when mixed with water. Or if you appreciate a good beer, the Pietra Brewery produces a number of craft beer varieties using Corsican chestnuts. To see photographs of some of these beverages, click here).

Yes, you read that correctly... chestnuts are a traditional fruit in Corsica and used in surprising ways. Handpicked in the Castagniccia Forest (near the village of Cervioni), chestnuts are carried by donkeys to a nearby village where they are ground into flour for cakes, breads, ice cream in addition to beer. One could take a tour of Corsica just sampling the food and beverages and have a truly unforgettable experience.

The next time you are planning a vacation, you might think about experiencing Corsica's pleasures firsthand. Flights from Paris' ORLY airport, to Corsica take as little as 90 minutes. Other flights and ferries are also available from Nice and Marseille, as well as locations in Italy.

Click here to read our travel suggestions, with weblinks for Air, Ferry and Train travel, on our Vacation Apartment Rental webpage.

 

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