Wildly beautiful and a world apart, Corsica calls to our imaginations. Indeed, the ancient Greeks called it Cyrnos, Cernealis, or Cirné, all derived from Seirinoussai, which means of the Sirens. The prevalence of the maquis plant, with flowers that produce a fragrance carried far out to sea, led to its nickname as the “Scented Isle”. Just north of Sardinia, it is a place of dramatic mountain peaks, unspoiled landscapes, and sea swimming that rivals the Caribbean. Corsica’s is a natural beauty, which its people protect fiercely. Although technically French, most locals insist that they are Corsican, not of “the continent”, as they call mainland France.
Some say that Corsica looks like a right hand giving a thumbs up—with its slender northeastern “thumb” and western “knuckles”. The knuckles in particular are exquisite, and so we focus here, balancing time spent on the coast with visits to the picturesque points inland, affording the full experience of all that is Corsica in tastes and views from the mountains and the sea.
Signature tastes of Corsica include: charcuterie from locally-raised, free-range pigs; cheeses made mostly from goat’s and sheep’s milk; Vermentino and rosé from the Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu native grapes; beers with hints of chestnut and maquis (a type of Mediterranean groundcover vegetation similar to Chaparral); grilled sea bass; and beef stew.
In summers, the island’s population swells from a few hundred thousand to over one million as visitors flock in for the season. The trials of tourism, faced by so many coastline communities around the world, are no match for the Corsicans, however, who value their pristine environment above all else. Their commitment to preservation is evident: Our founder Cristiano Bonino first visited in the 1980s, and his favorite places are unchanged to this day!
Corsicans have held onto their fierce self-identity through the many empires who came, saw, and conquered. Medieval Corsican history resembles that of many Mediterranean islands: Invasions and occupations by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Lombards, and Arabs were par for the course. (Roman is the basis of the present-day island dialect, called Corsu.) Eventually, Corsica fell to the papacy. Over a 200-year period, over 300 churches were built.
Corsica’s bitterest struggles were with the Genoese who decimated the island’s population as they sought to crush the native feudal aristocracy. While the Genoese were by no means the most brutal in Corsica’s long line of occupiers, they were known and loathed for their corruption in administering justice. The void left by Genoese shortcomings led the Corsicans to create their own forms of vengeance in what would come to be known as the vendetta.
In 1755, the nationalist Pasquale Paoli set about establishing a Corsican republic, an independent, democratic state that wrote a remarkably liberal constitution. Under Paoli’s leadership, the vendetta was suppressed, a university and printing press were founded, and Corsica established a navy. Unfortunately, when Genoa sold its rights to Corsica to France and French troops invaded, the valiant efforts of the tiny island republic were crushed yet again.
The year of Paoli’s defeat to the French and flight to England was also the birth year of Corsica’s most famous native: Napoleon Bonaparte in the capital city of Ajaccio. He and many of his successors would later join the French military as a means of escaping the island’s poverty.
During World War I, Corsicans were known for their loyally and valor. Survivors rose to the upper echelons of the French military and police and those of means established farming businesses in Vietnam, Algeria and Puerto Rico. In the 1930s, Corsicans were numerous in the French colonial administration, with posts in North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the West Indies.
Through it all, the Corsicans have insisted that their island is theirs. Since the 1960s, the National Liberation Front (F.L.N.C.), Corsica’s most active separatist group, has been implicated in bombings of undesirable property developments. Corsicans fear their island becoming the next Côte d’Azur. As recently as 2012, 31 villas built along the coastline, belonging to non-Corsicans, were bombed. (The owners were away, so no one was hurt. And, it is important to add, there have been no incidents of tourists being caught up in any attacks.)
À bientôt! (See you soon!)
CYCLING TOUR IN CORSICA
TOUR DATES AND PRICES
Minimum of 8 participants, maximum of 14, with a maximum guide-to-guest ratio of 1 to 8
DATES (8 days)
May 24-30, 2020 | September 27-October 3, 2020 | May 17-23, 2021 | October 4-10, 2021
For more info, other dates and availability please contact us.
Per person in double occupancy from $3,990 to $4,390 in 2020 and from $4,090 to $4,490 in 2021
(this tour will feature 3- and mostly 4-star hotels. Tour price will vary depending on group size)
Single Supplement: $690
*Add $400 for 1-night post tour extension | Add $100 for single supplement
In addition, we pledge to donate more than 1% of your trip price to food literacy and environmental non profit organizations
- Discover the UNESCO site of Les Calanches
- Tastings of regional foods and a visit to a local wine maker
- Savor the local traditional cuisine featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients and learn more about local recipes
- Enjoy some of the best wines of Corsica such as Vermentino, Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu and more!
- Relax in unique, cozy 3-star and elegant 4-star hotels, distinctively representing the local traditions
- Delve into history and culture in this unique region of France
- Exhilarating rides in the scenic western coastline and tranquil roads inland
- Add 1-night post tour extension in Calvi to enjoy more of La Balagne area
This itinerary has been meticulously designed based on Food.Stories.Travel.’s unforgettable past experiences and favorite flavors. Every single establishment you will visit has been personally vetted, tested and enjoyed.
In some cases we’ll take you to places you could not find by yourself or in a guidebook.
If you prefer to arrive the day before please let us know and we will help you organize your pre night at the same hotel used on tour, and early transfer from Figari airport ner Bonifacio at additional price. Figari-Sud Corse airport is easy to reach by flight from Paris and Nice airports. This is recommended just to allow you more time to settle in and get ready for the tour.
Cycling Route Info on day 1: Main Route: 15mi/950ft of elevation gain | Extra loop adds: 4mi/200ft or more!
Fly into Paris or Nice Airport and catch your flight connection to Figari-Sud Corse airport. Then catch our 25-mins group transfer to your accommodation for the next night in Bonifacio, perched high on a white limestone cliff, overlooking Corsica’s neighbor, Sardinia.
Known for its charming cobblestone alleyways and sparkling shoreline, some call Bonifacio the “Mediterranean’s Sentinel” or “Citadel of Cliffs”. Those arriving a day early may enjoy the walk along the cliffs to the lighthouse. Our tour officially begins with an introductory meeting over a light lunch at our hotel before we set off on our warm-up ride along the beaches of Sant’Amanza and Petit Sperone, considered some of most beautiful on Corsica.
Cycling Route Info on day 2: Main Route 41mi/3850ft | Extra loop adds: 9mi/1100ft or more!
After breakfast on Day 2, we head north along the coast to Propriano by way of Sartène. The unfortunate history of Sartène includes it being a point of frequent attack by pirates from Algiers. In 1583, marauders carried off 400 local people. The Sartène of today is famed for its wines and great views across the valley.
For those who opt in, an extra loop draws you into the magical inlands of this slice of isle. Our hotel for the next two nights is located a few minutes outside of Propriano proper, chosen for its wonderful beach access.
Cycling Route Info on day 3: Main Route: 29mi/3050ft | Extra loop adds: 5mi/1400ft or more!
Our Day 3 riding consists of a beautiful loop inland to Filitosa, site of Bronze Age menhirs (standing stones) dating to 1500 BC. Set in an ancient olive grove, we come upon five of these striking megaliths set around the base of a two-thousand-year-old olive tree. Arrow heads and pottery also found at the site date to 3300 BC. In total, some twenty menhirs have been discovered at Filitosa, accounting for half of all such monuments anywhere on Corsica.
On our way back to Propriano, take an extra loop with a nice climb or follow the main route back to the hotel for some relaxation and perhaps an afternoon visit to the nearby hot springs and thermal baths dating to Roman times. Enjoy a fun French language lesson over aperitif this late afternoon before dinner in town.
Cycling Route Info on day 4: Main Route: 32mi/3900ft | Extra loop adds: 9mi/650ft or more!
After a rousing breakfast, Corsican-style, we set out on Day 4 for Ajaccio, capital of Corsica and birthplace of its most famous native: Napoleon Bonaparte. An inland ride this morning carries us through the wild and delectable fragrances of the maquis. Bending back toward the coast, we stop at a famous winery, in operation since 1856, for our lunch and a wine tasting.
The last leg of the journey into Ajaccio we make by private transfer to avoid the traffic congestion of the bustling capital. Once in Ajaccio, there is plenty to see and do, including a guided visit of the historic center and its citadel, and an optional visit to Napoleon’s birthplace at Maison Bonaparte, now a wonderful museum. Another museum, the Fesch, established by Napoléon’s uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch, holds the largest French-owned collection of Italian paintings outside the Louvre, including works by Titian, Fra Bartolomeo, Veronese, Bellini and Botticelli. Even in the capital, the swimming is divine. Perhaps indulge in a late-afternoon plunge before a dinner on your own featuring Corsican recipes.
Cycling Route Info on day 5: Main Route: 44mi/3750ft | Extra loop adds: 10mi/1500ft
Bound for Porto, Day 5 sees us out of Ajaccio to the fabled les Calanches. Once again, a quick transfer carries us beyond city congestion to start our ride from a tranquil inland spot. We pedal to the coast before heading north, and dismount briefly in Cargèse, a village established at the end of the 18th century by Greeks from Peloponnese. Cargèse is notable for its two 19th-century churches that face one another across a small valley, one built by the descendants of the Greek immigrants, the other by native Corsicans.
Riding on to Piana, we stop for our lunch and a rest before spinning into the Calanches, a UNESCO site of dramatic peaks, natural bastions, and wind-weathered forms. Guy de Maupassant memorialized this place in his novel Une vie (One life), writing: “[the] surprising rocks seemed trees, plants, beasts, monuments, men, robed monks, horned devils, birds excessive, a whole monstrous people, a nightmarish menagerie petrified by the will of some extravagant God”.
Once in Porto, a private boat ride in the gulf allows us to explore this stretch of coastline from the vantage point of the sea. Back on dry land, do not miss a chance to walk the magnificent black-sand beach before dinner in town.
Cycling Route Info on day 6: Main Route: 29mi/3650ft | Extra loop adds: 22mi/2000ft
Our sixth day leads us to legendary Calvi, our base for the next night. From Porto, we travel inland before turning back for the coast. Calvi is a must-see for many reasons. The blazing orange facades of its citadel and glittering crescent bay both catch the eye. And the town’s colorful history is also noteworthy: Locals insist that Christopher Columbus was born here (as a Genoese, he would have had to mask his identity since the locals and Genoese rulers didn’t always get along); it’s the one Corsican city that the French could never capture; and Admiral Nelson lost his right eye here while besieging the citadel.
This afternoon, we explore the citadel and learn more with our guides. Our last dinner is in town and featuring fish and other delicacies, while celebrating our tour inthe L’île de la Beauté, of feel free to stay one more night with us and epxlore Calvi area inland.
After breakfast catch our 25-mins group transfer to Calvi Sainte Catherine airport from where you can connect to Paris, Nice and Marseille airports. If you have more time consider to join us on a 1-night post tour extension to enjoy more of Calvi area. Bon voyage (“Safe travels” in French) and à bientôt! (see you soon!)
- 6 nights of accommodation in 3- and mostly 4-star hotels
- 6 breakfasts and 2 lunches
- 5 dinners with a 3-course menu
- Exploration of Bonifacio, Sartène, Propriano, Porto and other quaint Corsican villages
- Discover three citadelles of Ajaccio, Calvi and Bonifacio
- 1 visit and tasting to a winery
- Exhilarating rides in the must-see places of Corsica including the UNESCO site of Les Calanches, the very scenic western coastline and the tranquil roads inland
- 1 guided visit of Ajaccio historic center
- 1 private boat ride in the gulf of Porto
- Bike rental (see more info here) and Garmin Touring Edge unit (if you have one, bring yours and we’ll upload the routes onto your unit)
- Comfortable transportation and assistance by 9-seat van for all travel on tour as cited in the itinerary
- Refreshments, snacks, fruits and other local delicacies during our rides
- 2 bilingual, professional Tour Leaders
- Group transfers from Figari airport at the beginning and to Calvi airport at the end of the tour
- Local taxes and gratuities for luggage porters and restaurant servers during tour
- 4 lunches and 1 dinner on your own
- Alcoholic beverages at group dinners (including wine and spirits)
- Round-trip airfare and expenses to/from the tour
- Trip cancellation, baggage loss or travel delay insurance (this optional coverage is highly recommended and is not provided by Food.Stories.Travel.)
- Gratuities for your Tour Leaders
- Post tour extension featuring 1 night in a 4-star hotel, 1 breakfast, 1 extra day of riding with bike rental and van assistance, 1 visit in Sant’Antonino, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, and 1 dinner
Minimum of 6 participants, maximum of 16, with a maximum guide-to-guest ratio of 1 to 8
DATES (1 night following our Cycling Tour in Corsica Tour)
For more info, dates and availability please contact us.
Per person in double occupancy: $400
Single Supplement: $100
In addition, we pledge to donate more than 1% of your trip price to food literacy and environmental non profit organizations
Our day sees us pedaling out of Calvi into the beloved La Balagne, a pocket of Corsica that enthralls with its blend of history, culture, and seaside glamour. Inland, the hidden valleys and rocky spurs of La Balagne are punctuated by photo-worthy villages, chapels, olive groves and lush vineyards. The marked Route des Artisans highlights the craftspeople and producers who live and work here including potters, woodcarvers, beekeepers, and biscuit-makers.
Our lunch stop today is Sant’Antonino, one of Les plus beaux villages de France, an official designation awarded to the prettiest villages of the nation, and a point of local pride. Back in Calvi, enjoy some downtime, perhaps on the local beach (one of the most beautiful of Corsica) before our final celebratory dinner commemorating the rewarding rides and epic moments of our wild and windswept journey together.
After breakfast catch our 25-mins group transfer to Calvi Sainte Catherine airport from where you can connect to Paris, Nice and Marseille airports. Bon voyage (“Safe travels” in French) and à bientôt! (see you soon!)