Where is Corsica?
Corsica is an island in the northern Mediterranean Sea. It’s a volcanic island, actually, with 600 miles of coastline, 302,000 residents and an astonishingly diverse landscape. It’s been a French region (or technically a collectivité territoriale) pretty much ever since they bought it off Italy in the 1700s. It actually lies off the coast of the Italian region of Liguria, due south of Genova. Although Corsica has struggles for independence since its founding, both countries have strong ties to the island; Italian was the official language until the late 1800s.
This history should be noted when trying out your French (or even Italian) language skills in Corsica. They’ve developed a language of their own that sounds like a bit of both and neither of them at the same time; it’s closer to the native Sicilian and Sardinian dialects than anything else. However, you can always muddle through with basic tourist French, slow English and a wining smile.
What Are The Major Cities in Corsica?
Corsica is divided into two départments, Haute-Corse and Corse du Sud (Upper Corsica and South Corsica respectively). Bastia and Corte are located in Haute-Corse; Ajaccio and Sartene are in Corse du Sud.
How Do I Get to Corsica?
From Southern France
Ferry service leaves from Marseille, Toulon and Nice. Nice is closest and therefore takes the least amount of time; Marseille, being the second-largest city in France and the largest port, has a bunch as well; Toulon is a popular stop on Mediterranean cruises, so they’ve got some too. You’ll arrive in Bastia, Calvi or Ajaccio; check the schedule to make sure you’re going to the right place on the island.
The main airports are in Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio and Figari, which is in the south. If you’re flying from overseas and Corsica is your final destination, Air France will put you on a connecting flight to any of those cities. Low-cost airline easyJet leaves from Charles de Gaulle to both Bastia and Ajaccio; Ryanair doesn’t operate in Corsica.
Ferries leave from Genova and Livorno and arrive at Bastia. (Genova might have seasonal ferries to Calvi as well; check.) Further south, Civitavecchia (near Rome) has ferries going to southern Corsican towns Porto Vecchio and Bonifaccio (the southernmost tip of Corsica).
The ferry running between Santa Teresa Gallura (Sardinia) and Bonifacio is practically a shuttle service, they’re so close.
Check flights to Ajaccio (AJA), Bastia (BIA), Calvi (CLY) and Figari (FSC) with this quick search tool:
How Do You Get Around Corsica?
If you’re planning on staying in Ajaccio, Bastia or Calvi (or a combination of the three), then you won’t need a car – the cities are good for walking, and transportation between them is frequent and reliable.
The most popular way to get around Haute-Corse, especially from a sightseeing standpoint, is the Trinicellu (“Little Train”) that runs between the major cities. It costs just a couple of euros and it worth every centime. In fact, I’d ride the train for no reason at all, just to check out the unbelievable scenery.
The bus system operates throughout the island, although you have to be aware that the routes and the schedules cater to locals. It’s best to ask the tourist office how to get from one place to another.
But if you want to explore the inner island or go to more remote areas, then a car would be best. You can rent a car in France (mainland France, that is) and bring it with you on the ferry, or rent one in a major city on the island itself. Note, though, that places are reserved first for residents and then those with a seasonal pass, so you’ll need to check ahead of time and make sure your reservation is made for your car as well; you can’t just show up and expect to drive right onto the boat.
Where Should I Stay in Corsica?
There are plenty of hotels, vacation rentals and other kinds of lodging all over the island. Check out what’s available with these quick search tools.
What’s There to Do in Corsica?
There’s plenty to see and do in Corsica; I’ll be linking to a “Things to Do” post here shortly. But for the most part, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise – beaches, mountains, hiking paths (including the GR20, said to be France’s most difficult route). If you think the South of France was laid back, you’re in for a lot more when you combine island living with the lovechild of both French and Italian culture.
Whew! That was a lot of info for now. I’ll be linking to more Corsica posts on here, but for now, here’s a list of posts that will help you plan around your Corsica trip. And if you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @WhyGoFrance.
- The French Riviera
- Marseille overview
- Day trips from Marseille
- Day Trips from Nice
- Things to Do in Nice
- How to get from London to the South of France