Corsica: the (not-so) hidden gem of France. It’s that droplet in the Mediterranean, the little spot on the map that’s always got better weather than you. It’s a small island spattered with tiny coastal towns, separated by mountains with winding roads so narrow, a pair of mountain goats would have to walk single-file. My girlfriend’s people come from there, so we decided to take a trip to discover this place, these people, and if possible, avoid any mild-mannered political arson that might come our way.
Now, to imagine a Corsican, take a French person who talks like an Italian and spends all day at the beach, et voila! Corsican identity is fierce. You can’t find a store, street, or product that doesn’t bear the proud Corsican flag. Corsicans admit they’re known for being a bit lazy, but certainly not lacking in ambition. A common postcard has a Corsican flag running up the Eiffel Tower with the motto: “yes, we can”.
As you could assume from the place that brought us Napoleon (the dude, not the dessert treat), Corsicans are tough. You’ve never seen so many serious faces relaxing at the beach. There’s also quite a bit of mafia down here. The term ‘vendetta’ was basically started in Corsica – or Sicily; there’s actually a pretty serious vendetta going on about who really started it. On the flip side, Corsicans are a genuinely welcoming people – all you need to win their affection is to share their appreciation of their homeland.
And luckily, it’s impossible not to love the tiny enchanting towns, lonely seaside highways, orange mountains driving from the edge of the sea, and neighbors who bring you fresh tomatoes from their gardens.
Rather than list the litany of Corsica’s invaders, suffice it to say that the island “has been occupied continuously since the Mesolithic era”. So on occasion they’re known to welcome summer vacationers with some good-natured quirky local antics, like spray-painting over French versions of town names, or setting houses on fire. On our visit, we happened to be downwind of one of those fires.
The first and only time I saw a concerned look on the face of a Corsican, which shall henceforth be known as a universal cause for panic, I knew there was trouble. The smoke plume emitted a fierce heat and orange glow from the house just across the street. Time to go, right? So we grabbed the important stuff and got the hell out of dodge. While gawking just beyond the path of the flame, a white SUV slides to a stop and the driver says, “I’m your cousin, come with us”.
Watching the smoke rise from his patio not far away, I realized that you have to act like a family here, even if you aren’t. If the easiest way to put out a fire is with an airplane, you may have a while to wait before the French authorities make their way over. In the meantime, your neighbors are all you’ve got. In the end, the house was spared, just barely. The fire took a curious turn away from the house, crossing a small street and a highway and avoiding the houses on our side and a chicken coop on the other. Our mysterious cousin took us back home where we returned our ‘important items’ to their places – for me, computer/camera/passport, and for my girlfriend, clothes/makeup/other clothes.
We never found out if it was arson and we probably never will. But you learn more about a place in a time of crisis than you do confined to the walls of Club Med. Corsicans are defined by their shared isolation, but also by their fierce solidarity. Plus, they were smart enough to stay put in paradise. So if you’re crazy enough to ever leave, you’re not Corsican. But if you’ve seen this place, worked up a decent tan, eaten a perfect meal and stared out at the sea with the powerful urge to do nothing, you’ll at least understand a little bit of what makes Corsicans tick.
- For some summer food inspiration, check out The Cook’s Atelier and Eat Boutique
- In Paris news, David Lebovitz hits up Frenchie Wine Bar
Written by Charlie Almond for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Dave Bloom. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in.
Corsica: France’s Little Corner of Paradise
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18 comments on “Corsica: France’s Little Corner of Paradise”
just one thing, a Corsican is not a French who talks like an italian, but Corsican is an Italian who talks like a French..
Dave so jealous you got to go, I love those blues in your photos. Corsica was my top vacation destination when I moved to Paris and I haven’t made it happen in two years.
I spent 8 weeks one summer when I was 19 on this beautiful island with my aunt and her Corsican husband. Also, my grandfather was Corsican. =)
Two years ago, while I was in Paris, I was able to get into booked restaurants and such because my cousin told the owners I was Corsican. Apparently if you have Corsican blood you are “family.” I also did not have to pay. It was very interesting to me. I can’t wait to take my kids there.
Corsica is one of the the most beautiful places I have EVER been. Dramatic scenery, beaches, mountains and the food is amazing.
my childhood friend had family in corsica and would spend her summers there. I was always so jealous. It’s so so so beautiful!
Ohhhh… I’ve wanted to go to Corsica for so long and these amazing photos do nothing to alleviate my wanderlust!
These images are stunning. It looks like the perfect getaway.
PS- I love your blog. I read my newsletter religiously. I wish I could spend so much time in Paris/ France.
We spent one of our most enjoyable holidays there, just out of season.Fantastic place to which I would love to return, even though we lost our luggage, which stayed in Paris having its own holiday.
Wow!!!! I must visit someday. Interesting story about the fire, glad to know the house was spared. Your photos are fantastic. Corsica looks absolutely beautiful!
Best place I have ever visited! <3
OMG and the food? Forget it=amazing!
I had a Coquille St Jacques calzone overlooking the sea that I will remember until the day I die.
Fantastic article and great images, I especially love the dog on the door steps 😉
I can’t wait to go back. Thank you for the fabulous images Dave!
Well written and interesting! 🙂
Also the hometown of Garance Doré, famed fashion blogger and photographer =)
Takes me back to last year’s Corsica getaway!! Definitely a gift to France.
Oh, my, these are the pictures of our vacation 17(!) years ago :). Thank you for recalling memories.
Great shots…and I agree, Corsica is a little, if not a bit feisty, gem…xv