May 6, 2016 – Corsica is the third largest island in the Mediterranean behind Sicily and Sardinia, and although it’s undeniably French, it also retains a distinctly Italian flavour.
We docked in the port of Corsica’s capital Ajaccio. The old town with its shops and restaurants are right there within walking distance of the pier – unlike yesterday’s stop in Civitavecchia which is an industrial port an hour and a half bus ride away from Rome.
The French have owned Corsica since 1768 and before today, I only really knew the island as being the birth place of French Emperor Napoleon, who conquered much of Europe in the early 1800s before ultimately being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by the British in 1815 and finally dying in exile.
Our excursion into the mountainous Corsica countryside showed me another side to this beautiful island. Our first stop was the Prunelli gorge with its lovely waterfall:
This was followed by a fabulous view of Lake Tolla, a man-made lake created through the construction of a hydroelectric dam in 1958:
A definite drawback of the stunning mountain scenery were the tight, winding alpine roads that became even narrow as we drove through tiny, centuries old villages never built for full sized motor coaches. I closed my eyes and held my breath more than once as we made our way back down to the valley, but our coach driver never batted an eye – although he did resort to hand gestures and some mild shouting at one point when a car and motorcycle refused to give way as he was trying to maneuver the bus into a tiny café parking lot!
Corsican’s local beer is called Pietra, and is brewed from a mix of malt and chestnut flour. Chestnuts have long been used as a cereal in Corsica, but have only recently become a beer ingredient.
When it comes to food, one of the big things Corsica is known for are cured or dried meats and sausages. I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to test the local wares: