Bastia is the gateway to the lesser-trodden paths of the wonderfully rugged Cap Corse region.
Named by locals as “an island within an island” and shaped like the protruding thumb in a thumbs up sign, this peninsula measuring 40km long and 10km wide stands out from the rest of Corsica. The two sides are very different in character. The west’s dramatic coastline drops right into the sea and features hairpin bends that take you to via the vineyard filled fields of Patrimonio, to Nonza’s beautiful black shingle beach, and the quaint fishing village of Centuri. Meanwhile the east coast is a gentler affair, with scenic seaside villages like Erbalunga, coastal walks by Macinaggio and numerous Genoese watchtowers as you go.
As you jump off your flight, first head to Bastia to check out the old town, taking in the church of Sainte-Marie in the citadel and the Vieux Port. For some neo-bistro fare that puts all the bland tourist-trap restaurants to shame, stop off for a bite to eat portside at Col Tempo, before heading off to explore the east coast by car.
For those in search of peace and quiet, do make sure to stay at the Couvent de Pozzo in the village of the same name. This 15th-century convent is hidden away high up in the hills and has been in the same family for decades. Come with plans of doing nothing more than lazing by the poolside and take in the breathtaking views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and its scattering of islands, and the port of Bastia to your right. The rooms are in keeping with the setting, with rustic religious charm and modern comforts, with the sun and a fresh breeze acting as a natural alarm clock, filling your room every morning. The owner puts on scrumptious homemade dinners using local and homegrown ingredients, from brocciu cheese, figatellu charcuterie, citrus preserves and hearty cuts of meat to share around the large wooden kitchen table. Pure bliss!