Visit The Magical Island of Corsica
Few islands can rival Corsica for its magical mix of culture and natural beauty. Like a tiny continent, the island is both elegant and rugged at the same time, with a challenging interior of mountains and forests, and a glorious Mediterranean coastline fringed with white sand beaches. This distinct terrain supports a huge variety of things to do, making Corsica a perfect choice for a holiday that delivers above and beyond, while the succession of rulers from the Greeks to the Genovese has ensured that local culture is unique.
Neither typically French or assertively Italian, the Corsican way of life is laid-back and utterly charming, with food and drink at the heart of everyday life. Gourmet travellers will be blown away by the variety of artisanal products and the volume of excellent restaurants, from high-end dining to rustic country inns. Oysters and charcuterie are particularly recommended, as is anything made from chestnuts or chestnut flour, the island's favourite ingredient.
Fiercely proud of their land and people, a movement to preserve Corsican identity and foster a cultural reawakening - the "Riacquistu" - is on the rise. Today 70 per cent of the population speak the Corsican language, derived from Italian roots, and the island's singing tradition, rich in ancient lullabies, harvest and love songs is still going strong, from villages to the biggest towns.
Friendly capital Ajaccio is a great showcase of Corsican warmth and hospitality, set around a 16th century citadel and lined with picturesque pastel painted houses and an extensive choice of chic cafes and shops. Lazy alfresco lunches the norm so don't be surprised if day quickly turns into night over bottles of local rose. Ajaccio's old town is set around Place Marechal Foch, where visitors can scope out the birthplace of Napoleon, France's most famous patriot. History buffs will want to check out the National Bonaparte Museum and the caves where he played as a child too, as well as some impressive statues, streets and places named in his honour, such as the monument found in the Jardins de Casone.
No visit to Corsica is complete without a tour of Bonifacio. Teeting atop a limestone promontory, the town is an architectural marvel that appears to rise majestically from the sea, enjoying 360 panoramic views over the coastline over to neighbouring Sardinia. It's an extraordinary place however you choose to explore but to truly appreciate the extraordinary beauty of Bonifacio it's always recommended to arrive by boat and watch as it looms out of the blue.
Other ways to explore the island include cycling, hiking the famous GR20, driving the Corsica Coast Road that circumnavigates the island or hopping on the charming Corsican Train - U Trinichellu - a service that links Ajaccio with Calvi via Bastia. The train will take you as far as Calvi's citadel, which bursts into life during the famous Jazz Festival and autumn's Festival of Wind. Fancy escaping the hustle and bustle? Venture into the undulating hills above Calvi and make for the picturesque villages of La Balagne, perched on cobbled streets with views that will leave you breathless.
Other notable events for your calendar include the Imperial Regattas, magnificent yacht races that stalk the Mediterranean, and Sartene and Ajaccio's family-friendly Carnival of Corsica. With every month comes a new harvest to celebrate, from figs and honey, to hazelnuts and olives - you certainly won't go hungry.
The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are both beautiful times to explore the island, but with wonderful weather guaranteed, this is a fabulous destination at any time of year. Renowned for endless sunshine and long, dry summers, it's not uncommon to be bathing well into October - not bad considering flying time is just a couple of hours from the UK. Unsurprisingly, this means much of the action is outdoors, offering a wealth of experiences to keep both nature lovers and extreme enthusiast enthralled from the majesty of the island, while the Scandola Nature Reserve ( the western part of the Natural park ) is equally stunning and famous for its beachy beauty spots, accessible by boat from towns on the west coast.
With adventure, joy and passion in spades here, perhaps Ernest Hemingway described the island best when he got stuck into its famous vino: "it was a very Corsican wine - you could dilute it by half with water and still receive its message."