Porto Vecchio as we see it today has grown up around the famous 16th-century citadel, perched atop an outcrop of granite; and the rampart restaurants offer splendid views from this ancient vantage point. The town’s old centre, a maze of narrow streets, has kept its charm and still has the atmosphere of the fortress town it once was.
Today Porto Vecchio is a lively centre for shopping, café-sitting and menu browsing and is one of Corsica's most fashionable towns. Excellent food shops are one of the attractions, from supermarkets to fascinating stores crammed with French and Corsican specialities. Up in the old town there is a wide range of boutiques and other shops for browsing plus many cafés which easily lure you in for a spot of people watching with a cool drink. In season, the bars and restaurants in and around town are always busy, giving the town a lively atmosphere. Below the town, Porto Vecchio boasts one of the most distinguished harbours in Europe, where bobbing boats jockey from positions alongside sun kissed holidaymakers promenading along the marina or sipping apéritifs in the shade of the pavement cafés.
Wander the ancient streets of Old Porto Vecchio, the Borgo, where you can see the enormous twisted tree of the Place de la République, the 19th century church of St-Jean Baptiste and the gallery housed within the Bastion di A Funtana Vechju which still has the hole made by Sampiero Corso when he captured the town in 1564. The old Genoese walled town still seduces visitors with its picturesque narrow streets and the austerity of its high stone houses that are set within the Citadel's ramparts. If you're lucky enough, during your stay you'll be able to hear some of the polyphonic singing for which this part of the island is famous - keep an ear out for those low, dramatic harmonies as you walk through the citadel of an evening.
Along the coast to the north and south of Porto Vecchio visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches, many backed by the splendour of the southern mountains and surrounded by wild perfumed maquis. Within 10 minutes drive north of Porto Vecchio lies the Cala Rossa headland, quiet and remote with sandy coves, and San Ciprianu, a long curve of gently shelving sand. Pinarellu is a pretty hamlet with shops and restaurants and a long, side beach of beautiful golden sand and shallows for children to play in.
Heading south, there is a series of breathtaking spectacular sandy bays. Palombaggia is perhaps the most famous beach on the island – with a series of coves leading to a long sandy beach facing the Cerbicales islands. It is certainly the most photographed. Internationally renowned, the clear turquoise water and pure white sand contrasts the fantastically shaped red rocks. Santa Guilia is an area where golden sandy beaches stretch out waiting for you. All amenities are available and it is truly a lovely site.
Rondinara is a natural formed horseshoe bay with fine white sands which slope gently into the turquoise waters. A simply stunning beach, it is flanked on one side by pine trees and a protected nature reserve on the other.
Things to See & Do
- Choose from a myriad of water sports on the numerous sandy beaches
- The old Genoese walled town of Porto Vecchio seduces every visitor with its picturesque narrow streets and the austerity of its high stone houses that are set within the Citadel's ramparts. Wander the ancient streets and browse the chic boutiques and little shops selling local produce. Stop for a coffee on Place de la République and really take in the hustle and bustle of this charming town.
- Experience live Corsican music and soak up the local atmosphere. Amongst the best venues is 'la Taverne du Roi', which is tucked away in the citadel of Porto Vecchio. Many restaurants also host a Corsican night once a week featuring a local band - look out for posters or ask your representative for up-to-date information.
- Within a few minutes walk of the old town, Porto Vecchio marina is lined with cafés and is an excellent place to enjoy a leisurely drink during those hot summer evenings.
- Drive inland more than 1200m up to the spectacular Col de Bavella, one of the most dramatic passes in Corsica with stunning views across extensive forest, ocean and mountains. Also visit the surrounding mountain villages in the area. Try canyoning or take a dip in a rock pool in the rivers of the Bavella massif. There are many walks through the forests to the hidden waterfalls of the Alta Rocca, including Piscia di Gallo, or Cockerall falls. A short drive inland from Porto Vecchio will bring you to the Ospédale forest, and some great spots for a picnic.
- The nearest rock pools can be found in Taglio Rosso along the river Cavu.
- Most people love the sleepy little village of Ste Lucie de Tallano, with its grand old granite houses grouped around a picturesque square - la place du monument aux morts - looking over the valley of the Rizzanese River. From here it's only a short distance to the fabulous rock pools at Zonza. The sides of the river have flat rocks which are excellent for sunbathing, and the rock pools along the length of this stretch of the river provide tranquil and crystal-clear (if sometimes a little chilly) water in which to bathe.
- Explore the prehistoric settlements of Casteddu d'Araggiu, just north of Porto Vecchio above the hamlet of Palavesa - a well-preserved site dating back from 1500BC. The views from here over the Gulf of Porto Vecchio are truly spectacular. Should you wish to venture further afield, the prehistoric sites of Cucuruzzu and Capula near Levie are also worth the detour.
- Go horse riding on Palombaggia or San Ciprianu beach early in the morning - a truly memorable experience.
- Try one of the mountain restaurants and indulge your tastebuds with mountain food. Amongst our recommendations are 'le Refuge' near the Lac de l'Ospedale or 'A Pignata' in the village of Levie.