Beautiful and dramatic, the rocky peninsula of Cap Corse makes for a wonderful day out. Here we share the highlights that you must not miss.
Cap Corse in the far north of the island of Corsica is only 25 miles long and nine miles wide, but the winding rounds means driving anywhere takes longer than you might think. It takes around four hours to make a complete circuit. Of course, you’ll have to add in plenty of time for regular stops as you spot a particularly enchanting hilltop village, a pretty little fishing port or a secluded sandy cove.
Most people like to drive around the peninsula in an anti-clockwise direction, starting in Bastia and ending in St Florent. This is because of the direction of the sun, with the coastal scenery looking its best on the east coast in the morning and on the west coast later in the day. It’s worth noting that in one day you won’t have time to visit Bastia or possibly not even St Florent, but the scenery on this stunning part of the island is more than reward enough.
1. From Bastia, head north along the D80, and after just six miles is our first suggested stop, the charming village of Erbalunga. It's the perfect place for a morning coffee and a short stroll around the little harbour, with its brightly painted fishing boats and Genoese watchtower.
2. Continue north along the D80 a further 8.7 miles to Porticciolo for an even shorter stroll around its pretty little harbour.
3. Carrying on along the D80 eight miles to Macinaggio, where the road turns inland.
4. 3.1 miles from Macinaggio, you’ll find a little car park by the Rogliano viewing point that's worth stopping at for the stunning panoramic views.
5. A further 4.3 miles along the winding D80 at Col de la Serra, you can pull off the main road and park.
6. A 350m walk up from the main road will bring you to the pretty white windmill with a conical red-tiled roof, Moulin Mattei. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views in every direction across the countryside to the sea.
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7. Continue for 1.5 miles to Caméra, where you turn right onto the D35. After another 2.7 miles you'll reach Port de Centuri. It’s a small detour off the main road but well worth it for the picturesque village and port. It's a good place to stop for lunch. You’ll find a list of our favourite restaurants here in the ‘where to eat in Cap Corse’ section below.
8. From the port, follow the D35 south for 3.1 miles where you'll rejoin the D80. After a further 6.4 miles you'll reach Pino. While there isn’t a lot here, it's a good place to take a break from the driving with a stroll, and a visit to the 18th-century baroque church and bell tower. There are also some lovely views along the coast. A walk down to the marina below the village will take over an hour so only attempt this if you have plenty of time.
9. 15.5 miles south along the D80 is the village of Nonza, which we highly recommend you explore. A ruined castle is just a short walk from the village and the Genoese watchtower is one of the best-preserved on the island. From here, the views are magnificent. Be sure to stop by the pretty church, Église Ste-Julie, in the village square. Inside you’ll find a polychrome marble altar which was made in Florence in 1693.
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10. From Nonza follow the D80 for 8.9 miles. At the roundabout continue straight onto the D81. Continue for 2.9 miles to St Florent, a lovely little harbour town which is well worth visiting if you have time.
Where to eat on Cap Corse
Port de Centuri (in the north)
A good choice for lunch that should nicely break up your day trip is Port de Centuri, in the north west of the peninsula.
. Nestled around the pretty harbour you’ll find many restaurants serving the catch of the day.
La Bella Vista
Right on the harbourside with a sunny terrace looking out over the boats in the harbour, La Bella Vista is run by one of Centuri’s fishing families. One of our favourite dishes is the Misto Bella Vista, a scrumptious mix of locally caught lobster, scallops, squid and grilled fish.
Close to the old harbour, this down to earth bistro is popular with locals. Don’t miss their pâtes à la langouste (pasta with lobster).
Au Vieux Moulin
This lovely restaurant is in the Hotel au Vieux Moulin, and also specialises in pâtes à la langouste, reputedly following the owner’s grandmother’s 50 year-old recipe.
Nonza (west coast)
Perched on the top of a cliff beneath a Genoese watchtower, this is the perfect spot for dining al fresco while admiring the sea views and the sunset. It's particularly beautiful after dark when illuminated by spotlights and often features live music, most frequently jazz. On the menu – succulent meat from an open Argentinian-style grill.
Where to Stay
If you don’t have time at the end of your tour around Cap Corse to stop at St Florent, it's worth coming back to. Wine lovers will also want to return to the area around Patrimonio (five miles north west of St Florent), which is well known for its wineries.
If you'd like to explore the area in more depth, there are a number of lovely villas where you could stay including L'Ancre Bleue and La Citaj in St Florent.
Villas further afield but still within relatively easy reach for a day out exploring Cap Corse include Villa Ginette and A Pinarella.
Featured image St Florent | image credit: Jon Ingall | Shutterstock