Corte was once the capital of Corsica, during the reign of the much fabled Pasquale Paoli, and the city does still hold quite a grandiose air about it - something only enhanced by the monumental mountain scenery that surrounds it. In recent years Corte could have been said to have been in something of a decline, but since the reopening of the city's university in the 1980s it has regained a thriving, cosmopolitan air, with hundreds of foreign students lured in by its growing academic reputation. Now you'll find the city a bustle of pavement cafés and bars, which are a great way to relax after a day exploring the mountains or wandering around the cragged beauty of the citadel.
Things to See & Do
- Corte is set at the geographical centre of the island. Unlike its sister fortress towns on the coast, Corte was not founded by the Genoese, but governed by Pascal Paoli, the father of the Corsican independence movement, after he stormed the Citadel in 1755. This was Paoli's capital - often called the "spiritual" capital, and the town epitomises inland Corsica. In the heart of the Corsican mountains, Corte is spectacularly set amongst brooding granite mountains with its Citadel rising high up from a rocky outcrop, the rooftops of the old town cascading down to a warren of narrow, cobbled streets, surrounded by the craved out gorges of former bandit country.
- The Castagniccia covers roughly 100km² extending from the River Golo in the north as far as the River Tavignano in the south and the central mountains to the west. It is famous for the herds of pigs that roam its lush countryside and takes its name from the dense forests of chestnut trees (castagna). Many of the beautiful grey-green and silver schist-roofed hamlets that are sprinkled on ridges in the area lie virtually abandoned or derelict these days but the region is an explorer's paradise, especially in autumn when the valleys are carpeted in gold and russet. Many of the inland villages boast views over the Tuscan islands to the Alpes on the mainland on clear days and it is well worth taking the car and meandering around the isolated hamlets. The villages are linked by dozens of footpaths (the old mule tracks), mostly well marked and signposted with wooden signposts, and keen walkers should not miss the hike up Mont San Pedrone, the highest peak of the Castagniccia.
- Heading west from Corte through the Deux-Sorru and Deux-Sevi regions of the island, presents a rather challenging, but definitely rewarding, drive, along the D84 towards Calacuccia. The stretch from Castirla southwards follows the route of the 19th century road that clings to the side of the vertiginous ravine of the Golo River, threading through the Laricio Pine forest of the Valdo-Niellu. There is an excellent walk to the Lac di Nino at the foot of Monte Tozzu and the Cascade Radule. The road then passes over the Col de Vergio, through the Forêt d'Aitone, in which there are thousands of Laricio Pines, some over 50m tall. The remoteness of this area of the island has helped preserve some of the rarest forms of wildlife, including wild boar, eagles, red kite, the Corsican nuthatch and the, rarely seen, Corsican savage cat, the Gjhattu Volpe. There are several walks marked from the road and numerous rock pools for bathing (look out for the signs for piscine naturelle).
- The Tartagine Forest is a fantastic area of wild countryside in Corsica's National Park region. Escape to the mountains and sit by snow fed rivers rushing over granite boulders surrounded by pine trees. Your route takes you through Speloncato, via the old chestnut woods of the Guinssani, where you can stop at the memorable Genoese church, and admire the panoramic view of the valley. As the road is winding and narrow, so the trip will take you longer than expected from the map, so either take a picnic (there are few other visitors) or visit one of the local Auberges in Olmi Cappella, Pioggiola or on the Col de Battaglia.
- The Restonica Valley is probably one of the most beautiful and dramatic areas in Corsica, with its glacial gorges carved into the granite cliffs, which are covered in verdant pine forests. The valley takes its name from the Restonica River, which flows through the cliffs and gorges to the many pools and lakes, dotted around and about, making this a popular place to walk and picnic. The two most well known lakes Lac de Melo and the spectacular Lac de Capitello are accessible by foot via a rather strenuous and in some places steep path.
- Aullène is now a relatively remote village of the southern mountains among magnificent scenery. It has fewer than 200 permanent inhabitants today, but once it was a place of importance before any of the modern, faster roads by the coast were built, the only route from Ajaccio to Porto Vecchio went through here. Surrounded by chestnut and pine forests, it is a splendid centre for exploring the mountains.