There are plenty interesting historic towns and villages to visit within half an hour’s drive of the hotel, in addition to some beautiful sandy beaches lapped by crystal clear water. The Casa Theodora has parasols and beach towels available for guest’s use and can provide picnics. The hotel also has details of self-drive wine tasting routes and artisan routes in the area and walking trails though picturesque scenery.
Spend a day relaxing on the beach. Our favourite was the mile-long golden crescent of sand at Algajola where there is plenty of free parking. In return for some drinks at their beachside bar, we parked at the Hotel Beau Rivage and also used their sunbeds on our one lazy afternoon on the beach. The more adventurous might enjoy a visit to the white sandy beaches and green lagoon of Ostriconi, parking on the cliff-top and scrambling down one of the trails.
Explore the coast on the delightful little train that runs between Calvi and L’Ile Rousse, calling in at Algajola and other charming coastal villages along the route.
Visit the Parc de Saleccia botanical gardens located off the N197 to the east of L’Ile Rousse. The moment I had stepped off the plane at Calvi airport, I had been overwhelmed by the heady aroma of the island’s maquis: the flowering bushes and herbs, including wild myrtle, juniper, rock rose, rosemary and thyme, that carpet the mountain slopes. I spent a magical hour or so meandering the pathways through the gardens, learning about Corsica’s various trees and plants. The adult entrance fee of 9 euros includes the loan of a laminated map with suggested routes.
Take a drive along the D81 as it snakes its way through the mountainous Desert des Agriates towards the fishing village of St Florent. Thanks to my regular stops to wander along the paths and take photos, and crawling along several miles behind a fleet of camper vans, we eventually turned back before reaching our destination, but I understand St Florent is worth a visit.
Spend a day meandering through the port of Calvi, a 30 minute drive away. It is a pleasant town to stroll around with rows of restaurants and shops lining the streets above the harbour and a three mile crescent-shaped sandy beach. I climbed the winding cobbled streets up to the citadel for magnificent views across the bay. Two cruise ships were docked outside the harbour when I visited and it was interesting watching the passengers being ferried to and fro in strange rectangular vessels. The harbour contains an interesting mixture of old fishing boats, yachts and shiny new cruisers.
Take a boat trip with the Colombo Line to the Scandola Nature Reserve further south, an area inaccessible by land, and on to Capo Rosso, the Sanguinaires Islands and Ajaccio. Boats leave from Calvi harbour for one-day and half-day trips.
North of Calvi, along the N197 lies L’Ile Rousse, a pretty port reminiscent of the French Riviera, with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops.
The N197 also leads to Corte, Corsica’s original capital city 73k and 1 ¼ hour drive from the hotel. Bastia on the East Coast is 83k and 1 ½ hour drive away. Drivers are advised to keep to the main roads for long journeys – what appear to be shortcuts on maps, invariably prove to be slow routes that twist and turn along hairpin bends through amazing scenery.
Visiting the village of Sant’Antonini, poised on a summit 1467 feet above sea level. Villagers from the surrounding valleys used to take refuge here when Saracen pirate ships appeared on the horizon. On the day I visited, I was tempted by the wine tasting on offer but needed a clear head to drive on to neighbouring Pigna – a very pretty town full of artisan shops, narrow stepped passage ways and houses with blue painted wooden shutters. The village has regular musical performances in summer. I was able to park easily at both villages for a 2 euro parking fee.
Take a hike. Routes are generally clearly signposted with wooden posts and dashes of yellow or blue paint on the rocks along the route. However, if you plan to do some serious hiking in Corsica, I recommend purchasing an OS map of the area before you fly (though some were on sale at Calvi Airport) and bringing walking poles as the paths can be steep and slippery with loose stones. The hotel has several leaflets of nearby routes that can be copied for guests and Julie can recommend English-speaking mountain guides. The area south of Muro is home to some of the most challenging stretches of the GR20 trail where climbing ropes and ladders are provided for hikers’ use.
My favourite walk was a three-hour circuit around the Revellata penisula, a short drive west of Calvi. After a steep descent from the car park, there are plenty of relatively easy coastal trails to follow, lined with exotic succulents, winding past deserted sandy coves and pebble beaches. A beach-side restaurant, located at the foot of a 20-minute scramble from the carpark provides welcome refreshments. Some 4x4s drive part of the way along the trail but normal cars would have difficulty coping with the rocky, rutted route.