CORSICA (LA CORSE)
The colorful island of Corsica has a colorful history having been controlled by Phoenicia, Rome, Carthage, Pisa, and Genoa before becoming part of France. Ever since Corsicans have been divided over the issue of allegiance to France among those who side with the French was officer Carlo-Maria Buonaparte, father to the island’s favorite son, Napoleon. Today a substantial faction still seeks greater autonomy. Many are reluctant, however, as Corsica’s economy is highly dependent on France; tourists flock there for summer sun and winter skiing.
Air France and its subsidiary Compagnie Corse Mediterranee (CCM) fly to Bastia and Ajaccio from Paris (round-trip from â‚¬170, students â‚¬140); Nice (â‚¬120, students â‚¬98); and Marseille (â‚¬128, students â‚¬104). In Ajaccio, the Air FranceCCM office is at 3 bd. du Roi Jerome ( 08 20 82 08 20). Ferry travel between the mainland and Corsica can be a rough trip. High-speed ferries (3Vair.) run between Nice and Corsica. Overnight ferries from Marseille take upwards of 10 hours. The Societe National Maritime Corse Mediterranee ( 08 91 70 18 01; www.sncm.fr) sends ferries from Marseille (â‚¬35-53, under-25 â‚¬20-40) and Nice (â‚¬30-41, under 25 CIS-26) to Bastia and Ajaccio. In summer, nine boats cross between Corsica and the mainland each day, and only three out of season. SNCM schedules and fees are available at travel agencies and ports. Corsica Ferries (08 25 09 50 95; www.corsi-caferries.com) has similar destinations and prices and also crosses from Livorno and Savona in Italy to Bastia (â‚¬16-33). SAREMAR (a 04 95 73 00 96) and Moby Lines (04 95 73 00 29) run from Santa Teresa in Sardinia to Bonifacio. (â‚¬6.80-15 per person.) Train service in Corsica is slow, limited to the half of the island north of Ajaccio, and doesn’t accept rail passes. Buses provide more comprehensive service; call Eurocorse Voyages ( 04 95 21 06 30) for more info.
Hiking is the best way to explore the island’s mountainous interior. The GR20 is an extremely difficult 14- to 15-day 200km trail that crosses the island. The popular Mare e Monti (10 days) and Da Mare a Mare Sud (4-6 days) trails are shorter and less challenging. The Parc Nature! Regional de la Corse, 2 Sargent Casalonga, in Ajaccio ( 04 95 51 79 10), publishes maps and a guide to git.es d’etapes (rural lodgings).