BoutiqueHomes' founder Veronique Lievre has been visiting the Mediterranean island of Corsica every year since she was a child. "It's always been a special destination for me," she says. "I'm constantly discovering new places to go and things to do, and I'm always amazed by how beautiful it is."
The fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, Corsica is essentially a mountain in the sea. Nicknamed L’Ile de Beauté, it's extremely varied geographically, which makes it easy to experience a little of everything. If you're planning to explore Corsica for yourself, here are some of Veronique's tips on where to go and what to do while you're there.
What's your best travel tip?
"I love coming by boat from Marseille to Ile Rousse. You take a sleeper cabin, have dinner and a drink, and in the early morning you see the island. It’s just beautiful."
What do you always recommend to visitors?
"You have to go see Les Calanques de Piana in the Scandola Reserve for their striking rock formations. Start at the village of Piana, take the road down to the coast, then walk for five minutes. You get to a little row of fishermen's houses, and there's a beach there that's surrounded by these pinkish granite rocks. It's spectacular. Make sure to visit the Hotel les Roches Rouges, an old hotel that dates back to 1912, for a drink on their deck at sunset.
"Stay at L'Aiglon which is located close to Bussaglia Beach in the Gulf of Porto, a stretch of coastline known for its small sandy beaches, sheltered coves and dramatic rock formations. Rent a kayak or book a boat trip, as one of the best ways to explore the Calanques is by water. It gives you an amazing perspective on these ancient monolithic formations."
"I also recommend a visit to Cap Corse, the island's northernmost peninsula. Take the D80 road, which leads you along the spectacular coastline, with little villages up in the mountains and marinas on the seafront. It also has all these incredible 19th-century, Tuscan-style neoclassical mansions called the Houses of the Americans.
"They were built by Corsicans who had emigrated to America, made their fortunes then returned to show off their success. Each house built was larger than the last. While there, I suggest staying at Il Convento, a restored convent in Cap Corse that's full of authentic charm."
What's your favorite spot in nature?
"Corsica is all about nature, everything is in nature, and it's hard to have a favorite place when they are all so different. But there's a trail that goes from the beach at Ostriconi that follows the coast, past all these coves, and takes you into the maquis and the huge natural reserve of the Desert des Agriates. It's kind of like being in a dream, it's so beautiful."
Favorite cultural destinations?
"There aren't many museums in Corsica, but the Musée Fesch, the museum of fine arts in Ajjacio, is worth visiting for paintings of the island by artists like Canniccioni, Jean-Luc Multedo, Eugène d’Argence and Dominique Frassati. Then there's the Citadel in Calvi. It's a 13th-century fortress that's well worth the uphill hike for the incredible views. There's also a secret passageway that takes you down to the harbor, which you have to try."
What food do you recommend?
"We recently discovered the restaurant Boccafine in the village of Nonza. It is really amazing for fine dining—small, flavorful dishes created by young chef Clement Collet.
"When I'm in Corsica, the local specialities I love to eat include brocciu cheese, which is made from goat's or sheep's milk. It's melty and creamy, with a sweet flavor, and is usually eaten at the end of a meal. As one writer once said, 'Those who haven't tasted it don't know the island.' You have to try it in winter, between December and April. It's also baked into fiadone, a flat lemony cake, which I also recommend trying. If you're in Corsica at Christmas time, try the figatellu sausage. Cook it on the fire and eat it between two pieces of bread. It has a very strong flavor and is delicious."
"Mare di Latte, for clothing made in Corsica, is perfect for the island vibe. They have stores in Calvi, Bastia and Ajjacio. And don't miss the distillery Astrella in Lumio that makes essential oil from the flower of the maquis, immortelle. It's believed to have miraculous properties, and I always come back with some oil."
To explore Corsica, start by booking a stay at one of the homes in our collection here. Best times to visit are May through June, when the maquis is starting to bloom and just before tourist season really kicks in, or September, when the crowds have dispersed.
Photographs: courtesy of Veronique Lievre, L'Aiglon