Travel

Corsica’s Northwest Coast vs the Amalfi Coast

Typically the Mediterranean, Corsica’s northwest coast, with its unique savage beauty, is more relaxing than Italy’s traffic-ridden Amalfi Coast where coach parties dominate

So much stunning natural beauty is concentrated in this part of northwestern Corsica that the long stretches of dizzy cliff scenery will elicit “oohs” and “aahs” with every blind corner you turn on the hair-raising road through the rugged mountainsides. On the wild coast, the route is 31 miles (50 km) from Calvi to Cargèse as the crow flies, but you’ll clock up at least 70 miles (112 km) by driving along the winding road. All around are slopes smothered with aromatic maquis shrubs whose scents wafting on the sea breeze.

Forget the Amalfi coast?

The build-up

Overlooking the Gulf of Salerno just south of Naples, the Amalfi Coast offers breathtaking scenery at every turn of the tortuous road. Photogenic villages cling to vertiginous mountainsides, clad with ingenious terraces where juicy lemons flourish on trellises.

The letdown

Driving on the narrow winding roads is stressful even in light traffic, but once the cruise ship season has commenced, coach jams are the name of the game, and frustrating delays are the norm. Prices at glamorous resorts such as Positano and arty Ravello are aimed at the millionaire set. The few public beaches are cramped and pebbly, so consider shelling out for a private deckchair.

Going anyway?

Try to avoid late spring to mid-summer. In winter, many hotels slash prices. Plan to arrive by train at either Salerno or Sorrento, and continue your journey by public bus or use the private ferries that link villages. Choosing accommodations and eateries off the seafront will help keep budgets manageable.

Practical information

Getting There and Around

The closest airport is Calvi’s Sainte Catherine, 5 miles (8 km) from town with scheduled flights via France. There are also charter flights to and from the UK between Apr-Oct. From Calvi, arrange a rental car to explore the coastal road. Buses run to Porto May–Sep. If you wish to take your own vehicle, then a car ferry from the mainland port of Nice or Marseille is feasible, but book ahead for the high season.

Where to Eat

Just outside Porto on the Calvi road, Restaurant Le Porto is reasonably priced, and you can enjoy your meal on a lovely terrace.

Where to Stay

Porto’s Hotel Monterosso is on the waterfront, with rooms and terraces overlooking the wonderful gulf.

When to Go

Spring is divine with the aromatic scent of Mediterranean plants, but the sea is still a trifle cool. The onset of the summer heat – and perfect bathing conditions – is offset by cool breezes on the west coast, though the number of visitors is highest then.

Last word

Nearby, the beautifully placed village of Piana makes an excellent base. Sandy beaches beckon, as does the divine Capo Rosso headland, its old watchtower a lookout for marauding pirates, long-gone raiders of the Mediterranean coast. This journey can also be a memorable adventure for hikers, who can enjoy the vistas on the long-distance walking path, Mare e Monti. The route begins at Calenzana outside Calvi and ends in Cargèse in 10 days. There are stopovers at gîtes d’étape, or walkers’ hostels.

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