If you haven’t heard about Corsica, France, you’re missing out on an island that is little-known to Americans, but is very popular among Europeans. Beyond the turquoise beaches, red cliffs and scenery that will render you speechless, it’s a destination steeped in a rich history and hidden gems.
This mountainous island is the fourth largest in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sardinia, Sicily and Cyprus, but for many travelers, it has been hiding in plain sight. Since we’re not ones to keep a good thing to ourselves, we’ve uncovered five surprising discoveries you might not know about Corsica, including why it lives up to its legend as the “Isle of Beauty.'
1. Surprise! Learn about these Celebrated Corsicans. Corsica is widely known as the birthplace of two French historical icons, Napoleon Bonaparte and Pasquale Paoli. But did you know Christopher Columbus’s birthplace isn’t technically Genoa? Locals swear the famous discoverer was born in Calvi. Seems at the time of birth in 1451, Corsica was under rule by Genoa, (thus the confusion). You’ll find a hotel, avenue and statue bearing his name. If you head up to the citadel, you will see the ruins of the house, once occupied by the Columbus family. You can also walk in the footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte in his home city of Ajaccio, and spend a day strolling along the quaint streets of Bonifacio where its old market and the gothic-style Church of St. Dominque will charm you.
2. Be Dazzled by the Light. Corsica served as an inspiring canvas for Henri Matisse. During the 1890’s, he traveled to Ajaccio, Corsica frequently with his new bride Amélie. He described his experiences as introducing him to the power of light and setting the stage for all of his work: “Everything glistens, everything is color, everything is light.”
3. Experience a Culture Club. Corsicans are French. But because Corsica was originally Genoese before becoming French territory, you will discover Italian influences everywhere. Italian architecture, pizza and gelato vendors can be found on every corner.
4. Embrace your inner Eco-warrior (and rub elbows with the Royals). It’s impossible not to become bedazzled by the beauty of Corsica. So that’s why it is not surprising that the island is becoming a hub for French environmental activism and nature conservancy. In June of 2023, Princess Charlene of Monaco, (Albert’s wife), and her foundation, staged events in Calvi for two days to raise awareness of drowning prevention and the preservation of the marine environment. She was joined by two of her Foundation’s ambassadors: Pierre Frolla, four-time world record holder in freediving, accompanied by his team from the Monegasque Academy of the Sea, and Monegasque gymnast Kevin Crovetto.
5. Enjoy a wine lover’s paradise. If you enjoy food and wine, you may have heard rave reviews about the French regions of Burgundy, the Loire valley and Rhône. But don’t let your wine “wow” stop there. Corsica is emerging as France’s most intriguing region to raise a glass at some of the most beloved Vin de France vineyards.
Don’t want to miss out on these unforgettable secret gems of Corsica? Join us for our Floating Campus in Corsica! October is the perfect month to explore the island when the temperatures in autumn are mild. It's so nice to be in the open air and the sea is still warm. Discover the beautiful island of Corsica on a journey that begins in Nice and sails along the iconic coast of the island during this Floating Campus onboard the MV La Belle des Océans!