La Balagne, in northern Corsica, is criss-crossed with walking paths, ranging from the sedate to those requiring crampons.The mountains and valleys are wild, unspoilt and crowd-free; scattered with fig, olive and chestnut trees, and fragrant maquis. From timeless mountain villages such as Ville de Paraso and Speloncato, there are stunning views across the Regino valley towards the distant coast, and as the light changes in the afternoon, the jutting ridges of granite glow pink. Late spring and early summer are the best time for walking; July and August are usually too hot.
Corsican wine is rarely encountered outside of Corsica, and when you do it's prohibitively expensive. The Corsicans are an insular lot, and tend to only make enough wine to serve local needs - a little is exported to France and an even smaller amount worldwide. Yet Corsica has the most incredible climate, perfect for wine production. So in itself, the opportunity to sample some of the products of the many small domains is interesting.
Add to this the dramatic Corsican landscape, a temperature which rarely dips below 25 degrees before the winter properly kicks in and the miles of unspoiled beaches where your only companions are a few wandering cows (nice brown and white ones with horns, not fellow tourists) and you've got a very pleasant adventure indeed.
Camping makes the whole thing affordable. Many camp sites have their own beaches for a quick dip before bed. They are littered along the main road that winds its way around Cap Corse and few cost more than 15 euro for the night for a couple with a tent.
There are signs along the roads advertising the different domains - the only choice you face is which one you fancy stopping off at and how much to buy (most don't take cards so you'll need to load up on cash). Each is very different, ranging from the very commercial to the ones where you ring a little bell and someone eventually saunters out and offers you some homegrown olives to go with your taster. An incredible range of wines is produced and every single place will have some unusual speciality to share with you alongside their big earners.
It's all so wonderfully relaxed: plenty of swimming in the remarkably clear sea, a little sunbathing perhaps, lunch from the excellent local market and an afternoon meandering between the domains discovering all of the wonderful wines that the Corsicans are smart enough to keep to themselves. It also makes great economic sense - even buying the wines in a Corsican supermarket will cost you upwards of 40% more than buying direct. Buying them outside Corsica becomes astronomical. At the domains you can expect to pay between 5 and 15 euro a bottle and end up with something really very special to take home with you.
Fly into Bastia (Easyjet flies on a Sunday), hire a car and set off North!
This very friendly family hotel has superb views across the valley of the town of Sartene, snow-capped peaks beyond, as well as the bay at Propriano eight kilometres up the road. Comes with swimmming pool and tennis court. Fifteen minute walk from town. Very affordable.
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