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Corsica advice


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Thanks go to Don but has anyone else got any advice?


In addition to wild camping advice, we are particularly looking for a good site suitable for a young family for 1 week.


Have tracked down, Pertamina Village U Farniente which looks suitable but would appreciate any other views.


Going from 24th July to 14th August.

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Hi, I can't see your original query, only your reply to Don. However, we spent 3-4 weeks there last year, and we are going again shortly to Sardinia for 4 weeks, and then another 2 weeks on Corsica. We didn't use many campsites, but those that we did and would be suitable for kids, with a pool etc. were at Bonifacio and Ghisonaccia. If you e-mail me I can send you a copy of a letter that I wrote to MMM (not published!!), and others. This shows our overall route and stopping places etc.


My e-mail is robincons@aol.com :-D

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Hi Don,


I have thought about this before, but I don't know how to attach a 3 page Word document to this reply. Do I use this link below that says "Attach a file after posting"? It was the bit about AFTER posting I was unsure about.

Please advise and I'll try and do it.



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OK Don, here goes!




It was Sicily in 2005, Greece in 2006, so where to in 2007, we asked ourselves sometime towards the end of last year. My wife fancied Corsica and Sardinia, so being a naturally compliant husband that is where we headed for! We booked the Dover/Calais ferry in December (£62.50) and the Livorno/Corsica ferry in early January (over £300). Why go all the way to Livorno when ferries go from Toulon and Marseilles? The cost – about half as much! We also wanted to visit some friends who were having a get together in Havea, Spain, a little south of Valencia – we had promised to go for some years, so we had a time window from leaving home to arriving in Havea of six weeks. We thought that we would need about two and a half weeks for the two long journeys, to Corsica, and from there along the south coast of France and into Spain. That left us with three and a half weeks for Corsica and Sardinia. I thought that about one and a half weeks on each island plus a few days for resting would just about do it.


So April 29th (Sunday) saw us booked on the late night boat arriving about 0130 local time. Our plan was to stay on the Aire de Service at Calais, but to our amazement it was totally full. As we have a campervan we normally use the Aires, especially on the journey part of our holiday. We tried the campsite at Gravelines, but that was closed, so we set off down the E42 towards Lille. We parked up at a service station, somewhat apprehensively, at nearly 4 a.m.


Next day towards eastern France and into Italy – or so we thought. Unfortunately after we had moved about 100 yards (or should it be metres?) the brake warning light came on. I didn’t need to look in the service book, because the air brake had totally seized on. If anyone has a large van with an air brake, they will know that when that happens, the vehicle is solid and won’t move an inch. The air compressor had failed causing the air pressure to diminish and the brake to be applied. Now I knew why I had been going to French lessons at home every Tuesday morning! I had to use the motorway emergency telephone to explain what the problem was, and how big and heavy our van was. Within 20 minutes an enormous Renault tow truck arrived. So we spent our first day in the Mercedes dealer in Dunkerque. They were absolutely excellent, couriering in the part, and staying until 9.30 at night to get us back onto the road again. (It was May Day the following day, and it would have meant two days in a hotel.) The dealer even showed us where to stay in Dunkerque – that place isn’t in any of our guides!


We then got to thinking – what would have happened if the brake had seized only three applications earlier? We would still have been on the ferry. How do they get a five ton campervan off a ferry in the early hours with a seized hand-brake? I suppose they have contingency plans – I wonder what they are?


So a day later than expected we hit the road again, passing the notorious place that we had broken down. I needed diesel, but not wanting to tempt fate again I drove onto the next station! We only covered about 120 miles before stopping for the night at an aire in Catillon-sur-Sambre, some miles after Cambrai on the N43. This was a delightful stopover on the banks of the canal. We met a couple of Brits who warned us about the bad guys in/near Barcelona – don’t even stop for fuel, they’ll slash your tyres and rob you whilst you watch!


We put on 230 miles the next day and had one of many bad experiences with our newly acquired satnav system – a TomTom One Europe. It showed an aire in Nancy, but when we got to it, we were in the middle of a bridge going over the quite wide river! We turned around – not in the middle of the bridge, you understand – and ended up in Thaon les Vosges, near to Epinal.


Next day via Besancon and into Switzerland. The frontier official advised us to use the N9 as it would save their toll charge of €30-40. I didn’t understand, as in previous years we had bought a daily carnet for about SFR20, but as my French wasn’t up to this technical stuff, we used the N9. This was interesting, but very slow, so much so that we didn’t make it to our expected destination in Italy. We stayed instead in Brigg – we had to use a proper campsite – it cost us SFR27.50 – ouch! However, the views were spectacular so that made up for the financial disincentive. In case you are by now thinking that I am a tight Yorkshireman (probably I am), when you’re used to staying on aires for free or a minimal charge such as €5, a fully-fledged campsite fee comes as a bit of a shock!


Then it was over the Simplon pass and into Italy. It was snowing quite heavily on the top of the pass, but it wasn’t settling on the road, thankfully. We tried to stop at an aire in Piacenza, but again we couldn’t find it – damn the TomTom! Onto a campsite that we had stayed at before in Parma – you know, where the ham comes from – but it was closed all year for refurbishment. I wonder how many other campers got caught out by this during the summer? So we parked up at Berceto – poorly signposted, and the satnav sent us the wrong way up the narrow road! Nearly 9 hours for 280 miles!


As our ferry to Corsica left at 8.15 a.m. on the Sunday, and as today was Saturday, we went to Marina di Pisa – it only took us a couple of hours, but we were glad to have a short driving day after our previous long one. Parking was €10 right by the sea.


So Sunday to the ferry in Livorno using the seaside road SS224. All was well until we reached the outskirts of the town. Was the ferry terminal well-signposted from the coast road? I don’t think so. There wasn’t a signpost in sight – but then again, this was Italy, so what can you expect? As it was only 7 a.m. there wasn’t anyone to ask. Just as we pulled up to consult our map – what about your satnav you ask? – a friendly motorist put his hand through his car roof and pointed to a road up to the left. We did eventually find some signposts, about the size of a fag packet, and duly arrived for our four hour crossing to Corsica. It was a very pleasant one, but as our brains were not yet into sunshine mode, we left our shorts, t-shirts, sunburn cream etc. in our van, and had to sit in the shade for some of the time.


We arrived in Bastia at about 12.30 p.m. with some very threatening storm clouds overhead. We had already decided to head off to St Florent on the western coast. This was the first of many beautiful drives in Corsica, over the hills, where the weather was warmer and sunny. We were going to camp at Camping U Pezzo, but there was no sign of life and the site looked distinctly run-dow. As it was early May, perhaps it hadn’t yet opened for the season. So instead we went to Camping Kallista a few hundred yards away. This was a lovely site, although it cost €24/night even at that time of year. There was a short walk into town, which was itself quite pretty, especially around the harbour area. We did see some campers parked on the harbour, but we were not sure if they stayed the night or not. As by then we had driven about 1,350 miles in eight days or so we rested the next day. I did some bird-watching and reading, but my wife was somewhat poorly with sinusitis so she did very little. The following day I fetched some antibiotics from the chemist – no prescription and only about €5 – and we then uprooted to continue our journey through Corsica.


We were going anti-clockwise around the island, as we intended coming back up the east coast on our return journey from Sardinia. We went to Calvi, passing L’Ile Rousse, a very campervan unfriendly little town. We couldn’t find any parking, and on our return we pulled into a petrol station there and specifically asked about parking – there wasn’t any! We stayed in the centre of Calvi across the road from the SuperU market. It was only a car park, but there was a recognised area for campers; there were about five of us parked there overnight. We had an enjoyable meal in the town, this occasion being when I wished I had had by camera with me. The restaurant was in the town square with broad shallow steps leading upwards and to the right to the church. Down these steps came a man on his motor scooter wearing a crash helmet – in itself quite a novelty for Corsica – but on the scooter with paws firmly fixed to the handlebars was a dog wearing an identical crash helmet! Everyone in the restaurant had a good giggle at this, as you can imagine.


We then moved on from Calvi to Porto via the D81 road. It was only 45 miles, but it took us two hours – this average speed is typical for Corsica. It was an extremely scenic journey with panoramic vistas over the sea on a number of occasions.We parked for free to the south of Porto on a well-used camper parking place. We tried to get a boat to the Calanches, but the sea was too rough. However, the next day we did get a boat trip. The Calanches are unusual rock formations in a red granite, with huge outcrops rising vertically from the sea, and with gouged out rock formations where the sea has taken away some of the rock over tens of thousands of years – quite spectacular.


We then continued on the D81 towards Ajaccio, staying at Sagone overnight. The view of the Calanches from the road was even more stupendous than from the boat. We pulled in to admire the view – absolutely fabulous! The road was quite narrow in places, especially with oncoming buses to contend with.


In Ajaccio we parked on the harbour; there were quite a number of campervans, but we were not sure about overnight parking, so I asked a French camper about this. He made it quite clear that this was not a good idea – robbers etc. Before leaving Ajaccio we took a tour bus to Iles Sanguinaires at the very end of the Ajaccio peninsula. This was a lovely run, albeit we thought that we had booked a bus to take us round the town of Ajaccio! We then went a little further down the coast and stayed overnight on a campsite at Ponticcio. This was not a particularly good site.


We were now heading for the southern-most part of Corsica, the lovely town of Bonifacio. On our way we made a detour to visit a 6,000 year old pre-historic site at Filitosa. Although this was interesting, we decided that it hadn’t been worth the detour; we have seen many other sites that were far better. We then made the mistake of taking what I thought was a shortcut through the village of Sartene! In a car it would have been, but in a 25’ campervan – disaster! The street was quite narrow, and there were cars parked on both sides of it; I just managed to miss several car wing mirrors on the way through, followed by a particularly tight right-angle bend. The village looked very picturesque, but we didn’t get the chance to park up anywhere. We were intending parking at Port Figari on the way into Bonifacio, but we missed the turning, and there was nowhere to turn round for a long way, so we carried on into Bonifacio, staying at Camp Il Fiorante, a few miles north of the town.


The careful reader of this treatise will have noticed that, so far, we had not had many rest days, and we liked Bonifacio so much that we decided that we would stay here for a few days. We would be over two weeks into our Corsica/Sardinia holiday by the time we would leave Bonifacio which would leave us only one and a half weeks to see Sardinia and the remainder of Corsica. It was at this time that we decided that to do both islands in the three to four weeks window, and to have some relaxing time, was too much for us, so we abandoned going to Sardinia. I would suggest that about six weeks is about right for both islands, unless you want to rush it.


We stayed for four nights near to Bonifacio. We scootered around from the campsite to the town a few times – mussels for lunch, pizza one evening, beach, wrote our postcards, and generally has a restful few days. Bonifacio is really two towns in one. There is the lower town around the harbour – the new town – and then there is the old town at the top of (an inevitably) steep hill! The views from the top are quite spectacular, but as there was a heat haze we couldn’t see the island that we were no longer going to visit.


We then moved about 15 miles up the coast to Porto-Vecchio. We hadn’t appreciated that Thursday 17th May was a bank holiday until we arrived in the village and everything was shut down! There wasn’t much to see in the village, although it did have a quite pretty village square, so we moved onto a beach at San Ciprianu to the north east of Porto-V. This was a delightful sweeping beach with fine, almost white sand. It was quite busy due to the bank holiday – the atmosphere was more like a Sunday than a Thursday.


At the end of the day I asked the bar owner if we were able to park overnight behind his bar where I had seen some campervans. He informed me that this would be most unwise – we would almost certainly receive an early morning call from the local gendarmerie demanding that we move on, and collecting a parking fine in the process. However, there was a public car park nearby – about 200 yards – and we could park there overnight without any problem. As we drove round the deserted car park, we noticed that the properties were very much up-market. Perhaps this was the St Tropez of Corsica? We received quite a number of Paddington Bear stares, if you know what I mean! But we stayed there, and true enough, there was no problem. We did realise that in Corsica a public car park is acceptable for overnight staying, as long as one is happy with the security – or lack of it! I think this was the only night we parked up on our own – all other times there were other campers there – safety in numbers!


The following day we headed for Ghisonaccia, about half way up the coast towards Bastia, stopping on the way at Pinarellu beach. This also was a delightful smallish beach where we stayed for a coffee break. All along this part of the Corsican coast there are countless small to medium sized beaches, all with the fine whitish sand which gently shelves into the sea. On arriving in Ghisonaccia we headed for Camping Arinella Bianca campsite. This was a huge site with a hotel and holiday club in the grounds. We stayed there for three nights. We went to the village on the scooter, we lazed by the pool, we caught up on some washing – clothes and the campervan, and we tried but failed to find a nature reserve.


So far I haven’t said a word about the Great British talking point – the weather! On Corsica we only had one short spell of rain on one afternoon. In the first two weeks, although the days were lovely and warm – in the low 20’s I suppose – the evenings were cool enough for a sweater. Apart from the mountains, which was our next stop on out itinery, we then had excellent hot sunny days and warm evenings. We were by then back on the north coast of the island. We could throw away the sweaters for the rest of our holiday!


After Ghisonaccia we moved inland to the mountain village of Corte. It was only about 50 miles away, but it still took over two hours to get there along the twisting N200. Corte itself is only about 1,500 feet high, but we took the scooter up the Gorges de la Restonica. This was a most spectacular drive, uphill all the way. The gorge gets narrower the further up one goes, eventually terminating at a car park and café/bar, about 3,500 feet up. The air was distinctly cooler up there, and as it was getting towards late afternoon by then, we had made a mistake by not taking warmer clothing with us. The return journey was punctuated by the smell of hot brakes! We had a reasonably good evening meal in Corte, about a 15 minute walk from the campsite.


We then headed back onto the north coast returning to Calvi again. After about 20 miles from Corte on the N197, the road splits – the old N197 goes twisting and turning over the mountains, whilst a new road, the N1197, skirts around the mountains and is a straight and uninteresting road. Needless to say we took the old road, and we were glad we had done. The views from the top of the pass, the Col de San Colombano, were breath-taking. We could see much of the north coast of the island; there was the L’Ile Rousse pointing skywards with Calvi over to the left. It really was a treat to have such a fantastic day weather-wise for this beautiful panorama. The descent onto the coast road was also very picturesque, although quite slow, not unexpectedly.


We returned to the same parking place in Calvi as we had used three weeks earlier, and spent the afternoon on the beach, something that we couldn’t have done on the first occasion. The first time in Calvi we saw the dog wearing a crash helmet, and this time it was memorable for a different reason – our evening meal. We sat in the same square but at the restaurant opposite our earlier one. We ordered meat and fish “on the stone”. When it arrived, my wife commented on the fact that her fish was raw and cold, as also was my meat. We were just about to question this fact with the waiter, when he brought to our table – yes, you’ve guessed it – two red hot stones resting on metal stands. The idea was that we cooked our meal to our liking. We had assumed that the chef would cook our meal “on the stone”. We had never come across anything like this anywhere before. The meal was eventually extremely delicious, and was definitely in the memorable category!


Next day we moved nearer to Bastia, but only by about 15 miles, to L’Ile Rousse. We discovered that we couldn’t park there, so we went to a campsite a little over a mile away, Camping Les Oliviers. We had a pitch overlooking the sea – it was absolutely idyllic. We stayed there for four nights, going into L’Ile Rousse on the scooter, or walking there in the evening so that I didn’t need to worry about having an alcoholic drink. There was a narrow track leading down from the campsite directly onto the beach, and from there it was only a 5-10 minutes walk into the town. We spent three days there; by now it was hot enough for me to need to take my sun umbrella with me. It was on our last afternoon here that we had a violent short thunderstorm, complete with hailstones, the only rain we had seen on Corsica. We had another excellent meal out in the town on our last night in Corsica; a three course meal for only €16 each. This was at the “Corsica” restaurant in the centre of the town, one that had been recommended to us by some German campers on our site.


And so it was, with some reluctance, that we had our final drive on Corsica back to the ferry at Bastia for the return journey to Livorno. We took the 1330 ferry, arriving at 1730, and stayed at the same place as our outward journey, at Marina di Pisa.


So, our overall impression of Corsica? It is a very picturesque island, not unlike Sicily from a scenic point of view. Average speeds are in the range 20-25 mph. It can be very relaxing, but if you want just a beach holiday, it is the east cost to head for. Inland Corsica is extremely mountainous, and is ideal for the fitter amongst us (are there any?). It is excellent for walking, cycling, climbing, nature watching etc. Prices are similar to anywhere else in Europe now that the Euro is king; it is more expensive for some things than in the U.K., but no more than in other countries. We would definitely recommend Corsica to anyone who wants to travel around a bit, whilst having time to relax in the many coastal resorts. Now, I haven’t mentioned my satnav for some time, have I? That it because it is of limited use on Corsica, and, I suspect on Sardinia also, or any of the islands in Europe. The mapping is not up to it, and it causes more confusion than not using it!




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What a splendid piece! Thanks very much. I have duly noted some of the points you make about parking. Hopefully, we'll be able to head for the majority of them but doubtless to say, as we're going in peak season, it'll be harder to find a space.


We've always wanted to go (being big GR fans) but were beginning to doubt our choice, having heard all the negative reports about windscreens being put through and the width of the roads.


We usually wild camp but I had been wondering whether this was going to be possible/wise.


We also usually do a week in a more "commercial" setting just so the little one can stretch his legs, whilst we endeavour to chill!

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