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This guidebook gives details of three long-distance walking routes in Corsica - Mare e Monti, Mare-Mare Nord and Mare-Mare Sud - which cross the island, and also describes 18 day-walks in prime spots both in the rugged mountains of the interior and the softer southern coastal fringe. Good local information.
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Updated: August 04, 2014
According to the European Centre for Disease Control 6 people were infected with schistosomiasis on the island of Corsica (France). All of the travellers were exposed to the freshwater in the Cavu River and had not traveled to other areas where schistosomiasis is known to occur.
CDC recommends that travellers to the island of Corsica avoid exposure to freshwater to prevent schistosomiasis.
What can travelers do to protect themselves?
There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent schistosomiasis. If you are in an area where schistosomiasis occurs, you should avoid having your skin exposed to freshwater sources, such as lakes, rivers, ponds, and wetlands. If you get potentially contaminated freshwater on your skin during a trip to areas where schistosomiasis occurs, talk to your doctor about getting tested and treated.
Avoid wading, swimming or bathing in freshwater in countries where schistosomiasis occurs.
Swimming in the ocean or in well-chlorinated pools is safe.
If you have to use freshwater, such as lake or river water, for bathing, treat the water in one of 3 ways to avoid infection:
Filter water with fine mesh filters (pore size of 30 μm or smaller) to remove the parasite.
Heat bathing water to 122?F for 5 minutes to kill the parasite.
Keep water in a storage tank for at least 24 hours before use to kill the parasite.
If you feel sick and think you may have schistosomiasis:
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
Tell them about your travel. Describe in detail where and for how long you travelled, and explain that you may have been exposed to contaminated water. Ask if you need to be tested for schistosomiasis.
page 43 Mare e Monti. Day 5
Day 5 Girolata to Curzu. The path has been redirected and now follows what is described as the varient in the 2013 reprint of our book. The original route is now abandoned and extremely overgrown, with some paths fallen away and sometimes no water available. Please do not use this original route from Girolata, which is now abandoned.
P139 The bridge over the river San Antoine has been washed away. When we were there last month the water was low enough to ford easily. It looks as though they are preparing to replace it.
Mare e Monti Day 6 - pp45-46 - the path has been rerouted and no
longer touches on the D81 road. Follow waymarking carefully and you walk
directly into the village of Serriera.
The maps for Mare e Monti are sheets 4149OT, 4150OT and 4151OT
p69 and pp123-6
The bridge over the River Tavignano is no longer a hanging structure, but has been rebuilt with steel and wooden beams.
The 'scented isle', or Corsica, is a paradise for walkers and leads to a memorable holiday. The stunning, time-tested, Mare e Monti, Mare-Mare Bord and Mare-Mare Sud long-distance walking routes, criss-crossing the magnificent island, are presented in this guide. A total of 26 days are spent on coast-to-coast routes through the rugged mountainous interior and the softer south, along with the exceptional coastal fringe. A supplementary section has a selection of 18 day-walks in prime spots, allowing you to explore the towering forests, gushing cascades, beautiful isolated coves, aromatic maquis and spectacular river gorges. Top scenery and unspoilt nature are unavoidable! A fantastic range of comfortable hostels and well-run hotels ensure the walker is never far from their overnight stop and the enjoyment of some excellent catering.
With its informative colour maps and photographs illustrating the guide, and its valuable content this is the long-distance walkerís ultimate guide to the randonnées of Corsica.
|When to Go|
|Getting to Corsica|
|What to Take|
|Food and Drink|
|Mare e Monti: Calenzana to Cargèse|
|Mare-Mare Nord: Cargèse to Moriani|
|Mare-Mare Sud: Porto-Vecchio to Propriano|
|1 St-Florent Coastal Route|
|2 The Fango Valley|
|3 Visiting Girolata|
|4 Spelunca Gorge|
|5 A Calanche Walk|
|6 Capu Rossu|
|7 The Aïtone Forest and Rock Pools|
|8 The Paglia Orba Loop|
|9 The Tavignano Bridge|
|10 Glacial Lakes in the Restonica Valley|
|11 La Cascade des Anglais|
|12 Trou de la Bombe|
|13 Foce Finosa|
|14 Zonza–Quenza Circuit|
|15 Cucuruzzu and Capula Archaeological Sites|
|16 Punta di a Vacca Morta|
|17 Piscia di Gallo Waterfall|
|18 The White Cliffs of Bonifacio|
|Long-Distance Route Summaries|
|Glossary of French and Corsican Terms|
‘The land of the vendetta, the siesta, complicated political games, potent cheeses, wild pigs, chestnuts, succulent blackbirds and ageless old men who watch life go by'
R. Goscinny and A. Uderzo, Asterix in Corsica
Add to the above rugged mountain ranges, crystal-clear rivers, turquoise coves, romantic forests, the unforgettable scents of the maquis scrub, easygoing people, comfortable hostels and refuges, together with a host of well-marked paths, and you have, in a nutshell, an unparalleled paradise for walkers.
Its shores lapped by the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas, Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus. It has a surface area of 8682km2 (3352 square miles), is 183km (113.7 miles) long and 83km (51.5 miles) wide, and is blessed with a stunning 1000km (621.3 mile) coastline. Moreover, some two-thirds of the land mass is taken up by an ancient mountain chain punctuated by a good 20 peaks well over 2000m (6500ft), while one-fifth is forested, and since 1972 a sizeable regional nature park has covered a vast 3500km2 (1351 square mile) central swath of the island.
Corsica – or Corse in French – is administered by France, despite the fact that it is closer to Italy in both cultural and physical terms. A mere 90km (56 miles) separate it from the Tuscan coast, not to mention the narrow 11km (7 mile) strait with Sardinia, while it lies 170km (105 miles) from the Côte d'Azur in the south of France. The population of approximately 260,000 includes large numbers of mainlanders, along with a sizeable percentage of people of North African and Italian origin, drawn by work. In contrast it is said that due to unemployment more native Corsicans live in France than on the island itself.
Fanciful tales abound to explain the island's name. Phoenicians, the first seafarers to arrive, apparently referred to it as Ker-Cic (‘slender promontory'). The Greeks came a little later and for them it was Kurnos (‘covered with forests'). Legendary Greco-Roman hero Heracles put in there after labouring to fetch the golden apples at the world's end. He left one of his offspring, Kyrnos, in charge – hence the name. Perhaps the most colourful story comes courtesy of Roman mythology, wherein it belonged to a maiden called Corsa who had swum across from Liguria in pursuit of a runaway bull! Continuing the worldwide need for an explanation for events and naturally occurring phenomena, to this day island life is infused with incredible accounts of miracle-working native saints at odds with ghostly spirits and the gruesome acts of the devil.
Corsica's very first inhabitants are believed to have migrated from north Italy around 7000bc. These hunters and gatherers developed into herders, and were joined by later arrivals responsible for the prehistoric menhirs and dolmens dotted through the hills. As is the fate of settled islands, vulnerable by their very nature, Corsica was raided periodically by Saracens and Barbary pirates, then occupied at length by the Pisans, who left some lovely Romanesque churches, and the Genoese, who stayed from the 13th century through to 1768, when they ceded it to France at a price, leaving a heritage of memorable citadels, watchtowers and bridges. In the meantime island-wide rebellions had produced an enlightened period of autonomy under Pasquale Paoli (1755–69), concluding curiously at the same time as the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte at Ajaccio. There were also limited stretches under English sovereignty, as well as occupation by the forces of Italy and Germany during the Second World War when soldiers all but outnumbered locals. The ongoing independence movement, fiery at times, has dropped off considerably of late. It won 24% of votes in 1992 but a mere 16% in 1999. A 1990 French statute gave the island limited autonomy, however a greater measure was narrowly rejected in a historic 2003 referendum. There continues to be occasional violence from Corsican separatists.
Corsica is catching up with the rest of France and Europe in leaps and bounds in terms of standard of living, though figures remain marginally lower in terms of income, schooling and employment. The lack of industrial development, a negative factor in the past, is now turning into an advantage as visitors are attracted to this unspoilt paradise. Tourism is rapidly becoming a major factor in the economy, alongside livestock and agriculture, with cork, tobacco, wine, citrus fruit and olive oil all being produced for export.
|Walking time||48hr 45min – 10 days|
|Maps||IGN 1:25,000 sheets 4149OT, 4150OT, 4151OT|
The longest-standing and easily the most wonderful long-distance route in Corsica, the Mare e Monti holds true to its name and provides a roller coaster of treats ranging from breathtaking coastline with blue sea and beaches to some awe-inspiring mountainous landscapes. It effects a huge ‘S' as it heads southwards, ducking in and out of the reliefs parallel to Corsica's rugged west coast. The many and varied highlights include the Forest of Bonifatu, the Fango river gorge, the isolated fishing village of Girolata, the Golfe de Porto and the Spelunca gorge, along with days and days of wandering through memorable maquis impregnated with the scents of the Mediterranean and unbelievable masses of wild flowers.
The Mare e Monti is sometimes referred to as Tra Mare e Monti, abbreviated as TMM on signposts. Carry plenty of drinking water every day – athough numerous watercourses are encountered, they are not necessarily reliable in terms of either quality or quantity. Another must is swimming gear for the rock pools, rivers and sea.
The route is theoretically feasible all year round in terms of terrain and weather, however in terms of accommodation, only a handful of the establishments stay open during winter. The concluding two days are shared with the Mare-Mare Nord route, and it is therefore a good idea to pre-book accommodation. Should the entire 10-day walk be too long in terms of time, it can be shortened by either compressing a couple of days (if you're fit), or doing it in shorter chunks as nearly all the villages touched on have bus services. A tricky task is to choose the ‘best' part of the route for people short of time – a hazarded suggestion would be the Bonifatu–Curzu or the Serriera–Evisa legs. The walk can also be lengthened by slotting into the Mare-Mare Nord route at Evisa and branching eastwards towards the island's centre and Corte.
En route to the start, everyone passes through Calvi i 04 95651667. This charming seaside town with a picturesque Genoese citadel (now occupied by the French Foreign Legion) is cleverly placed on a magnificent promontory, overlooking a colourful leisure port alongside a divine white sand beach. A curious item of historic trivia: in the late 1700s during a siege of the citadel by the English under Horatio Nelson, the great man won the battle but sustained serious injury to his right eye. A further if somewhat dubious claim to fame is the town's profession to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus! Calvi has shops galore, as well as restaurants and accommodation for all pockets, including the centrally located hostel BVJ Corsotel, Tel: 04 95651415, open April–October.
Access: The closest town to the start point is Calvi, a handy transport hub. The island's train comes this far via the Ponte-Leccia junction, as do coaches from Bastia and several ferries from the French mainland in summer. The walk start itself, at Calenzana, 12km inland (southeast of Calvi on the D151), is served by a twice-daily bus from Calvi's railway station, but only during midsummer. At other times there's a school bus. Failing that either try hitching or get a group together and hire a taxi – the GR20 commences here too, so trekkers are plentiful.
Villages encountered en route can be used as exit/entry points thanks to buses as follows. Tuarelli has a school-day bus to Galéria, which in turn is served by a school run and midsummer link with Calvi. Curzu and Serriera are on the May–October line between Porto and Calvi. Further on, from Ota you can reach Porto then Cargèse all year. Evisa and Marignana on the other hand have year-round links with Ajaccio, and Evisa is linked summer-only with Corte. The novel (and only!) way to leave the isolated fishing hamlet of Girolata is by boat to Porto or Calvi. At the trail's conclusion, Cargèse, there are always coaches for the 51km south to the island's capital, Ajaccio, as well as services north back towards the start.
A wonderful start to the Mare e Monti, this stage through the Balagne region, ‘the garden of Corsica', takes you out of the agricultural flats backing the coast and straight up to a panoramic ridge and wild rocky reliefs. It then heads into the beautiful Bonifatu forest where a cosy hotel-cum-gîte d'étape is ensconced.
Calenzana (275m) – gîte d'étape and camping ground (5min on foot before Calenzana) 04 95627713, sleeps 30, open April–October, no meals. Shops and restaurants in the village proper, also a hotel, Bel Horizon 04 95627172. Apart from screeching swooping swifts, it is a quiet spot these days, in contrast to its reputed past as a hot bed of gangsters according to Ian Fleming.
Fill up your water bottle at the cool fountain in the main street close to the church, then turn right uphill for the Mare e Monti, in common with the GR20 for the time being. Plentiful waymarks lead out of the southeast edge of Calenzana and up to a paved path that winds and climbs steadily south-southwest through masses of heady herbs and flowers with the odd shady patch. Sheep tracks criss-cross the slopes and bright broom has colonised abandoned terracing beneath curious weathered rock formations. At a junction where the GR20 heads off on its own course, you keep right to follow orange paint splashes to the nearby scenic ample grassy saddle of
1hr – Bocca a u Corsu (581m). Due south now the path plunges down a wild dry hillside carpeted with scented broom and rock roses. Two stream crossings later it emerges at a bend to join a forestry track (415m). Keep straight on in imperceptible ascent following the contour line. While the going is a little monotonous, it gives you time to admire the accompanying blooms of the maquis shrubs, including the strawberry tree. These are the reforested realms of the Forêt de Sambuccu. Bearing east below prominent Punta Scaffa you head downhill past striking granite formations with views up to the peaks crowning the Cirque de Bonifatu, and to
2hr – bridge over the Figarella (360m). A boulder-choked watercourse with good spots for a cooling dip. After the crossing, the path (left) clambers over a dry rocky bed then hugs the stream. A short detour to a stunning natural pool, complete with its own cascade, is followed by a prominent rock overhang sheltering Corsican lilies and cyclamen. Then the path turns right in zigzags to emerge at the road and
45min – Bocca Rezza (510m). With an inspiring backdrop of pink granite mountains inland, turn left on the D251 through shady wood for the remaining stroll to
15min – Bonifatu (535m). Set amidst towering pines and boasting a restful rose-draped terrace, Auberge de la Fôret ( 04 95650998, sleeps 32, open April–October) doubles as hotel and gîte d'étape and serves delicious hearty cuisine. No self-catering. The only drawback is getting early breakfast, as the staff go home to the coast of an evening and you may have to wait.
A day could profitably be spent here exploring the valley leading to Refuge Carozzu and a suspension bridge – ask at the Auberge for details.
A tiring but rewarding traverse of the wild Forêt de Bonifatu terminating at an idyllically located riverside hostel.
Backtrack a short distance down the D251 to a stone bridge and huge signpost for the Mare e Monti. The clear path starts climbing in a southwesterly direction through beautiful shady forest of pine mixed with turkey oak. Underfoot amidst moss are pretty cyclamens and oversized Corsican hellebore, not to mention chaotic boar scratchings. Across the torrent are evocative ruins of the so-called Chalet Prince Pierre (the son of Bonaparte's brother Lucien). Soon afterwards is a fine lookout over lightly wooded red granite mountainsides with the meanders of the Figarella river.
A cover of tree heather and maritime pines with fissured bark dominate on the ensuing zigzagging slog that finally concludes the 700m climb at
15min – Bocca di Bonassa (1153m), which marks a surprisingly abrupt departure from the forest and you are surrounded by the fragrances of the maquis. Plunging views open up southwest. The descent path due south is all but suffocated by masses of lavender and Corsican hellebore for the initial dry tract, however light wood reappears as a constant companion and even the odd chestnut tree. You bear southwest and traverse countless sbreams in varying states of dryness, and pass round a rearing rock head outcrop. There are occasional views despite the dense wood cover. The next landmark is the marked saddle
2hr 10min – Bocca di Lucca (575m). Slow but sure descent through shoulder-high rock roses and juniper along with asphodels leads down to a quiet road. Turn sharp left parallel to the bank of the Fango river where you can collapse at
1hr 5min – Tuarelli (90m). Camping ground and gîte, Tel: 04 95620175, mobile 06 10773192, sleeps 24, open April–October, no cooking facilities. Marvellous soups and stews prepared by friendly staff. But before dinner two activities are compulsory: an invigorating swim in the incredibly transparent pools of the Fango river, followed by a cool beer on the veranda in the shade of olive trees looking inland to the Paglia Orba. School-day bus from the nearby village.
You are led back to the coast today, and – in view of the relatively short distance to be covered – can enjoy the lovely natural rock pools along the course of the crystal-clear Fango, whose name funnily enough means mud!
Follow the lane from the gîte back along the river to a bridge over a stunning gorge, but turn right without crossing it. A path quickly breaks off left to follow the river through waist-high rock roses and myrtle bushes. There are some superb swimming spots, and lovely views of the orange-red smooth porphyry rock-base the water has patiently moulded. Soon in sight is the
1hr 15min – Ponte Vechju (46m). Elegantly arched Genoese bridge, stunningly restored to its former glory. Your last chance for a dip – before the sea. Cross the bridge to a restaurant and pick up the D351 (right) northwest towards the coast. 1.5km along past a drinking fountain and farm properties is a junction where you keep right for
20min – Fangu (29m). Bus, snack bars and family-run Hotel a Farera (or Chez Zeze) 04 95620187. B&B La Casaloha 04 95344695.
A short way along the D81, immediately after a minor bridge, the Mare e Monti turns off left at a restaurant sign to climb into a veritable canopy of tree heather above the road, essentially northwest. A lengthy stretch of dry scratchy scrub sees you through to a sizeable water tank and rough track. Maintaining the same direction a path resumes for gentle ups and downs and the odd watercourse, not to mention cows.
You eventually climb past an abandoned shepherd's hut encircled by huge fennel plants. A 180m col is gained overlooking the enticing coast and the delta of the Fango river. Flanking an old stone wall the path descends easily to the seaside village of
2hr – Galéria (40m). Shops, ice creams, bus, restaurants and modest hotels including centrally sited L'Auberge 04 95620015. Decent if gravely beach. Evocative cemetery with monumental family tombs silhouetted on the seafront. 4km out of town is the summer-only 04 95620227.
Past the post office and phone boxes, follow signs southwest for Calca along the quiet country road to the scatter of farms and
15min – gîte d'étape (30m) in a rural relaxed atmosphere. The spotless spacious L'Étape Marine 04 95620046, sleeps 36, open March to November, no cooking facilities, is a great place run by two welcoming Corsican sisters from Marseille, though early breakfast is a sticky issue. Camping ground too.
One of the top days, this sees you cross the scenic wooded ridge separating the Golfe de Galéria from the glorious Golfe de Girolata and drop in to an isolated fishing settlement accessible exclusively by sea or footpath. There's a very brief, averagely exposed passage in the middle section, slippery in the wet.
From Calca and the gîte turn left (southwest) along the road. After a bridge you are pointed left into the bush to penetrate a lovely wild valley headed by red rock crests. Shaded by oaks and chestnut, the path goes back and forth across a stream and passes a small dam. Heaps of old stone walls are encountered, overgrown with lentisc and rock roses, whose roots host an attractive red-yellow parasite akin to a mushroom.
At a large cairn there are lovely views back down over Galéria and a succession of headlands. The path winds up a little higher to a ridge where you catch sight of the serpentine Calvi–Porto road and look inland to jagged rows of crests. Bear right amid thick cistus bushes to soon reach a prominent evergreen oak and signed junction
2hr 30min – Punta Literniccia (778m). Wonderful outlook down to the bay where the Girolata hamlet nestles, then over to Capo Senino and even Capu Rossu beyond. Here a Mare e Monti short-cut (bypassing Girolata) breaks off south for the road at Col de Palmarella before picking up the official path for Curzu.
Following the broad crest, the path bears west with plenty of openings in the light wood cover for constantly improving views. Shrubs have been sculpted into bonsai shapes by the combined effect of livestock nibbling and wind action. A sizeable cairn doubles as a marvellous viewpoint that includes the distinctive shape of Paglia Orba east-southeast. Then the ridge narrows considerably, obliging you to a short clamber over exposed rock. The next landmark consists of antennae and a small weather station.
The descent begins easily through thickets of rock roses, overlooking the warm red rocks of the Scandola promontory and tortuous coastline with myriad inlets. An oblique descent (right) leads to a semi-circle of stones on the ample saddle
1hr 15min – Bocca di Fuata (458m). West is the wild headland belonging to the protected Scandola Reserve. The path drops easily due south and follows a wide ravine down to sea level. A lovely path turns left for the delightful last leg coasting over divine green-blue waters towards the Genoese watchtower and haven of
1hr 15min – Girolata. The sleepy fishing settlement has a lively summertime population as restaurants open up and families return, whereas in winter the figure oscillates between one and ten. Boats will take passengers to Porto and Calvi as well as on trips around the Scandola promontory, as access by land is strictly banned. In terms of facilities, there's a modest grocery store and two welcoming gîtes d'étape: set just above the bay is Le Cormoran Voyageur 04 95201555, sleeps 20, open April to end September, no kitchen facilities but freshly caught fish and home-made jam are served. Otherwise a lovely beachfront restaurant provides rustic timber huts for its guests – La Cabane du Berger 04 95201698, sleeps 30, open April to end September.
A weary climb looping along a succession of elevated rugged ridges, with effort amply recompensed by the sweeping views over the spectacular coastline. It all comes to a fitting conclusion at a well-reputed gîte-cum-restaurant. A viable shorter variant is given below.
Head along the eucalpyt-backed shingle beach with its jetties. At the far end, with a stream surrounded by a mass of yellow horned poppies, a path leads uphill past a tiny cemetery. Bearing east, it climbs over slabs alongside a dry-stone wall amidst shady shrubs to a signpost and
1hr 10min – D81 (352m). Keeping an eye out for traffic on this narrow stretch, turn right along the tarmac until you are pointed up left and the path resumes (northeast). Ascending rocky sand-based terrain with the pleasant scent of ever-present maquis shrubs, the views improve with every step. On reaching Punta di u Munditoghju (640m) the path changes direction markedly and you bear right (east). Some level terrain at last leads to the foot of prominent Punta di u Tartavellu (only a short distance from Tuarelli as the crow flies). Here you bear right (south) to the next landmark, Bocca Ascensu (742m). More ascent follows, but Punta Salisei is thankfully detoured and you embark southwest on the marvellously panoramic Crête de Salisei. This culminates in stunning
3hr – Capu di Curzu (852m), the day's record in terms of height, not to mention the start of the descent at last! You drop quickly to a
15min – signposted col (750m), where the shorter variant via Bocca a Croce joins up.
Variant: from the 150m col, keep right (southeast) downhill for Tuara beach, where you may encounter the odd cow. A broad shady way then climbs steadily southwards past a drinking fountain and emerges on the D81 at the snack bar at Bocca a Croce (269m, 1hr). You can always bail out here thanks to the Porto–Calvi bus.
Straight across the road clamber up the bank to a hut with a radio aerial, where you'll find markers pointing straight up (east-northeast). A steep haul ensues to a panoramic crest flanking Capu di Linu, quickly followed by a 750m col below Capu di Corzu, where the main route is joined (1hr 30min from Bocca a Croce). This variant makes a saving of about 2hr.
The last leg to the village entails more tiring stony terrain and age-old olive trees. On the upper outskirts at the first houses, keep right at a signed junction for a succession of steps and laneways past old stone ovens to a drinking fountain and the D81 once more. Keep right for rather nondescript
50min – Curzu (290m). The Calvi–Porto bus can picked up here. Some groceries available. Well-equipped gîte with an excellent reputation for traditional Corsican catering 04 95273170, sleeps 35, open April–October.
A straightforward if somewhat uninteresting traverse of hills clad in scratchy maquis and scrubby pastureland, and ending at an attractive gîte.
Climb back up past the drinking fountain the way you arrived. Just below the last house turn right (southeast) on a goat track along overgrown terraces. Waymarking is constant but the going is particularly thorny – be warned! You coast above the cemetery and make your way past red rock outcrops and thickets of strawberry trees to a shoulder (370m). Not far downhill is a signpost and
1hr 15min – farm road (280m).
By turning right, in 30min you can detour to the cluster of houses that goes by the name of Partinello. On the panoramic verge of the D81, it has a café, restaurant and hotel Aria Marina, Tel: 04 95273033, open May– September. Continue straight across the unsealed road down past a paddock, keeping an eye out for faint paint splashes. These indicate a steepish descent beneath turkey oaks and cool undergrowth to the
20min – Rivière de Vetricella (66m), forded easily thanks to large stepping stones. Once over the other side, turn left for an uphilll track climbing out of the river valley to a
1hr – 350m crest, and clearing with huge juniper bushes, asphodels and a signpost. Visible just off the path are the photogenic abandoned stone houses of Pinedu.
On a wider, older way you bear south-southwest between fields for grazing livestock. Waymarking then leads off the old lane for a path that concludes in the village of
40min – Serriera (30m). It boasts a small grocery store, drinking fountain and ubiquitous phone box near the Mairie. A short stroll on is an old building housing the village olive press, recently converted into the gîte L'Alivi 04 95104933, mobile 06 17559051, sleeps 32, open year-round, no self-catering. (10min down the road is a modest hotel with a swimming pool, Cabanaccia 04 95261446, open April to October.)
After a lengthy taxing climb comes the reward in the shape of brilliant views, a magnificent pine forest and a wild and wonderful ravine down to a beautifully located hospitable village.
From the village of Serriera (30m), opposite the shop, take the lane down to the river's edge to cross the concrete footbridge. You join a wide dirt forestry track (left) climbing east for some 2km. At a 268m junction a clear path forks off right into shady wood, where ring clearings once used by charcoal burners are encountered. An outcrop overlooks Serriera and the surrounding wild hills, then the climb resumes amidst pretty white ball blossoms of tree heather and lavender. Further up, the appearance of pines means you've almost completed the ascent to a broad crest clad in fresh green chestnut at
2hr 40min – Bocca San Petru (900m). Recommended detour (see below) to a superb lookout, not to mention perfect picnic spot.
Turn right for the clear level path due west along the narrowing crest thick with asphodels and bracken. You clamber the last easy metres to rock perches on Capu San Petru (914m), a breathtaking belvedere over the Golfe de Porto all the way from Capu Rossu to Scandola. Also south across the valley are the eye-catching granite columns on Capu d'Ortu. Return the same way to Bocca San Petru.
A wide path proceeds east-southeast alternating towering maritime pines with sweet chestnut and even the rare peony. After a ruined hut for drying chestnuts, a head of valley is rounded and the long descent commences southwards. Lookout points survey the coast, while closer at hand are massive rugged walls of deep red porphyry as you follow the magnificent Vitrone ravine. The stream is crossed several times then followed closely in a series of knee-jarring steps dwarfed by oppressive cliffs.
Finally out of the ravine, the path swerves left (south then southeast) past a little waterfall, a fairly level stretch providing respite from the previous steepness. Accompanied by a surprising range of orchids you gain a panoramic saddle, then embark on the last leg due east, with never-ending ups and downs to
3hr – Ota (320m). The pretty village swarming with swifts seems to function exclusively in terms of the multitudinous walkers attracted by the Spelunca gorge. Draped in honeysuckle creepers and adorned with fragrant lime trees, it looks over to impressive Capu d'Ortu. There's a good bus service and food supplies, as well as two popular gîtes d'étape: Chez Marie 04 95261137, sleeps 30, open year-round, and Chez Félix 04 95261292, sleeps 50, open year-round.
A landmark stage negotiating the lovely Spelunca gorge featuring elegant Genoese bridges. Allow extra time for swimming. If it fits in with your plans, make your overnight stay at Evisa, as accommodation and services there are preferable to those at Marignana. In either case, book ahead as both villages are used by walkers on the Mare-Mare Nord – this applies to all remaining accommodation on this route.
After Chez Félix restaurant, head downhill (east) via lanes through terraces of olives and citrus for the gentle descent to the Rivière de Porto and the
40min – Pont Génois (200m) (also known as Ponte Vecchiu or Vechju). Reputedly the most beautiful restored 15th-century bridge of its kind on the island. Over the bridge the path turns left along the river bank past a playing field to a road bridge at the confluence of two watercourses. A delightful path rambles up the right bank of the Aïtone amidst bright masses of wild flowers. The rock walls of the gorge become taller as you approach through dense vegetation to what is left of
40min – Pont de Zaglia (280m). Side paths lead off along the converging watercourses to a good selection of water holes for a swim and relax, not a bad idea in view of the imminent stiff climb.
Continuing eastwards, the gorge is left behind as you puff up tight switchbacks edged by old stone walls beneath evergreen oaks and pines. The path finally levels out as you reach the cemetery and the D84, which is followed a short way to scenic
2hr 10min – Evisa (850m). Briefly uphill is Hotel U Pozzu 04 95262289, open April–October; otherwise turn down after the bakery and grocery store, then left for the good family-run gîte 04 95262188, sleeps 37, open April to mid-October. A relaxing day-trip is suggested to the renowned rock pools on the Aïtone – see Walk 7. Slotting into the Mare-Mare Nord is also feasible here. Buses to Ajaccio and the coast.
From the gîte d'étape proceed southeast along the road. On a corner just as the houses finish, branch off right for the descent via rough lanes to a stream crossing. An old wall is followed before a steep drop to the Tavulella and a 40min – hanging bridge (635m). The watercourse is crossed three more times, then a narrow path leads up to the abandoned hamlet of U Tassu (700m). A level stretch through chestnut woods brings you out at the road and
50min – Marignana gîte d'étape (700m) (or Ustaria di a Rota) 04 95262121, sleeps 40, always open. Groceries on sale. A further 10min up the road is the village proper, with buses to Ajaccio.
Another long day with plenty of ups and downs across wild rocky valleys miles from anywhere. Wild flowers feature high on the list of attractions.
Head up the road past the cemetery to
10min – Marignana (715m). At the church turn left up the cobbled streets to woodland teeming with foraging pigs. Past the playing ground is a cross at
30min – Bocca a u Mamucciu (824m). A Mare-Mare Nord variant branches off southeast.
Sharp right a rough lane climbs to a crest, where you need to keep your eyes skinned for faint paint splashes for the path (left) across rock slabs into a chestnut copse. Aromatic flowered maquis soon takes over and a level old mule track heads west-southwest with great views all the way to the coast. At a minor pass Culetta a u Prunu (970m), the path narrows and turns down decidedly right (north) into chestnut woods and past a séchoir hut once used for drying the nuts. Some remarkably gnarled trees are encountered, testifying to their erstwhile importance for the local economy.
A couple of streams are crossed before you climb a dramatic red cleft valley and resume a southwest direction. Paved tracts of an old winding track appear from time to time, leading through a marvellous extended garden of rock roses, lilies and lavender to name but a few. A gradual ascent across rougher scrubby terrain concludes at the ample panoramic saddle
2hr 30min – Bocca Acquaviva (1102m), shaded by Capu e Macenue. Coasting west at first through overgrazed pasture past signs for a ‘source' (spring), you drop to the circular stone enclosures of the abandoned Bergeries de Casta. Follow cairns down the wide crest to an outcrop at 960m, where tight zigzags plunge you into the thickly wooded valley of Rognia with its many streams. A long, easy wander southwest through shady wood of strawberry trees and evergreen oak leads past the signed fork (right) for the hamlet of Revinda. A short further way on (southeast) you reach the isolated gîte d'étape of
2hr 50min – E Case (605m) 04 95264819 (guardian's house at Revinda) or mobile 06 82499565, sleeps 22, open April–October, booking recommended. Wonderfully situated overlooking the coast and Golfe de Chiuni, this simple family-run stone farmhouse extends a warm welcome to weary walkers. Meals are served al fresco and supplies come in courtesy of the mule. Don't expect any mod cons though.
Straightforward if not exceptionally exciting concluding stage of a wonderful long-distance experience. The destination Cargèse is a good place to collapse, as it has a full range of creature comforts and the added attraction of beaches!
Head off southeast into shoulder-high maquis across a gurgling stream then continue in gradual ascent through lilies galore, then gigantic strawberry trees, to the rocky crests of Pianu Maggiore, culminating at 650m. There are views back to Revinda, not to mention the approaching promising coast.
After an outcrop (471m), turn sharp left following a fence for a scrambly drop through dry scrub alongside paddocks. This finally terminates at a dirt track at
1hr 40min – Bergeries de Santa Lucia (220m). Follow the lane that loops down past a fork to cross the Esigna watercourse (about 190m) and stay on it for a matter of kilometres west. After a succession of stream crossings you reach a signed junction for Lozzi, but fork left to ford the watercourse (70m).
Waymarking needs following carefully for the ensuing climb along a series of lanes and sunken paths overgrown with brambles and even stinging nettles. The way comes out at a cluster of farms on a road close to a
2hr – ruined chapel (380m) in Romanesque style, and there is a curious prehistoric menhir in the adjacent field. The route turns west enclosed by old stone walls through farmland with views, eventually dropping through scrub to a road. Go left then first right for the little-used D181, and down to the crossroads of
50min – Cargèse (96m). Sun-soaked town with all supplies and services. Buses both directions. 04 95264131. Hôtel Punta e Mare 04 95264433, sleeps 20, has special rates for walkers except July–August, otherwise Hôtel Saint Jean 04 95264668 can cater for 32 year-round, but has no individual cooking facilities. Treat yourself to a swim at splendid sandy Peru beach (Hotel Ta Kladia 04 95264073, April–October), a 15min stagger down the hill. Cargèse has a population of Greek origin thanks to 16th-century refugees fleeing persecution under the Ottoman Empire.
A detailed contour map is an essential aid to any walk undertaken in Corsica. The sketch maps provided in this guide are limited by space and graphics and are not intended as substitutes. Excellent maps published by the France's Institute Géographique National (IGN) are referred to in the heading of each walk described in this book. The blue Top 25 1:25,000 series are on sale all over Corsica in newsagents and even supermarkets, not to mention outdoor and map shops overseas. An orange 1:50,000 series has also been published, handy for the long-distance routes, however they are inexplicably unavailable on the island and can only be purchased at official IGN outlets in France, through specialist distributors in other countries or online at www.ign.fr.
At a stretch the green IGN 1:100,000 series could accompany a long-distance route and be used for identifying distant ranges and landmarks including villages, though they won't be much help if you get lost.
Top of the list is Asterix in Corsica by R. Goscinny and A. Uderzo (1973, out of print), which captures the island’s nature in a delightfully irreverent manner. A close second is Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica (Penguin 1971), a serious read verging on gripping, this is Dorothy Carrington’s passionate and detailed account of late 1940s Corsica set against a web of spirits. Those with access to an antique book store should search out Edward Lear’s Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica (1870) and either of James Boswell’s travel journals dating back to the late 1700s. Latter-day traveller Paul Theroux also passed through, as recounted in his very readable The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean (Penguin 1995).
French readers should look out for the mesmerising short stories by Guy de Maupassant including Un bandit corse (1882), Histoire corse (1881) and La Patrie de Colomba (1880). There’s also fascinating reading in Contes et Légendes de l’île de Corse by Gabriel Xavier Culioli (Éditions DCL 1998) and Claire Tiévant and Lucie Desideri’s Almanach de la mémoire et des coutumes: Corse (Albin Michel 1986).
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