‘A French island basking in the Italian sun’, as Balzac wrote. Here, in the birthplace of Napoleon Italian pop plays on the radio and Sardinia is within kissing distance. Primarily, however, Corsica is Corsican, with its own language, culture and specific personality. Corsicans are very proud and protective. But the benefit of such wariness – developers can find themselves tied up in red tape for years – is a paradise that, from the plane, looks barely touched by the 21st century: lush and wild, and totally uncorrupted by motorways, industrial parks or any of the urban clog that despoils other Mediterranean isles.
Visitors traditionally stick to the south coast, huddling around ritzy, yacht-choked Porto-Vecchio, so the north remains an insider’s secret – a charmed part, little explored and much less developed, where national parks spread for miles, and peaks give way to small fishing villages and perfect bays of powdery white sand lapped by opalescent waves. Every bend revealing a beach more beautiful than the last. In a week, you feel like you have only scratched the surface. There are hiking routes in the nearby Bonifatu forest, where according to Nathalie Bourgogne ‘you can walk for days and days’, not to mention the trail-skiing in winter, or the wild beaches of L’Ostriconi. ‘I went to school here as a child,’ says Bourgogne. ‘When I returned 20 years later, nothing had changed. That’s what makes it magic.’ In a world in which change is the only constant, it seems a charmed place indeed.