Friday, 18 October 2013

Balagne: beauty and fertility of Northern Corsica

Corsica is one of our favorite spots in the Mediterranean.
For its sun, its clear waters, its breathtaking views....


....and because, to us, it is the perfect blend of Italian and French culture.
It is extremely touristy but it still retains a very wild character along with a strong traditional identity.
And while August tends to be overcrowded, September is quieter and surely a better time to visit. This is why we decided to head there for an early autumn escape. We had already been there a few times traveling all around the island so this time we decided to concentrate on the northern part and more specifically in the Balagne and Cap Corse.


The Balagne is an area of the Haute-Corse, bordered by the Ostriconi river on the east side and extending  up to the Genoese town of Calvi on the west side.
We used Santa Reparata di Balagna, just 5 minutes inland from the popular holiday resort of Ile Rousse, as a base for our wanderings in this fertile areas scattered with old charming villages.

Midway between Ile Rousse and Calvi, we encountered the little coast town of Algajola, characterized by a beautifully maintained (and privately owned) Genovese fort and a series of small places ideal for al fresco dining.

The road from the beach leading inland will bring you to the quiet Aregno with the stunning XII century Romanesque church of the Trinity and the coloured stonework of its facade.


Following the Route des Artisans, we headed inland towards Pigna.
This is a charming and peaceful village that cannot be accessed by car. Walking through its narrow cobbled street you will find lots of art shops, some lazy cats laying under the sun and prickly pear plants.



















It feels a bit too perfect and touristy but it is definitely worth a visit.


Sant'Antonino, a bit further inland, is even more touristy than Pigna as you will easily realise it by the big buses parked at the bottom of the town. Once again you will have to leave you car (and pay for the parking) and walk up the paved medieval streets.
The town is mainly inhabited by retired people and flourishing rosemary plants.....






If you are looking for some more genuinely traditional places then get back to your car and drive to Speloncato. You will only find silence and beautiful old buildings on this tiny town perched on a protruded rock in the middle of the valley.


We met a funny and knowledgeable old man who took us a bit around telling us a bit of the town history, the beautiful church and the amazingly decorated pipe organ.


We spent some time strolling around and taking pictures....




and making new friends...



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