Wine regions of Calvi, Patrimonio and the Cap Corse
By Tom Fiorina
This Guide was last updated on 18 July 2013
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Bastia ranks second in size to Ajaccio, but its port, which is the island’s major commercial port of entry as well as the destination of almost a million passengers each year, makes it the equal, economically, to Corsica’s capital city. The city dates from the 14th century when the then Genoese governor of Corsica decided to move the island seat from a malaria-infested area several kilometres away to a rocky headline on the coast. This citadel fortress (or bastiglia, hence Bastia) was the forerunner of the city. There’s none of the artificial Côte-d’Azur-allure that has infected Ajaccio here. The dominant tone of Bastia is one of charismatic dereliction with plenty of aged charm. The old quarter, which is known as Terra Vecchia, is a tightly packed network of haphazard streets, flamboyant Baroque churches, and lofty tenement buildings set against a backdrop of maquis-covered hillsides. Terra Nova, the historic district on the opposite side of the old port and which includes the citadel, is slightly tidier now that it has become Bastia’s trendy quarter. You may want to spend a day or two here to explore the historic sights or to sample some of the city’s fine restaurants. Corsican charcuterie and cheeses can be purchased in the Magasin Mattei (tel: 04 95 32 44 38), which is located in the city’s focal point, the 19th century Place St-Nicolas. You’ll also find here the signature Cap Corse aperitif that bears the store’s name. This square has a fascinating flea market on Sunday mornings, where you can search for antiques and historic maps of the island. The western side of the nearly 300-meter-long square is lined with café terraces that are perfect for people watching. Bastia is located on the eastern side of a 900-meter-high mountain range that divides it and the Patrimonio vineyards, so you’ll want to choose as your base either St-Florent or the area inland of the Golfe de St-Florent, the Nebbio, which has numerous small country hotels and inns.
Calvi, the closest town on the island to mainland France, has long attracted more tourists than any Corsican destination other than Ajaccio and Porto Vecchio. Some visitors may turn up their noses at its resemblance to any number of medium-sized towns along the French Riviera, while others may embrace this liveliness that is missing in other parts of the island. Calvi hosts a variety of festivals in the months between Easter and October, including the Calvi Jazz Festival in June, a mid-September Rencontres de Chants Polyphoniques of traditional Corsican music, and an October Festival du Vent that celebrates the role of the wind in the arts, in science, and in sport. The city’s citadel, an immense fortress that is the symbol of six centuries of domination by the city state of Genoa, is worth a visit. The Balagne region, inland from the coastal plain, features gentle rolling hills filled with vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards that distinguish it from the turbulent and rugged landscape found in neighbouring regions. Besides the well-marked Route des Vins that explores the AC Corse–Calvi vineyards, there’s also a Route des Artisans de Balagne that leads you to the doorsteps of knifemakers, beekeepers, stringed-instrument makers, potters, bookbinders and other artisans making traditional handicrafts. The craft hamlets of Pigna and Lama are worth a visit, as well as the fortress villages of Speloncato and Sant’Antonino, perched on 360-degree-view knolls. If you’re looking for adventure you can travel the 13km from Calvi to Calenzana, a large village that is the starting point for two major, long-distance hiking trails, the GR20 and the Tra Mare e Monti Nord.
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