Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily lie in the Mediterranean Sea off the west coast of Italy as stepping stones between Europe and Africa. Belonging to Italy and France, they are similar in character yet each has a distinct flavour of its own.
Corsica is a French owned island with a strong sense of identity and pride. A history of attack and settlement has done nothing to quench the fierce independence of the island, which fuses aspects of both France and Italy yet is Corsican in its own right. Even today, French road signs attract the attention of hot flying pieces of lead, so they have to be written in Corsican too. Corsica is beautiful, unspoilt and old-fashioned, and with its white sands, mountainous cliffs and transparent water, it is the perfect getaway destination. Although it is strongly influenced by France, it retains elements of Italian culture, music and cuisine. The island is filled with baroque churches, Genoese fortresses, fervent Catholic rituals including a festival celebrating a mountain pig and its own Tuscan-influenced language and cuisine. As Corsica is an island right in the middle of the Mediterranean it is constantly being attacked and settled upon. When this happens, historically everyone rushes to the mountains to their secret hideaway. Mountains cover a third of Corsica and hikers flock to the peaks and gorges in the valley of Restonica.
The unit of currency on all three islands is the Euro.
$1 US – 1.15 Euros
£1 UK – 1.6 Euros
Shoestring travellers can get by on the islands for about $40 US a day, though food and drink may be more than expected and can fall close to mainland price during high season. Self-catering and travelling during the quiet season will be kinder on your purse strings. The interior of the island is less expensive than the coast. If you have the money, splash out on around $70 a day for a more luxurious trip.
Corsica has a population of 260,000. Its population is a mishmash of Corsican, French, Moroccan, Italian, Portugese and Tunisian inhabitants in a predominately Roman Catholic country.
One of the reasons Corsica is unspoilt is due to its isolation. It’s not on any major air routes and must be reached from the continent. Most people pass through one of the French airports. Road and ferry are also an option – the latter provides some spectacular views of the approaching island. Once on the island, it is still difficult to get around. Although there are four airports there are no internal flights available. Be prepared to struggle with an unreliable bus network – though there are connections even between the smaller towns. The island has only two rail lines, though travelling this way provides some majestic scenery.
To island hop around the Mediterranean you’ll need to rely on the local ferry service which is fairly cheap, but be prepared for a not altoghether smooth ride…
Corsica’s fun-loving Italian influence reveals itself through their great love of festivals. Corsica’s world famous cheese festival held at the end of April to celebrate their Brocciu and Fromage Corse, and a major wine festival held in July. December sees locals kicking up their heels to the oldest and most important festival – honouring the chestnut. In fact, you can sample the delights of chestnut fritters and cake made of what once once a staple of the Corsican diet. Smoked pork from wild pigs who dine on the chestnuts. Pastis and pizzerias.
Sardinia has its own language – Sardo, a Romanic language which is spoken by over 1 million people on the island, although Italian is widely spoken by most. Several other different ancient anguages are spoken by minorities in rural areas including Catalan, Ligurian, Arabic, Spanish and even ancient Etruscan and Phoenician still survive.
English may be spoken in tourist resorts on all islands, but if you’re heading for secluded inland regions, make sure you can speak at least a little Italian or French.
The islands have the most visitors in the summer during July and August, though the crowds and the sweltering heat may be avoided in May and June. Temperatures average between 14 c (50 f) from January-March, to 27 c (80 f) July through September. Be warned that in early spring, late autumn and winter many places on the island focused around tourism will shut down.
Shorts, sandals and beachwear are fine for the humid months, and a light jacket for winter. Take suitably modest clothing if you intend to visit some of the many Catholic churches.
EU nationals have no entry requirements. Citizens of Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Israel can stay without a visa for 3 months – most others need a Schengen visa. Check with your local embassy or travel agent for entry requirements.
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