"A wild and mountainous isle of powdery beaches and cobalt bays. It’s the natural wonders that exert Corsica’s biggest pull. Be it cycling through wooded mountains, canyoning, hiking and horse riding, paddle-boarding, scuba diving and snorkelling among blood-red Gorgonian coral and giant groupers in crystal clear water, the options seem endless. Richard Waters"
- The Telegraph
A week's tour in Corsica
Arrive on the island via the airport at Calvi and spend your first day in this historic and beautiful city. Elegance, sophistication and culture can be found in the form of Calvi’s attractive harbour, wonderful array of restaurants and intriguing ancient Citadel. Others will be drawn to the beach, with Calvi and its local area presenting a haven to lovers of the coast.
Imagine the perfect Mediterranean city: a colourful array of buildings, cobbled streets climbing up to a Genoese Citadel, harbourside cafés, and a pine fringed crescent of silver sand... This is Calvi.
A busy port during the Roman era, Calvi takes its name from the Calvus – ‘bald’ rock that would come to form the foundations of the Citadel. Standing proud on its headland, any visitor to Calvi must visit this thirteenth century fortress, which has lost none of its fascination over the centuries, and remains a remarkable example of architectural and cultural heritage. Within the walls you’ll find cobbled passages tightly packed with houses, dominated by the Cathédrale Saint Jean-Baptiste, which stands at the highest point of the Citadel. Every week here there are concerts of “Chants polyphoniques”, Corsican polyphonic singing. The best way to see the rest of the Citadel is to simply follow the ramparts, which offer some magnificent views across the bay to the mountains of la Balagne.
It is also reputedly the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, born during the Genoese occupation of the town, the remains of his house can still be seen today, commemorated by a plaque in the Citadel and statues scattered throughout the town.
The Citadel itself is a magnificent backdrop for the red-tiled town below, with its palm tree-planted harbour and lively restaurants lining the promenade. Quai Landry links the marina and the port, populated by bustling bars and cafés, this is the best place to get a feel for the town and watch the world go by. Past the promenade, a glorious pine forest – la Pinède – stretches along the six kilometres of gently shelving beach bordering Calvi bay, underlining the frontier between land and sea.
During the height of the summer season, Calvi sports a lively atmosphere at night time, with an array of quayside cafés, restaurants and several clubs. The well-known bar “Chez Tao” is not to be missed; set in the Citadel, it’s often open until dawn, music drifting out over the bay until sunrise. In recent years Calvi has reinvented itself as Corsica’s capital of culture. The town plays host to many music festivals during the summer including “Calvi on the Rocks” in July and "Rencontres de Chants Polyphoniques" in September. An impressive art exhibition also takes place in the Citadel from June to September. Whether you are meandering along the old cobbled streets of the Citadel or having a drink in a café on the Quai Landry, Calvi will leave you refreshed and inspired to see more of this beautiful island.
Within the walls you’ll find cobbled passages tightly packed with houses, dominated by the Cathédrale Saint Jean-Baptiste, which stands at the highest point.
Thanks to its strategic position on the northwest coast of Corsica, Calvi has a turbulent past having been invaded on numerous occasions which is evident in the town’s rich architectural and cultural heritage. The earliest found remains of settlers in Calvi date back to the Neolithic period, however its first recorded history is from around 1000BC when Romans introduced agriculture to the island and in fact the town’s name comes from Calvus meaning ‘bald’ rock that would come to form the foundations of the Citadel.
Although a busy port in Roman times, Calvi was just a small fishing village under the Pisans (1077- 1284) but its importance grew once the Citadel was built by Giovaninello de Loreto in 1268 following disputes between the island’s warlords. The Genoese, already positioned at Bonifacio, established trading links and 14 years later they defeated the Pisans at Meloria and moved into Calvi. The Citadel (along with the rest of the island) surrendered briefly to the Aragonese and there were also two failed attempts to take the town by the Franco-Turkish allies. However, until the 18th century Calvi remained under Genoese rule; the island’s uprising led by Pascal Paoli between 1729 and 1768 was not supported by Calvi and even today the town has a much more cosmopolitan feel than many others on the island. In 1794 Paoli took his revenge on the town in the Napoleonic wars with the support of his English allies and it was during heavy fighting here that Nelson lost his right eye.
Legend has it that Christopher Columbus was born in the town during the Genoese occupation and the reputed remains of his house can still be seen today in the Citadel, commemorated by a plaque. There is also a large statue at the foot of the Citadel and various other monuments scattered throughout the town.
Calvi's main Beach
Calvi's beach is a huge sweeping crescent of white sand fringed by woods of planted maritime pines and it has something for everyone: it is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer and has a gently shelving gradient that is perfect for all ages, including toddlers. It boasts a fine array of restaurants and cafés nearby - some of which serve directly onto the beach whilst you bask on your sun-lounger; not to mention a diverse range of water sports activities for the more energetic.