Simone Franzke has turned her hobby into her job: she travels to fabulous holiday destinations for the SWISS Travel Guide, and then sums up her travel recommendations in articles for the community on swiss.com. She travelled the Mediterranean island of Corsica by boat, bus and train, and absolutely loves this, the greenest of all the Mediterranean islands. «To me, it is the most beautiful Mediterranean island with a variety than is hard to beat.»
Anyone seeking fabulous beaches and lovely coastal towns will undoubtedly find what they are looking for on Corsica. A visit in June or September is ideal for bathing in the crystal-clear waters or exploring the numerous rock bays. However, visitors coming for the mountains, which reach heights of up to 2000 m, should be aware that the peaks are still snow-covered until June, and it can be very cold. One town appealed to Simone in particular: «Bastia is my absolute favourite. It's lively and colourful with cool shops, markets – and the sea right at the door. It's a good three hours by train from Ajaccio to Bastia. «Even the train ride is an experience!»
Crispy baguettes, tasty croissants and freshly-made sandwiches: the perfect start to the day on Corsica. And for those who only like a small amount to eat in the morning, or perhaps want to take something along with them in case they get peckish, Simone suggests a few delicious almond canistrelli. «Although they never last longer than half an hour with me. They are so delicious!»
Window shopping or adventure? Those who are up for an adventure should hop on to one of the small buses that travel between Bastia and St. Florent four times a day. The route goes along steep hairpin bends and through tiny villages over to the other side of Cap Corse on the south. «The bay of St. Florent is like a dream. You could be in the Caribbean,» enthuses Simone. You can easily while away the day in the shade of a pine tree. Forgotten a towel? Never mind – there are plenty in the pretty shops in the town. «Ace boules players meet on the village square in the afternoons for a session or two. You can just join them to watch and cheer them on,» she suggests.
Anyone who feels like a spot of shopping will enjoy strolling up the Rue César Campinchi and along the Boulevard Paoli. «As well as the better-known labels, there are also lots of pretty little boutiques.» And while La Chapelle is shoe heaven for the ladies, men are sure to find something in the selection at Michel et Noel.
Next stop the distillery and wine store of Corsica's cult liqueur producer: Cap Corse Mattei. «Louis Napoleon Mattei created this dry aperitif from wine and herbs over 140 years ago. It is an essential part of any good meal,» she knows from experience. Mattei Cap Corse is definitely worth a visit. «The shop still looks like something from Colonial times, and has the powdery smell of an old apothecary – ideal for finding things to take home.»
After the first successful souvenir-buying session, it's time for some more strolling. «Anyone who is in Bastia for the weekend should be sure to visit the markets.» On Sundays there is a large textiles and flea market on Place Saint Nicolas, directly opposite Cap Corse Mattei. «It has simply everything! From wing chairs to evening dresses.»
It's a well-known fact that shopping gives you an appetite, so continue straight on to the next market stop. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, you can eat your way through a whole range of Corsican specialities on the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. Simone's tip: «A chunk of warm fiadone, a kind of cheesecake made with goat's or sheep's milk. Fabulous!» However, there's also plenty to tempt seafood lovers. You can buy oysters from the east coast of Corsica on the market.
Now it's time to relax! A visit to the beach is, of course, a must on Corsica. Plage Minelli is the small stony favourite north of Bastia. «I love this little bathing bay because you can sit on the rocks, and it's used almost exclusively by locals.» And if you prefer a sandy beach, well - that's also available. «The almost endless sandy beach at La Marana is just south of the town. It's best to go there by car.»
Of course, it's also important to allow for a bit of sightseeing. Église Sainte-Croix is the oldest church in Bastia. «It's a little hidden away behind the old town wall on the citadel hill, in the midst of a jumble of tiny alleys.» When you've found it, it's worth going inside. «I love being inside the church and absorbing the silence for a few minutes. The atmosphere really is something very special.»
From the citadel, it's a pleasant walk back to the centre of the town, where there are plenty of bars and bistros in the harbour. A very popular spot with tourists, which is reflected in the prices. Simone therefore prefers to go somewhere else that's equally pleasant. «I like Café Les Intimes, which is just around the corner on the old market square.» And if you fancy a little something to go with a glass of wine, Simone recommends the salad Nicoise. «It's absolutely fabulous!»
To satisfy a healthy appetite at the end of a busy and enchanting day on Corsica, head for the L’Entraide. This restaurant may not have the most extensive selection, but it does offer regional dishes made from organic ingredients and available at fair prices. Simone had already decided what was her favourite dish after her first visit: «The tomato salad with burrata and Corsican ham. It's basic, but amazingly delicious! And for dessert, crème brûlée with four spices. Simply perfect!»