Publié le 06/07/2020

Coast to Coast
and into the Blue

From the tip of Corsica to the north of Sardinia, journalist Alice Cavanagh and photographer Benjamin Loyseau follow the road journeying south which reveals a flair for fine produce, a long line of family tradition and the endless temptation of brilliant blue waters ever present on the horizon.

Coast to Coast|and into the Blue

Crystalline turquoise waters in southern Corsica

From the tip of Corsica to the north of Sardinia, journalist Alice Cavanagh and photographer Benjamin Loyseau follow the road journeying south which reveals a flair for fine produce, a long line of family tradition and the endless temptation of brilliant blue waters ever present on the horizon.

Our plane descends through the clouds and land comes into sight - majestic mountain ranges, punctuated by granite outcrops in vivid colors. The view stretches all the way to Cap Corse, a coastline flanked by dramatic cliffs and a horizon heavy with salt. 

Our first port of call is La Villa Calvi, set up high with a view of the town below. Even on overcast days, mountains loom behind the cloud cover like a shadow. When the skies are clear, the peaks change from a bluish grey to pinks and reds at sunset, glowing in the fading light.
 

A private pool at one of La Villa Calvi’s luxury villas

Pure relaxation and breathtaking views at La Villa Calvi
 


Marie and Antoine Pinelli, La Villa Calvi

Marie and Antoine Pinelli work with their parents at this family-run hotel. “We’ve spent our whole lives here. When we were born, there were only plants here and now we’ve seen so many additions — the pool, the helicopter landing and so on”, the siblings say of  La Villa Calvi, which their father started in 1992. “We were always going to work here; it’s family, and that is Corsica.”


 

We’ve arrived at the start of summer, and the staff have time to chat with the guests who’ve arrived ahead of the masses. That evening, we sit by the pool and sample Le Rosé de Pauline, a local rosé so pale it’s more gold than pink. 

Calvi’s fortressed walls tempt us to explore the town. The citadel dates back to the 14th century and is rumored to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Visitors tour the ramparts, pausing to take in the vast blue ocean. With the arrival of summer comes an itch to see the sea - to dive in and be swallowed up.

 

View of Calvi’s port from the citadel
A hidden gem: Petit Sperone beach


We drive to La Signoria & Spa, a charming house where once a noble family cultivated grapes in the vineyards. Owner Jean-Baptiste Ceccaldi has always taken care to respect its history. “When we add something, we create it using old materials, as though it had always existed.”

Set in an oasis of palm trees and verdant gardens, it’s easy to imagine that guests come here to forget about the world. Of course, they come to eat as well. Chef Alexandre Fabris works with local producers to find the freshest produce from both land and sea.
 

The earthen tones of La Signoria & Spa



Jean-Baptiste Ceccaldi, owner of La Signoria & Spa

“My parents were pioneers of the hotel industry here. We are five siblings, four boys and one girl, and when we finished our studies, they started to buy properties so that each child would have their own small hotel”, says Jean-Baptiste of his hospitality roots. “We all worked together, it was a family project.”

 

 

 

Reluctantly, we say goodbye, heading south to Porto-Vecchio through forests of eucalyptus trees, pine trees and the maquis - the evergreen underbrush that gives Corsica its intoxicating scent. We pass through sweeping valleys, fields of olive trees and haystacks that catch the late afternoon light as it breaks through the clouds. 

Our destination is the Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa, set off the beaten track on a peninsula shut off from the rest of the world. It has been here since the 1960s, but its legendary status began when Toussaint Canarelli took on the property in the 1970s.
 

The beachside bar at Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa
The hotel bar fronts a secluded beach with azure waters that stretch across to Porto-Vecchio



In 2017, Toussaint Canarelli passed the hotel down to his children, Paul, Lise and Hélène Canarelli; and the three have since struck a balance between maintaining the modernity of the hotel without erasing its history. “Over time, we’ve understood that even if there are corners that have been patchworked together, it’s part of the charm of the hotel and why the guests love it here”, says Lise. “If we kept modifying everything, we would lose that. It tells the story of the hotel.”

Lise and Hélène Canarelli, Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa & Spa
 

It’s more like a family home than a hotel, with places to curl up, read a book or enjoy a cocktail. Many of the staff members have been here for over 20 years. That feeling of tight-knit loyalty is promoted by the founder’s children, Paul, Lise and Hélène, who now run the property. Family tradition is ingrained in Corsican culture — it’s why we feel at home wherever we go.

The next day, we’re sunbathing on the jetty when the catch of the day arrives. The hotel’s chef, Pascal Cayeux, surveys the offer. There are crabs, lobsters and local fish like corb, as well as smaller fish that Cayeux will make into a soup - each day he responds to what nature provides.
 

Fishermen arriving at Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa with the morning’s fresh catch


That night, we dine at La Table and sample figs plucked from the potager a few hundred meters away. The vegetable garden is the work of Philippe Niez, who has cultivated an array of herbs, eggplants, tomatoes and summer fruits like strawberries. 

The bay tempts us in shades of turquoise, cerulean and azure. Approaching Palombaggia beach by boat, it seems we could be in French Polynesia — the most sublime blues offset by the whitest of sands.

We wade through the water to the sound of kids laughing in the shallows and the hum of the midday sun. Then, we head for lunch at Les Bergeries de Palombaggia, where chef Jean-Jacques Gauthier turns out seafood dishes with ease.
 

This discreet hotel is perched above one of Europe’s most famous beaches, Palombaggia
The view from the pool at Les Bergeries de Palombaggia


The next morning, we’re up early to take the ferry to Sardinia, and barely have time to glance at the clifftop town of Bonifacio except from the deck as we steam towards Italy.

"The bay tempts us in shades of turquoise, cerulean and azure."

We arrive at San Pantaleo, a charming village of craft shops and chic boutiques. There is a singing festival on, and the locals are in full regalia. This is five minutes from Petra Segreta Resort & Spa, a sprawling retreat with a view of the Costa Smeralda all the way to the Maddalena archipelago.
 

In the distance: the village of San Pantaleo in Sardinia
Rosella Marchese, one half of the team behind Petra Segreta


The hotel is run by husband-and-wife team Luigi and Rosella, who escaped here from Rome almost 20 years ago. Luigi grows organic vegetables and raises goats, pigs, chickens and geese. They make their own goat cheese ricotta, which forms the filler in a delicious ravioli. 

The breakfast table groans with pastries, jams, fruit and cheese; we take our fill before meandering back to the ferry. It’s a cloudy day: the sea, which sparkled in the sunlight, has now taken on a grey veil. We don’t have time for a swim, but there is a sense of something unfulfilled.
 

A historic hut built into the rocks in Sardinia


By the time we get back to Bonifacio, the sun is out again, and we decided to seek out one last swim. We’ve been told about two mythical beaches: Sperone and “Petit Sperone”. Sperone is just a 15-minute drive from town. It’s quiet at the first beach, a narrow sliver of sand.
 


We walk on to Petit Sperone, and the color of the water takes my breath away. That blue is what keeps me going from October to June each year, until summer comes again.

 

BEFORE YOU GO
Make sure you read Dorothy Carrington’s book Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica, first published in 1971. It captures the spirit and history of both the island and its proud, and often private, people in the most poetic way.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES
Separated by a small stretch of sea, the Sardinians in the northeast of the country and the Corsicans in the south share a similar dialect — Gallurese — though, travellers certainly don’t need it. Gallurese is seen as a transitional language between the two regions, likely formed in the early 15th century.
 

 


INFORMATION


La Villa Calvi, Calvi, France
La Signoria & Spa, Calvi, France
Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa & Spa, Lecci de Porto-Vecchio, France
Les Bergeries de Palombaggia, Porto Vecchio, France
Petra Segreta Resort & Spa, San Pantaleo-Olbia, Italie











 

 
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