From skinny dipping in rock pools to hanging out in your own ultra-private villa, Corsica has all the ingredients for a perfect romantic break in the Med
Looking for a romantic destination that's low-key yet stunning, and close to home? An in-the-know place that celebs slip away to? An ultra-private villa and pool with your own chef, maid service and even in-villa massages and beauty treatments? If this sounds way out of your league, think again. Choose a Mediterranean island like Corsica – just a two-hour flight away - add an innovative travel company like Coastline, and you’re on to a clever honeymoon plan.
Balzac described the French dependency of Corsica as ‘a French island basking in the Italian sun’. Corsican people are fiercely independent with a strong culture, which has resulted in a resistance of mass tourism. Lie on the beach or take a coffee in the town square and you won’t be cheek by jowl with other tourists on this island (which is about half the size of Wales with just 260,000 permanent residents).
There are mountainous regions, flat fertile plains, wild coastal wildernesses, brackish lagoons, lakes and deserts. Coastline has handpicked its Corsica villas, and all are located in the south, where some of the island’s most iconic beaches and captivating towns lie. Bella Marina is in a secluded residential area just outside Porto Vecchio, established by the Genoese in 1539. This pretty three-bedroom villa is high on a hill and, as the name suggests, has the most incredible view from its veranda, tumbling gardens and pool area overlooking the Gulf and marina of Porto Vecchio. Bedrooms are rustic and fairly basic but with everything you need and lovely touches such as pale turquoise shutters opening onto little verandas. There are L’Occitane en Provence goodies in the bathrooms, fluffy white towels and blue beach and pool towels. There’s a cosy lounging area with a huge television. Rather quaintly, the yacht-mad villa owner lives next door in a tree house that he built for his retirement.
When you arrive at the airport, there’s no scrabbling around in a panic, as Mike or one of the other Coastline representatives is there to make sure you get your luggage and guide you to the Europcar office to get your car. These are not your usual holiday reps, but entrepreneurial young people who know that the owner of Coastline began his career as a chalet boy and now heads up Coastline, VIP Chalets and Snowline.
With very detailed instructions to find your villa, once there, you’ll find a fantastic food hamper ready and waiting with French stick, olive oil, cheeses, ham, eggs, biscuits, tomatoes, lettuce, butter, milk, tea, coffee and, probably most welcoming, a bottle of rosé wine. Or you can be more specific and pre-order online (and continue to do so throughout your stay from in-villa wi-fi). The villa has a well equipped kitchen, but book Coastline’s island chef to cook you a romantic dinner and he transforms it instantly into a professional workspace to create a fantastic meal worthy of any top restaurant.
You’ll feel a little bit star-like, à la high-maintenance Mrs Beckham, when you book a spa or beauty treatment at your villa. ‘Pamper by the Pool’ is run by Rachel, who comes with everything from massage table to Circaroma organic products.
Guest can drive into Porto Vecchio in five minutes. This charming town is split into its 16th-century Old Town perched high on the hill and, down below, its harbour, which has a touch of St Tropez glamour. Wander around the harbour, sampling the delicious ice cream, or come in the evening and dine at the nautically themed Le Bistro restaurant, with its lovely dark wicker sofas overlooking the yachts in the harbour. The apple tart with Corsican honey liqueur ice cream is a must.
Up in the town, it’s all cobbled streets and a very civilised combination of trendy boutiques, crafty stores and ancient buildings. The main square has an imposing clock tower and open-air cafes under the pine trees, which serve wonderful coffees and pastries. Corsica is full of traditional delicacies and wonderful delis like L’Orriu, selling 'produtti Corsi' such as honey vinegar and almond biscuits. There are many boutiques selling jewellery and surprisingly high fashion such as Paul & Joe and Sonia Rykel in Initial. There are many restaurants high up here with great night views above the twinkling harbour, such as Restaurant L’Antigu.
When it comes to a trip to the beach, there are many options but Palombaggia is the most alluring. An easy and scenic drive from the villa, the beach is found through a pinewood. There’s golden sand and turquoise sea, a funky café and Kalliste Plongee (the local dive operation) should you fancy a dive.
Another must-do adventure is a winding drive inland to Zonza and up to Solenzara for a sexy dip in the crystal clear rock pools with emerald hues. If you come even slightly out of high season, you’ll be able to find a pool to yourselves and go skinny-dipping. There are stunning mountain views and flat areas among the rocks to sunbathe plus little roadside cafes selling crepes and coffee.
All around these inland areas are ‘fermes auberges’ – family-run farm inns, which have opened up tiny restaurants with set menus usually featuring local organic delicacies such as Corsican cheeses and fig jam. Ferme Auberge Pozzo di Mastri is a particularly good one just east of Figari village. If you like trying local wine, there are about 80 or so vineyards open to visitors.
A day out to Bonifacio is a must. Right at the southern tip of the island, this garrison town perches precariously on an extraordinary limestone outcrop. You can explore the maze of boutiques and pavement cafes within its towering ramparts and dine at the wonderful Archivolto Restaurant next to the old church. A giddying distance below are the swanky array of quayside restaurants that edge the deep water bay.
For more adventurous visitors, the region offers kite surfing, wind surfing, boat charters, horse riding, helicopter trips and quad biking. However one of the most satisfying options is a simple walk. An easy option is the route from Bonifacio Town to Capu Pertusato Lighthouse. This one-hour, steepish climb takes you along cliffs with awesome views of the straits and Sardinia. For more adventure, take the overnight walk to Monte Incudine – the highest peak in Southern Corsica at 2134m. All in all, a holiday to put you on top of the world.
If you're prefer to stay in a boutique hotel, head over to Casa del Mar, a member of the exclusive Design Hotels collection. Situated on the road to Palombaggia Beach, it’s pure chic with a infinity pool that style icon Kate Moss wouldn’t look out of place draped around and a great outdoor restaurant overlooking the water. Just the kind of place to put on that little cocktail dress and Jimmy Choos.