Once again I found myself in a small village perched above the Mediterranean Sea on Corsica. I had spent the previous day exploring Sant’Antonino, a village beyond Pigna. The road to Pigna and to Sant’Antonino is the same.
Like the other villages above the western coast of Corsica, Pigna has extraordinary views, not as many as Sant’Antonino, but still plenty for pauses and certainly for some sips of wine.
Visiting Sant’Antonino and Pigna in one day is possible. I can imagine a morning in one, let’s say first in Pigna with a lunch at A Mandria di Pigna, and if the wine has not been too precious during lunch, a visit further along to Sant’Antonino in the afternoon would be an excellent trip.
Above Pigna on the road that goes further along to Sant’Antonino, there is a place to park and one can walk a short distance to the village. Most visitors will, however, choose the parking lot in Pigna and pay a small tariff for the privilege. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
High on my list of places to see in Corsica were les calanches de Piana and the Réserve naturelle de Scandola, both on the west central coast.
If you locate Porto on a map of Corsica, and use the finger to trace the coast to the south, that is where the calanches de Piana are located. They do not extend far from Porto. Assume they stop around the village of Piana.
Note: on the main land of France, the word for calanches is calanques. On Corsica en langue corse, the word calanches is used.
Move the finger back to Porto and walk them in a northern direction to a large peninsula where the Île de Gargali is located. There you will find the coast of the Réserve naturelle de Scandola. It is the peninsula that is about half way between Calvi and Porto.
Before arriving on Corsica, I had heard, and I was told by my French Corsican tutor, that the Calanches and the Réserve were stunning and should not be missed. I was using the Michelin Guide Vert (book, French version) to help plan the voyage. It gave both locations a three star rating, a must for visitors to Corsica
How do you visit the calanches de Piana and the Réserve naturelle de Scandola? You can drive through the calanches de Piana. They are half way between Porto and Cargèse. Or, from Porto, Calvi, and Cargèse, you can join a boat tour and go out for 1 ½ hours or up to five to six hours, depending on how much you want to see and your time restraints. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
Sant’Antonino is a small village that sits on granite about 500 meters (1640 feet) above the Mediterranean Sea on the west coast of Corsica. It is one of the highest and one of the oldest on Corsica, and that makes it attractive as a destination. It is classified as one of les Beaux Villages de France. It is lovely and well preserved and has a myriad of maze-like passages and ruelles, much like other medieval villages.
What is particularly attractive about Sant’Antonino are the many panoramic views. No matter where you walk, the end of a passage will lead to a spot for looking out. Many small plazas dot the perimeter where you can spend time gazing across the horizon. Sometimes the edges, often lined with protective walls, drop off and you have the sense of looking down from a quiet glider. Looking to the left and right and out, one can block out the protection and easily imagine flying.
When you drive toward Sant’Antonino from the coast, you see it on a large knoll. Due to the altitude and location, it is the only village that can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Balagne. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!
No question that Nonza should be at the top of the list, high on the list.
I wanted to visit Nonza for two reasons: it is a village perched on the side of a mountain, and it has a well-known restaurant La Sassa that has no walls, only a terrace. Even the kitchen is open and on the terrace. I had read that the views were beautiful.
I had planned to stop in Nonza while driving from Centuri to Saint-Florent. When I arrived around 10:30, I could not find a place to park. It is a small village, the road with no shoulder cuts through it, cars park along the edge of the road but extend into it, the two lane road really is one lane, and there is no place to turn around and try another pass. A separate parking area does not exist. I kept driving to Saint-Florent.
I did go back. I left Saint-Florent early and arrived in Nonza at 8:45. I had my pick of several parking spots. Between 9:30 and 10:00 most of the remaining parking spots had been taken. Cars had already parked along the edges, and traffic through the village had slowed to a crawl.
Looking north from La Sassa
Most visitors will make the pilgrimage to the tower above the village, where one can see a spectacular panoramic view to the north and to the south. To the north one can see the gray sands on the beach below and the large and sometimes artful announcements of love marked on the sand with white stones. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!