The exceptional location of Sari-Solenzara offers a wealth of options, whether you're a in the mood for a lively
drink by the seafront or a lazy day on the beach, an adrenaline-fuelled adventure holiday or the peace and quiet of the countryside - there really is is something nearby for everyone.
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Sari is a small mountain village ten minutes (8km) inland from the larger Solenzara. It is a charming, timeless Corsica village of the old style, lovely to wander through to admire its quaint old stone buildings and handsome chapel, to say hello to its friendly farm animals, or to enjoy views from its panoramic viewing-points. An oasis of Mediterranean calm and conviviality!
The seaside village of Solenzara is lively while still retaining its authenticity. In its bars the wine and limoncello flows till early hours, while in terms of excellent places to eat, you will be spoilt for choice for a village of its size. In the heat of the summer Solenzara sleeps by day and awakens by night: its twice-weekly night festival sees citizens and visitors alike take over the street, dining and drinking under the stars to the sound of live music. With its small marina offering a lovely setting for a meal or drink, and even a golden beach where the occasional summer beach party is held, Solenzara has everything needed for a slice of the true dolce vita!
Our villa is excellently located at the starting-point of an extensive network of acessible but breathtaking mountain trails, with
well-signposted and easily-manageable routes connecting the villages of Sari and Togna,
Indeed, from our garden a short hillwalking path leads up to the peak of Monte Santu, with its spectacular panoramic views as far as Elba, Sardinia, and, on clear days, Tuscany.
Continuing on, a forty-five minute walk through village or forest leads to the monastery of Assunta Gloriosa, nestled in a stunning alpine setting. An inspiring view, and not only for monastic contemplation!
Further ahead the path connects to the famous hiking trail known as the GR-20 that bisects Corsica. Experienced walkers can find plenty of bite-sized routes in and around the GR-20, through the maquis and with panoramic views of the Mediterranean.
But for those who prefer a more leisurely, easily-accessible walk, simply follow the downhill mountain path (less than two hours' walk) to the seclusion and sandy beach of the magnificent Canella lagoon.
Corsica is world-renowned for its spectacular, pristine beaches, with bathing weather potentially lasting from April to October. The coast off and around Solenzara is particularly well-regarded for swimming, with its Blue Flag clean water, lack of strong currents, and much fewer crowds than the beaches further south.
Casa Colomba is in easy reach of several attractive beaches: Canella, Solaro, Favone,
Tarcu and Fautea - all within thirty minutes’ drive.
is located less than 10
minutes south of Solenzara. It is a secluded, safe beach in a shallow cove, with the added bonus of a handful of very nice
beachfront restaurants / bars.
Fautea beach is our favourite in the area. Located in a secluded inlet
in the shadow of a medieval Genoese watchtower, it is a semi-secret beach that few tourists know about, as it can't be seen from the road. After the tower, make sure to go past the exposed northern beach by the roadside - instead park along the road where it widens, and walk the 5 minutes to the cove.
Or simply stay in Solenzara itself. Enjoy a pizza or cocktail in the charming little marina's waterfront restaurants, or in the seaside restaurant-bars on the adjacent beach (Scaffa-Rossa).
For those partial to fishing, or simply who enjoy the sea breeze in their hair, you could hire a sailboat from the marina. For those without a boating licence, local skippers such as the Lina Lesia and Dione (see useful links page) offer day or half-day cruises along the coast. This is a great way to get a different perspective of Corsica from the sea, as well as to drop anchor, enjoy a complimentary picnic of local artisan produce, and swim in idyllic fish-filled inlets otherwise inaccessible due to an absence of road access.
Solenzara is also the jumping-off point for many adventure-lovers, due to the proximity of the dramatic Bavella mountain range and Solenzara river canyon, renowned for its hiking trails, freshwater bathing and adventure sports.
Perhaps you enjoy the brisk mountain air, or, like us, simply prefer a refreshing dip in cool river-water to the heat of the beach in summer. In any case, make the short drive up to the the stunning Alpine setting that surrounds the Stone Needles of Bavella - you will hardly believe you are on a Mediterranean island!
Bavella is also famous for its adventure sports that can be enjoyed there. Our personal favourite is 'canyoning' near the source of the river Solenzara: Solenzara village is home to several companies whose qualified instructors can bring you up into the mountains for exhilerating trips, suitable for all ages and all levels of experience.
Corsica is a major producer of essential oils, sourced by the main French beauty companies. Chief among these exports is the 'Immortelle', a herb said to have anti-aging properties. The Eastern Plain is home to many small producers who supply household-name companies such as Occitane, but who can be visited for direct purchase. The best that we have found is Domaine Amuredda, located 20 minutes south of Solenzara, as its boutique store is located on-site in a stunning natural setting making the visit to the store an experience in its own right.
For a rainy day (it happens, even in Corsica!) don't despair: there are plenty of indoor experiences.
You cannot miss the municipal archaeological museum in the ancient capital of Aleria (35km, 2€ entry). Housed in a hilltop Medieval citadel with stunning views, it is a sight in its own right, while its treasure-trove of artefacts are growing as new digs are completed. Corsica was known to the Ancient Greeks as 'Kalliste', the Beautiful, while for the adventurer Odysseus it was the home of the Laestrygonian giants. Here you can learn about the ancient peoples who founded Corsica: Greeks, Etruscans, Carthaginians and Romans, before taking a visit to the ruined remains of the old Roman forum and its surrounding temples.
While in Alera, visit the museum at the distillery of Domaine Mavella. Customarily, Corsican liqueurs infuse alcohol with local plants: the most traditional is myrte, a myrtle-infused alcohol; the most popular is limoncellu, infused with lemons (or its more potent brother limoncinu); and modern variants include clemencinu, flavoured by Corsica's world-renowned organic clementines. Cap Corse, a Victorian-era version of Martini consumed in the French empire due to its anti-malarial properties, is also undergoing a resurgence in popularity. Meanwhile, the abundance of quality local ingredients lends itself well to experimentation, notably the local gin by U Masticciu, and the local whiskey by Mavella.
The guided visit to Domaine Mavela is the best way to experience these products. Located south of Aleria (30 mins from Solenzara), they provide an introduction to the manufacturing process, social history of Corsican liqueurs, with a tasting session included (8€ per person).
Further inland, the Cucuruzzu site is home to the well-preserved Bronze-age fortress of Capula, located in a spectacular forest setting. Involves a two-hour walk with audio tour (4€ entry).
Nearby, the mountain-top village of Zonza houses the museum of the Corsican Resistance. Coming from an ancient tradition of outlaws and freedom-fighters, it was the guerrilla warfare by partisans striking from the Corsican macchia (bush-land) that gave the term maquis to the French Resistance. Not only was the island the first sector of France to be liberated from Nazi occupation; it earned the distinction of being the sole occupied territory to protect the lives of every Jewish inhabitant. Travel up to the spectacular setting of Zonza to discover all about this fascinating story of an indomitable people.
For those short on time would recommend skipping Ajaccio, the main Corsican city, which is a modern administrative seat. Far more picturesque
and iconic are the four towns located one on each corner of the island (each with its own distinctive style, representative of the area): the bustling port of Bastia in the
north-east (2hrs away from Solenzara), the clifftop citadel of Bonifacio in the south-east (2hrs away), mountaintop Sartène in the south-west (3hrs away), and
elegant Calvi in the north-west (3hrs away).
Particularly worthwhile are Bastia and Bonifacio.The latter is a spectacular Medieval walled city perched on the clifftop overlooking Sardinia - best viewed from the sea: there are regular boat trips throughout the day. Bastia, for its part, is the old capital of Corsica during the Middle Ages, dominated by its Citadel with a picturesque Medieval quarter on the seafront renowned for the fresh seafood brought into its small port. Bastia is also the jump-off point for the highly recommended Cape Corsica peninsula. The full round trip takes 3 hours: though the clifftop coastal roads are not for those with vertigo, they offer spectacular views over the Mediterranean. Cap Corse is also known for the freshest, cheapest and best seafood in Corsica: a langoustine lunch in the charming fishing village of Port Centuri is unmissable.
Closer by (20-30km) are two towns that have plenty of hidden gems to discover. To the south lies the lively maritime town of Porto-Vecchio, one of the favourite holiday destination for France's rich and famous. The nearest main town to Solenzara (35 mins), it is perhaps less picturesque than either Bastia or Bonifacio, but renowned for the spectacular beaches surrounding it (Palombaggia, Pinarellu, Cala Rossa, Santa Giulia), while its Medieval old quarter, located on the hilltop within the walls of the Citadel, is charming and worth a visit.
Nhile not far to the north is the market-town of Ghisonaccia, stepping-stone to a plethora of high-quality rustic experiences, from vinyards and cheese-producers to clementine orchards and luxury perfume distilleries.
Corsica is famous for its isolated, timeless little hilltop villages, and it is definitely worth visiting at least one.
The hard part is picking out one or two to recommend as there are so many, each with spectacular views and its own architectural or historical artefact left in an undisturbed state, be it a Roman temple or Genoese church. Of the ones that are the most famous (Sainte-Lucie de Tallano; Lama), they are usually remote and hard to reach. However, there are a few that we can pick for recommendation, that are not too out of the way.
Penta di Casinca:
Anyone who will be near Bastia should consider making a 15-minute detour off the main coast road to visit this pristine hilltop village, one
of the two Corsican villages to be classed as intact heritage sites. Unlike many similar Medieval villages in the south of France, it has not been over-developed, and remains as a living
Located (1hr from Solenzara, halfway to Bastia) in the mountains above the coastal town of Ghisonaccia. Ghisoni is one of the only two spots in Corsica suitable for skiing in winter, and indeed its spectacular Alpine setting feels about as far removed from the Mediterranean as can be. Unlike many Corsican mountain villages, its isolation works to its advantage, and it has retained a lively set of bars and cafés, as well as hosting Corsica's annual craft beer festival.
Prunelli di Fiumorbo
Of the villages immediately surrounding Solenzara, Prunelli stands out. It offers a commanding view over the plains of eastern Corsica, at the source of the Fiumorbo river (whose sulfurized waters are said to have curative powers, capitalised upon in the nearby baths of Pietrapola).
Corsica is well-reputed for its high-quality natural produce mixing French and Italian influences, many of which are
sufficiently high in quality and distinctive a process to benefit from a protected label from France and the EU.
These include: Cheeses from sheep and goat, including the distinctive brocciu and brossu (cheeses by Ottavi and Baldovini are well-regarded); Herb-infused cured meats from wild boar and semi-wild pigs (lonzu, coppa, figatellu, prisuttu); Stews such as wild-boar civet or veal in olives; Olive oil, of both the soft and strong varieties; Honey, flavoured by wild maquis herbs; Pastries and doughnuts (beignets) made from traditional chestnut flour; Citrus fruits, of which Corsica accounts for 90% of French produce, including a delicious variant of clementine and the distinctive 'cedrat' citrus used in liqueurs and pastries.
A great place to start is at one of the three local producers' markets in the area (the same products can be found in the local supermarkets, but the markets give a clearer idea of what is on offer).
Solenzara (Mondays, just opposite the Post Office) is the smallest of the three, quiet but convenient.
Migliacciaru (Mondays, Wednesdays, just opposite the Post Office) is our preferred one. Located 25 minutes north, it combines a good selection with a friendly village atmosphere: https://www.jours-de-marche.fr/20243-prunelli-di-fiumorbo
Porto-Vecchio (Wednesdays, Sundays just off the main plaza) has the widest selection of stalls, but can get very busy during peak season: https://www.jours-de-marche.fr/marche/20137-porto-vecchio/7007/
Spar in Solenzara is the local small supermarket, and has a fair selection of foods, including a very good in-house butcher.
Utile / Super U is located 10 minutes north, just opposite the Ventiseri military base. Although small, it has reasonable prices, and an excellent quantity and quality of products. There is a larger and more upmarket one offering high-qiality produce near Fautea beach, 20 minutes south of Solenzara.
Casino is the nearest large supermarket, located 15 minutes north in in Migliacciaru (just before the town of Ghisonaccia). Probably the best place for a general shop, and very decent for local produce.
Leclerc is a large supermarket, in Ghisonaccia 20 mins north, and in PortoVecchio 35 mins south. It has a wider range of general French products than Casino, but is less good for Corsican regional products.