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Regions of France - Corsica

Corsican children are told a story .. On the sixth day of creation, God mixed the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, the snow-capped splendor of the Alps and the golden sunshine of the Riviera and created Corsica, the island the Greeks call Kallysté – the most beautiful.

The diversity of its scenery, and its preservation from aggressive development makes it one of the pearls of the Mediterranean sea.

Shaped like a bunch of vine-ripened grapes, Corsica ripples with mountain ranges covered in vivid green chestnut and pine forests, pastures and fragrant maquis scrubland. This mountainous paradise is just 183km long and 83km wide with 1,000km of coastline and more than 200 beaches. Almost half of the island is dedicated to nature reserves (Parc Naturel Régional de Corse).

The island is actually closer to Italy than to the French mainland – being 90km from Tuscany and 170 km from the French Côte d'Azur. It was once briefly an independent Corsican Republic and was incorporated into France in 1769. Its culture is a blend of French and Italian elements.

Corsica is one of the few regions of France that retains its own language in everyday usage: Corsican, which is more closely related to Italian than to French, is spoken by 65% of the population. However, since its takeover by France in the 18th century, French has dominated communication and commerce, and while not all Corsicans speak it as a native language, it is spoken and understood by the entire population.

Of course, we can't talk about Corsica without mentioning it's most famous citizen, Napoléon Bonaparte. Born in Ajaccio, the capital city of Corsica, this iconic French military and political leader's ancestral home, Casa Buonaparte is also located here.

While Corsica is the least economically developed French region, the island's climate, mountains, and coastlines make it popular among tourists. Much of the island has avoided intensive development and tourism is particularly concentrated around Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio in the south and Calvi in the northwest.

Tourists love the laid back pace of the island, although you do need to pick your timing carefully – Corsica swells to bursting with summer visitors; all but withering in winter when many activities, accommodation and transport services slow or cease. The wildflower-filled spring and red-hued autumn months let you experience this Île de beauté at its best.

Popular holiday activities include sightseeing in the picturesque towns, beach activities and mountain hiking. The mountains make for exhilarating hikes, the most famous and challenging of which is the legendary GR20. This extensive Grande Randonnée network of trails traverses Corsica's mountains, running most of the length of the island. Regarded as the toughest long distance trail in Europe, it covers a distance of 180km with 10km of climbing and descent, over rugged terrain.

Corsica food has French and Italian influences, which creates many unique dishes. The chestnut was one of the ancient (and even current) Corsican's mainstay foods, and many meals and desserts are prepared with this.

In 1584 the Genoese governor ordered all farmers and landowners to plant four trees yearly; a chestnut, olive, fig, and mulberry tree. Many communities owe their origin and former richness to the ensuing chestnut woods.

Grape cultivation also dates back over 3000 years, with exceptional vineyards on the island. Most of the domesticated pigs on the island are semi-wild, released to forage for food much of the year, and the charcuterie reflects this excellent flavour.

Corsica produces gourmet cheese, wine, sausages, and honey for sale in mainland France and for export. Corsican honey, of which there are six official varietals, is certified as to its origin (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) by the French National Institute of Origin and Quality (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine – INAO).

Corsica also produces a uniquely flavoured olive oil made from ripe fruits collected under trees. Many villages have small shops where locally produced food is sold.

The Corsica life is calm and relaxed, people aim to simply appreciate everyday life, so if you plan to visit, it makes sense to adopt the same wonderful attitude.

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