Like much of the island of Corsica, the Cap Corse peninsula is a succession of mountains covered in maquis that abruptly tumble down to the sea. The mountain summits in the Cap offer panoramic views of both coasts. This post explores some of the highlights on the western coast of this peninsula, often known as “an island within an island”.
The West Coast
Approaching the Cap from the seaside resort of Saint Florent on D81 is the wine growing region of Patrimonio. The grape vines on this side of Corsica benefit from a unique soil found only in Bonifacio and the slopes of Patrimonio. The landscape helps funnel the wind that blows from the Mediterranean into the valley, to produce wines that have earned international reputation and numerous awards.
This area offers amazing views of the ocean and hills planted with endless rows of vines in every direction. There are numerous producers on both sides of the main road and many of them offer wine tastings to visitors.
In addition to its fine wines, the region of Cap Corse is also famous for its Muscat, a sweet wine usually served as an aperitif and made with small raisins that are specially bred to achieve a high concentration of sugar.
To this day, muscat producers continue the traditional method of placing their harvested grapes over large platforms, where the small grains can absorb plenty of sunlight and develop exquisite tastes and aromas. Excellent wines and muscats are also produced in other communities along the Cap including Rogliano, Morsiglia and Luri.
North of Patrimonio on D80 is the village of Nonza with a panoramic view of its dark sand beach below and the gulf of Saint Florent in the distance. Next on the road is the small marina of Albo, which its own Genoese tower, a tiny chapel and a well stocked epicerie. This is a convenient and secluded spot for walking, stretching and enjoying a cup of coffee before continuing north on D80.
Driving on D80 along the western shoreline of the Cap is truly a journey between mountain and sea. The highway on this side of the Cap is rugged and narrow, with an endless sequence of hairpin turns over rocky cliffs and ancient villages perched high on the opposite hillside. This section of D80 seems to attract bicyclists, probably for the sheer challenge of pedaling through the difficult slopes.
After leaving Morsiglia, a clearly marked winding road (D35) descends to the port of Centuri. This fishermen’s village is famous for its lobsters but visitors will find bars, cafes and restaurants to suit every taste and budget. With its pleasant terraces facing the tiny harbor, Centuri is a good choice for a late lunch. From Centuri, you can view the famous Moulin Mattei standing at the top of the hill named Col de la Serra.
From Centuri, visitors can follow the signs to the Moulin Mattei for one of the most spectacular sites in the Cap: A panoramic view of the northern coast of Corsica with the Italian islands of Capraia and Elba on the northeast, the islet of Giraglia at the extreme north, with its modern lighthouse, the port of Centuri below on the northwest side, and to the South, a striking set of modern windmills overlooking the ruins of two ancient ones.
These modern windmills were established in 2000 as part of a green energy project called EOLE 2005 and constitute one of about ten pilot sites installed throughout France. A set of windmills stands in the village of Ersa and is visible on the West coast while another one stands in Rogliano on the East side of the Cap.
At the start of the 19th century, there were as many as 14 windmills standing on this remote northern section of the Cap. The Mattei windmill was named after Louis Napoleon Mattei who in 1872 created the renowned aperitif Mattei Cap Corse.
On the next post we will explore one of my favorite trails in the Cap, perfect for a day hike.
The site destination-cap-corse offers a wealth of information including an interactive map with photos and detailed practical data on transportation, lodging and activities.