Our boat got into Bastia at 6.45am and an unknown area of Corsica (for us, anyway) lay ahead. We wanted to visit Les Jardins Traditionels – a co-op gardening and education venture that promised Corsican plants and produce to discover. It was closed and the notices on the board outside the locked gates were a year out-of-date. So where to next?
And so began an unscheduled 12-hour drive right around Cap Corse, down to Ile Rousse, Calvi, Porto and Piana – not that far as the crow flies, but a journey of twisting roads, hairpin bends, winding mountain tracks, sheer drops into the sea and astounding scenery.
Our new plan was to stop in Porto – the gateway to the Gorges de Spelunca and the Calanques. There are four campsites in or near the town. We chose none of them, preferring instead another 20km of roller-coaster to a town we couldn’t be sure even had a campsite.
Here’s why. Les Oliviers and Sole e Vista campsites are next door to each other, both up steep hills and on terraces with trees. Fabulously shady in high summer, but even in sunshine and 30-degrees (on the last day of May), they felt sightly dingy and claustrophobic. The ground is hard, sandy and strewn with leaves, and only on a few pitches can you park the car next to your tent. There are very steep walks from the facilities and parking areas. Both have swanky pools and Les Oliviers has a fitness centre too. Neither appealed to us. And nor did the decidedly dingy and down at heel Funtana a l’Ora just outside Porto on the Evisa road. Final option? The municipal campsite in the valley bottom, which was also the council truck park and grit store. Hmm.
So, we headed for Piana – a bright town high on the plateau. Into our twelfth hour of driving now and without much hope of a campsite, we met the Calanques, and exhaustion disappeared. The mists were swirling around vast sculpted rocks and craggy drops into ravines of pink stone. The road wound between crazily shaped outcrops – animals, faces, city skylines on what felt like a theme park ride of fake prehistoric landscapes. At Piana, we spotted a small ‘camping’ sign and took another 11km twisting road down to the Plage d’Arone. This time, we knew we couldn’t be picky. The road ended here and there was nothing else for miles.
And what a great campsite to have forced upon us! Flat, shady but with air and light and with a choice of huge pitches. We didn’t even know what the beach was like (though most people probably come here for that and not because they’ve run out of road). An evening stroll took us out onto a perfect curve of white sand with turquoise water and the mountains behind.
The campsite itself was our most expensive campsite to date (€28 for a tent, two people, a car and electricity) and the washing facilities are very basic and not always hyper-clean. They don’t take credit cards and there’s no wifi. But what a location. Of course, you do need to stock up on food as the nearest shops (a small super-U and a great delicatessen) are 11km back up the ridge road. The beach has three restaurants and bars, one with free wifi. When we were here (May 31 to June 4), it wasn’t very busy at all, but – despite its out-of-the-wayness – it’s hard to imagine it doesn’t get thronged in full summer.
Our tips? Check for ants’ nests before you pick your spot (not such a problem in a campervan or with a sewn-in groundsheet), don’t camp near the septic tanks outside the shower block and choose shade. Don’t miss out on a walk through the Calanques. Driving through is awe-inspiring, but take the old Piana to Ota road high above the D81 and you get away from the foolhardy coaches and motorbikes into incredible countryside for a quiet Calanques experience. And try the Cafe de la Plage for a treat – right on the beach, expensive but with fabulous fresh fish and a glorious covered terrace (and free wifi).
Walk the chestnut path from Evisa to the river, over the jiggly suspended bridge and into the swimming pools.
Don’t do any of this in July or August!
Two we weren’t so keen on:
Camping Marina in the Golfe di a Liscia
At first glance, a great site right next to a lovely-looking beach, but hang on a minute! We were shown to a nice pitch with its own shaded gazebo area and a view of the beach…perfect. Eight hours later, though, we’d been hemmed in by six other families, including a few with babies. The pitches are tiny and the noise was overwhelming – from the road as well as the campers on our doorstep. Plus, the beach proved to be a rather charmless place, which is almost unheard of for Corsica, where even city beaches are good. Final straw? €29 a night.
Camping l’Avena near Tizzano
Good points and bad here. A fabulous beach just a walk away, a mini-mart, bar and decent showers, but very few pitches with shade and all extremely tiny. Given that the temperature in May/June reached 39 degrees, shade is an essential. It’s also a bit like a car park in layout with no privacy between pitches. It’s part of the Campeole chain and maybe suffered from a lack of interest in campers’ comfort. Our advice? Try it for a few nights to explore the coves and to eat at Chez Antoine!
There’s more on an earlier trip to Corsica here too.