Corsica & Sardinia

20 May 2023

In Milan at the Galleria on the day before my flight to Sardinia.

Corsica belongs to France and Sardinia to Italy, but they have much in common.

● Both islands are in the western Mediterranean, only a short ferry ride apart, with a similar climate of warm summers and mild winters. 

● Both are renowned for their pristine beaches, rugged coastlines, and beautiful mountains.

● Both were inhabited by ancient indigenous people. Then, in the past two or more millennia, both faced many invasions and domination by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Moors. Later, Corsica was ruled for centuries by Genoa (with a brief episode of independence) but was eventually sold to France in 1768. Sardinia spent a few centuries under Spanish rule but was also a nominally independent Kingdom of Sardinia before merging with the newly consolidated country of Italy.

● Each islands has its own strong identity and pride. Local residents have preserved their unique languages, Corsican and Sardo, alongside the official languages of their countries.

● Greater political independence is a priority for many on both islands. The Corsican nationalist movement seeks greater autonomy if not complete independence. Sardinia is already an autonomous region within Italy and that has limited the push for full independence, but it too has a nationalist movement “Sardismo.”

I joined a small group of five other Americans who hiked and explored around southern Corsica (where most of the population live) and the especially interesting northern half of Sardinia. (See map.)


We had many great experiences in Corsica. Exploring the picturesque village of Sartene and sampling the beignets made with chestnut flour and brocciu cheese. Walking along the gusty Mediterranean coast to Punta di Campomoro and hiking the footpath up to the old watchtower overlooking the scenic coastline. And more.

My two favorite highlights in Corsica were the old town of Bonifacio and the archeological site Cauria.

This medieval fortress town was built as a stronghold against the Moors. Now Bonifacio has fascinating narrow streets, many artisans and boutiques, and wonderful restaurants. 

Napoleon, Corsica's most famous son, was born near Bonifacio and we saw the building where he lived when he temporarily returned to Corsica from mainland France in 1793. 

Clinging to limestone cliffs some 200 feet about the sea, Bonifacio, from some vantage points, seemed to defy gravity. My favorite walk of this week started a couple of miles along the chalk cliffs with Bonifacio getting closer and closer until I took this photo above.

Above is the lovely view of the opposite side of Bonifacio as seen from our hotel (see our pool at the bottom).

Archeologists have been finding numerous ancient remnants, mostly carved stones called menhirs, dating back some 5,000 years ago. Mysterious abound and there does not seem to be even any agreed upon name for the specific culture that created them (other than vaguely megalithic).


Sardines in Sardinia? The fish we call "sardines" were indeed named after this island where they used to be found in abundance! I'd naively thought the similarity was just a coincidence.

Our travels in Sardinia were launched in the charming town of Alghero, with a large pedestrian only historical center.

This beautifully restored villa was our hotel in Alghero. It was my first trip with "Classic Journeys" and I was impressed by the unique, memorable hotels and extraordinary restaurants. I could have made this a DIY trip, but I'm glad I turned over the logistics and creative choices to this outstanding travel company.

Speaking of the brilliant restaurant choices, I've never been in the habit of photographing my food, but I should have on this trip. The dishes (often seafood of course) were exceptional. When served, my camera was usually the last thing that occurred to me.

Savoring a latte macchiato by the medieval castle on a hilltop in the town of Castelsardo. Later we stopped at Porto Cervo, an upscale resort area on the yacht-invested Costa Smeralda (aka Sardinia's "Emerald Coast") on our way to the Su Gologone Hotel in Oliena.

One hike took us up into the foothills of mountains near Oliena. Above is the view where we stopped for a picnic lunch.

Apparently, Sardinia is well known for its artisans and you often hear about handmade Italian shoes. Well, we visited a just such an impressive cobbler. Above he holds a leather belt I purchased. We also visited a woman who has created a substantial cottage business making carasau crunchy flatbread.

Another hike took us through a valley and into the foothills of the Supramonte.

Our hike included a stop at one of Sardinia's most important archeological sites: a Nuraghic village (circa 1,000 BC).

Then we had a barbeque lunch at the mountain cabin of shepherd Tonino.

Speaking of sheep and goats, Sardinia has over twice as many sheep (3 million) as it does people (1.2 million). The map below shows its high concentration of sheep.

Back at the Su Gologone Hotel, these local young people give us a superb private performance of traditional dances in this part of Sardinia.

This added up to an virtually perfect week getting a good taste of highlights of Corsica and Sardinia, plus some good hikes to help offset the fantastic food.

Check out this review of an excellent new book
In Sardinia: An Unexpected Journey in Italy