Plenty more secrets lie beyond Corsica's picture postcard scene of a turquoise cove lined with pine trees. Mountains and rivers, cliff-top villages, historic and lively cities : from north to south, a meandering journey allows you to get to know 'the Island of Beauty' better.
Sitting in the shade of a century-old olive tree, it's hard to drag yourself away from Hotel Palazzu's patio. The scents of the cedars of Lebanon and the Caribbean lime trees mingle over the fountain in this land suspended between sky and sea. This is Cap Corse, a rocky peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean. Explore the northern tip of the island, turning sharply towards the seascape of Centuri before returning to the eagle's nest village of Nonza. There, from the iconic Genoese tower, contemplate the wild elegance of the sharp grey pebble beach beside the turquoise sea; then dive in. Then go back to Saint-Florent for a taste of glamour before picking up the scrub again in the spectacular Agriates desert and finally cooling down in the translucent water of Saleccia. Then drop in on the hilltop villages of Balagne, the coastal villages of Corbara, Pigna and Lumio and give in to the baroque, celebratory charm of Calvi with a night in an 18th century Genoese residence. Another option is to move away from the Big Blue and head for the heights of the hinterland. Climb to Corte, beneath the island's highest peaks, for a night surrounded by cool chestnut groves on the banks of the Restonica River. The next morning, wander down these gorges, spot the wild pigs and bathe in a pool.
Then turn slowly westward, on a winding asphalt road to the sea and Porto. For the first time in a while, look at your watch or simply the sun, to be first in line for a magnificent show classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the calanques (inlets) de Piana at sunset. Then take the same route from the terrace in Piana, via some local lobsters to the end of the Gulf of Porto. Look into the distance as tomorrow you will kayak in the Scandola Nature Reserve. On the way south, stop over in Greece, in Cargese, a quiet village where one of the two churches recalls a 19th century colony of immigrants from the Peloponnese who were no doubt familiar with the softness of the lights and the colour of the water.
After yet another hike in the translucent Gulf of Sagone, arrive back in the imperial city of Ajaccio. Take the pulse of this city, just as vibrant in winter as in summer, starting at the market in the early morning, then moving to coffee in Napoleon Square. Finally, after a nose around the impressive Fesch Museum, follow the Ajaccians along the route des Sanguinaires (bloodthirsty) to one of their hidden coves. There, opposite the islands and echoing the night spent at the Carpe Diem Palace, savour every moment of this last day in beautiful Corsica, from the surprise visit of the dolphins, to dinner in the straw hut.