The Mediterranean: Corsica

Rugged cliffs and turquoise waters

Villa to Rent: Rugged Splendor
ONE TO WATCH Murtoli isn't so much a villa as a compound on nearly 5,000 acres in southern Corsica. The main house is the gem (there are also two smaller villas), made of ocher-weathered stone with a tile roof that blends perfectly into the wild landscape. The decor is a rustic mix of white walls, wooden beams, antiques, and local wrought-iron chandeliers; bathrooms have red-marble sinks and bathtubs. We fell in love with the outdoor kitchen and magnificent pool that hugs the rocky coast. Be sure to request staff and meals (the bouillabaisse was divine). Rates, $5,600-$10,100; 33-4-95-71-69-24;

—Lanie Goodman

Teeing Off: Cliffside Swing
Make time to walk the 18 holes at Corsica's Sperone Golf Club, perched on the white cliffs overlooking the emerald sea and the Lavezzi Islands. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., this 90-acre landscaped park with red cedars, century-old pines, and nature trails is a mecca for the day-tripping yacht crowd. Greens fee, $90. On Route de Pertusato-Piantarella, Bonifacio; 33-4-95-73-17-13;


Off the Beaten Path: The Wiles of the North Coast
Corsica's tranquil but rugged northern peninsula, called the Cap Corse, is a magnificent cluster of tiny fishing ports, crenelated old Genovese towers, unspoiled beaches, and fragrant stands of rosemary, juniper, and heather. It's also the least commercially developed spot on the island, with excellent hiking and wildlife-watching. For those with a week to spend on Corsica, a couple of days in the Cap Corse may be a welcome retreat from the glamorous but crowded south.

WHERE TO STAY Besides renting your own villa from Chapters (44-845-700-618;, the place to lay your head is Hotel Castel Brando (rooms, $107-$180; 33-4-95-30-10-30). An ancient palazzu in Erbalunga, a fishing village with charm galore, the hotel has 42 airy, country-style rooms, a pool, and a friendly guesthouse atmosphere. Book a second- or third-floor suite for an excellent view of the village and the sea.

WHERE TO EAT The rocky western coast is famed for its lobster restaurants, like the excellent Le Vieux Moulin (dinner, $140; 33-4-95-35-60-15) in Centuri. Be sure to order one of the seafood plates with shrimp, oysters, or sardines served à l'escabèche, cold with a spicy marinade.

WINES TO TASTE In the hamlet of Rogliano, in the hilly backcountry, Clos Nicrosi vineyard makes one of the island's best fruity whites in a charming colonial-style house. Also worth a visit are the vineyards in the St. Florent region, which produce excellent reds and amber Muscat. The best are Arena and Orenga de Gaffory, which also holds art exhibitions in its cavernous cellar. Ask your hotel to arrange a tour and tasting.

BOAT TO BOOK For a glimpse of the secret inlets of the Cap Corse only accessible by boat, native Sylvain Campos will take you aboard his 20-meter U San Paulu for a five-hour tour or fishing excursion ($35, tackle provided; 33-4-95-35-07-09). He'll also drop you off at a beach with a picnic of Corsican specialities. Be sure to bring binoculars to see the wildlife on Giraglia Island.


Hot Table: Foie Gras On the Beach
By the looks of it, you'd expect the waterside restaurant Le Belvédère, with its fossil-studded stone walls and juniper-wood decor, to serve rustic fare. But one-Michelin-star chef Eric Manent cooks superbly refined Mediterranean cuisine that includes duck foie gras with muscat and dried figs; roast veal with eggplant "caviar" and Corsican ham; creamy lobster risotto; and bitter-orange soufflé for dessert. Dinner, $155. On Route Plage de Palombaggia, Porto-Vecchio; 33-4-95-70-54-13.


Room to Get: Kundera Sleeps Here
For those who dream of tumbling out of bed and diving straight into the turquoise shallows, Hôtel Le Maquis, in a private cove in Porticcio, has Les Vagues, a suite right on the beach. It has a vast terrace, two marble bathrooms with a whirlpool bath, and an inspiring view of the bay—which may be why it's Milan Kundera's favorite room. Suite, $670; 33-4-95-25-05-55.


Great Finds
• Corsican crafts can be a touch crude, but also quite singular. Many, like a $75 jug, are at hidden shops marked by a handmade sign along the road.

Spa Report: Heating Up at the Cala Rossa
ONE TO WATCH Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa Corsica is hopping, thanks to the new heated indoor pool and spa. Treatments include mud applications ($145), algae wraps ($68), and massages ($60-$115). Book one in the teak treehouse overlooking a sandy cove. Fitness classes are also on the menu, but the restaurant here is anything but spare: Chef Georges Billon whips up tempting red mullet with eggplant and chocolate cake with wine sorbet. Dinner, $200. At Lecci de Porto-Vecchio; 33-4-95-71-61-51.


Great Finds: Artisan Goods
To sample the best of Corsica, don't miss L'Atelier du Couteau, a tiny, unassuming shop on the port in Ajaccio not far from the airport. Knifemakers-cum-artists Laurent Bellini and Jean-Pierre Caggiari sell creations such as stainless-steel shepherd's knives set with precious stones (from $134), 19th-century-inspired rosewood daggers ($290), and hunting knives inlaid with coral, ebony, or blue stingray skin ($1,060). Then head to U Stazzu, also in Ajaccio, where fresh cheeses, handwoven baskets, and owner Paul Marcaggi's homemade charcuterie dangle from the ceiling. Try the figatellu (wild boar-liver sausage) and tender prisuttu (aged prosciutto); take home the chestnut-flour cookies ($6) and organic fruit jams ($7). L'Atelier du Couteau: at Port de l'Amirauté; 33-4-95-10-16-52. U Stazzu: at 1 Rue Bonaparte; 33-4-95-51-10-80.


Hotel rates range from the lowest-priced double to the highest-priced suite in high season. In most cases VAT is not included. Meal prices are for a three-course dinner for two, excluding beverage and gratuity.