Aethos Corsica’s 17th-century pewter-hued palazzo stands out amid the coral villas of on-high village Oletta, tucked into a crook of the Haute-Corse.
The nearest airport is Bastia-Poretta, a 30-minute drive away. The airport mainly receives flights from mainland France with French airlines, but there are direct flights from neighbouring European countries. Staff can help with arranging transfers (about €60 one-way).
You could take the Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) to Paris or Lille, catch an onward TGV to Nice and then take a ferry to Bastia with Corsica Ferries (www.corsica-ferries.co.uk). It’s a wayward and rather leisurely route that could conservatively take up to 10 hours, but you’ll see a generous swathe of countryside and coast along the way.
The Nice to Bastia ferry carries cars, and driving all the way could save you cash, but you’d need a few days either side to make it pleasant if you're coming from the UK (it’s about a 16-hour drive from London). Or, if you’d rather fly but want to explore Corsica by car, you can hire a car on arrival. Just make sure there are two breathalyser kits in the car at all times (French law) and that you have change for the tolls. Free parking is available a few minutes from your hotel room at the bottom of a steep driveway, but staff will meet you to help with luggage.
Corsica Ferries operates the Nice-Bastia route, as well as several others. The sailing takes around five hours. During peak summer months, ferries also make the hop between Italy and the east of Corsica – very handy for multi-centre trips.
Worth getting out of bed for
Onsite, you can turn the dial all the way down and clear your mind of all but that panorama of profuse greenery, casually majestic mountains and the cheeky blue-green glint in the Haute-Corse’s eye, the Bay of Florent. The pool is large enough for lazy up-and-down laps, yoga can be arranged on a terrace with a view, the teeny spa plumbs even deeper depths of relaxation, and the palazzo operates as a gallery of sorts. Take yourself on an art tour through Daniel Arsham’s crinkled wall, Wendy Wischer’s ethereal tree sculpture, Manuel Merida’s searingly blue circular canvases, and pieces by the likes of Anish Kapoor, Kim Tschang Yeul and Yvan Rebyj. But, you may feel the call of the wild after a few days of prone wine sipping and afternoon naps. Corsica’s north has swerved development, leaving a plant-based playground you can thunder across on horseback or by SUV, soar through on a paraglider or microlight plane, and hike through with abandon. The Via Ferrata trek that traverses rocky outcrops, customs officer trails, old mule tracks and mountain winds is the most famous, or you could walk the Sentier des Douaniers, a two-hour Cap Corse coastal hike past fern forests, nature reserves, diving spots, chapels and towers. It begins at Macinaggio (about an hour and a half away by car).
The town of Saint Florent is a 10-minute drive away; its main beach is called La Roya, and it’s got everything you need to pep up your holiday, if fun-boarding, jet-skiing, scuba diving and the like are your bag. With 1,000km of calm coastline and lakes prettily pooled in mountain valleys, watersports are something of an obsession here. Or, you could earn your supper on a rod, drag-net, harpoon or berley (where bait is scattered on the water) fishing trip; the chef will cook up your catches for dinner that evening. Or, enjoy nature in kill-free form by cruising to Scandola Nature Reserve, whose surreally luminous waters and volcanic jags of geometric terracotta rock look like the cover of a psychedelic funk album. And, aside from ‘good face’, the landscape gives unique delicacies, famously goat and sheep cheeses (creamy Brocciu is the stand-out) and top wines – a happy pairing. Tour the dairies and vineyards to get a taste for the region. Or for a more intriguing day trip, drive 40 minutes north to Nonza, on the Cap Corse. It’s a tiny village built on a black rocky pinnacle that plunges vertically into the sea. You can descend 600 steps to the black sand beach, or take photos from above.
Formerly Genoese Corsica only officially became a part of France in the late 18th century; so while dining is swaggeringly Gallic in many of the island’s excellent eateries, menus also skew Italian and to the island’s own peculiarities. In Oletta, the hotel restaurant is the finest for date night, but laidback U Casa di u Nebbiu has accomplished French dishes: blushing meats, moules bobbing in cream, sticky tart tatin. At Le Potager du Nebbio close to Saint Florent, tables are set out in an arbour by the kitchen garden, so you can see exactly where your food comes from. Expect fabulously fresh fare such as tomato tatin, zucchini risotto with prawns and cheese samosas with garden herbs. North, along Cap Corse, is La Sassa, an entirely alfresco restaurant for good reason, because the views of the coast and cliffs are the stuff of spontaneous proposals, so be sure to book for sunset. The food upholds its reputation (earning it Michelin acclaim), with dishes such as a huge savoury cannelloni with truffle and brocciu cheese, caviar ravioli with hazelnut cream, red-tuna tataki and lobster salad, and decadent desserts. La Roya, a 10-minute drive away, also dabbles in swish seaside dining, with rustic ingredients given the haute treatment and platings you can’t help but photograph.