One of the most beautiful places I have been to since my move back to Europe is Corsica.
I visited because of work and so I was there at an unlikely time, the end of November, apparently the coldest month in Corsica. Not the best time to visit, definitely, but even so, the beauty of the place was so striking that I can’t wait to go back.
This little mediterranean island is unlike any place I’ve been to, not necessarily due to its beauty (which is considerable), but due to the feeling that you are immediately immersed in once you land. I always thought places, just like people, have a soul, an inner substance that one can feel when there. Greece is like that…you would know that is an old country, philosophical and pensive, even if you didn’t see the ancient ruins about. And Corsica is the same, in that you immediately feel the strength, wisdom and fortitude of the place, even if you didn’t know the history of the island.
Corsica feels incredibly powerful, and very soulful at the same time. The landscape is clean and honest. This is not a place of fabricated but raw beauty: the sea is a deep blue, the sky a perfect light blue, the vegetation incredibly dark green. The colours of Corsica are those that God intended to put on Earth:
Yet the language of its people is musical and poetic, even if you don’t understand it. The traditional music of the island is tender, and comforting, happy and sad in equal amounts, and so nostalgic it breaks your heart. There is tenderness to the landscape, too.
My connection to Corsica is quite deep. A very close family friend, an incredibly smart woman with an equally incredible past and unbelievable strength in the face of adversity, is Corsican. During the course of our friendship I’ve heard so much about her beloved island, so much praise and so much longing, that I knew I would love Corsica even before seeing it. One story that she loves to tell is how, growing up, she would go into the eucalyptus forest for walks, and get lost in thought while surrounded by the fragrant air.
To be honest, I used to think her memories a bit skewed by the passage of time, which can, sometimes, idealise otherwise almost mundane experiences, especially when childhood is recalled. Let me tell you, I was so wrong. I got to the eucalyptus forest shivering in the cold November weather and wishing for a fireplace spot and a mug of mulled wine in my hand. But once there, I completely forgot my discomfort. The forest is absolutely magical: all you can see are tall eucalyptus trees, a little brook here and there, and all around you are surrounded by the most crisp eucalyptus scent. It really is an indescribable feeling.
The city of Ajaccio, on the other hand, feels a bit underwhelming. It is not particularly pretty but close to the sea and some beautiful landscape. The birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, its most famous, if not particularly loved, citizen, Ajaccio is a living shrine to a dead Emperor: Grand Cafe Napoleon sits proudly on the main street, Cours Napoleon, close to Hotel Bonaparte …and so on. I, of course, went to visit Napoleon’s house, Maison Napoleon, not so much for the great man as for my father, whose favourite historical hero is, in fact Napoleon.