Here’s what we did
I’d wanted to visit Corsica ever since I was a student and my friend worked there and raved about it. I’d been to Sardinia a number of times before as a student studying Italian and absolutely loved it. It’s always a bit of a risk, I think, going back so many years later but Sardinia really is as lovely as ever.
We flew to Olbia from Bristol and spent a few days in Santa Maria Navarrese on the East Coast. The hotel was recommended by Bristol’s i-escape – Nascar Hotel, a small, friendly place a few minutes walk from the beach. Italy’s beaches can be hit and miss as so many are privately owned with tightly packed sun loungers and the public beaches can be a bit of an afterthought. Santa Maria Navarrese’s beaches are stunning and super clean. The hotel has loungers on the private beach, which was not at all crowded and the public beaches there and further up the coast (a ten minute walk) were superb.
Supper at Nascar was lovely – tables in the trees with great service. All the wines were Sardinian and the menu featured lots of pasta and fish. There were other restaurants in this little village – and Hen Bar, a great cocktail and wine bar which we discovered on our last night, opposite a brilliant pizzeria. Next time we’re going there! On the beach, we loved lunch at L’olivastro – a tiny terrace cafe under a giant olive tree (you have to limbo under one of the enormous branches to enter!). Lovely pizzettas, salads and of course delicious aperol spritz.
From Santa Maria Navarrese we went back to Olbia and got the bus to the ferry port at Santa Teresa di Gallura. The bus was about an hour and a half and cost 3 euros – I’m always astonished at how efficient and cheap public transport is in Italy in comparison to Britain. The ferry to Bonifacio took about an hour. We then drove to Priopriano, about an hour an a half away to our next home for the week. Propriano is a buzzing, sea front town with loads of restaurants and shops. There are so many beaches near here – Cupabia and Campomoro stood out. Both long, sandy beaches with crystal clear sea. Campomoro is a tiny village with beach front restaurants and bars. We ate at La Mouette – a delicious salmon spaghetti and a not so delicious chicken burger…. Fabulous location though. Cupabia has a beach restaurant with a beautiful sounding menu, but we didn’t stay and made our way back to La Stonda on Albertello beach. The service here was so friendly and the food was, well, OK.
We’d been recommended a local restaurant up in the hills called Chez Charlot in a small village called Viggianello. The view here is incredible – out across the fields and sea. Again, service was so welcoming and friendly. Corsican food is heavy on the meat – wild boar, veal and steak mainly and not a lot of seafood or fish, which was surprising for an island. There was a fish soup here which was delicious, along with a charcuterie plate and artichoke heart starter. Whilst not amazing, it was probably one of the better meals we had in Corsica. We also visited Sartene which is a magnificent town inland full of little squares and shops. Lunch was in a little trattoria down a cobbled street – we chose badly as it was a bit touristy and again featured heavily on meat, with the addition of rabbit.
On our way back to Sardinia, we stayed the night in Bonifacio, which is so worth a visit. It has a marina full of billionaire yachts which are always worth watching for the comings and goings and a short walk up the hill is the ancient citadel, full of winding streets and bars. The views from here are superb, over the blue sea and white cliffs. We are at L’an faim (in the Michelin guide). Their oven had given up so the menu was a little limited. We had a good chat with the owner who’d spend a few years working in London comparing notes on working in hospitality. Bonifacio pretty much closes for the Winter months and he lamented the fact he can’t go back to London to work thanks to Brexit.
Back on the ferry and brilliant 3 euro bus for a final night in Olbia, Sardinia. The reviews aren’t particularly encouraging for Olbia as a tourist destination, but we loved it. It’s a proper city, not overrun with tourists. We stayed in an Chez Francoise – a small guest house with three rooms. It’s brilliantly located near the main street where we found lots of restaurants and bars. We came across a wine tasting with DJ and dancing before eating in Ciao Bella, a pizzeria we chose randomly on the busy main street, Corso Umberto. It was absolutely packed here and we were lucky to get a table. Thinking it was just a touristy fast food, we didn’t have very high hopes, how wrong we were! The service was amazing and the food absolutely delicious. I had been searching for my favourite bottarga (a speciality of Sardinia – dried fish eggs grated onto spaghetti with oil and garlic) and here they had it – and it was exactly as I remembered it from all those years ago. The boys loved their pizza (you have to have pizza on your last night in Italy!) And said it was the best they’d had.
We loved both islands and were sad to leave. Corsica was beautiful – very green and mountainous inland with perfect, sandy beaches and the clearest sea. Food was disappointing if I’m honest mostly due to meat being the main staple and not a lot of sea food or vegetables, as well as being super expensive. Sardinia – we will definitely return to explore further. Food was fabulous and as that is a main feature of all our holidays, we’ll go back and sample more!