Travel

Corsica offers charm on the Mediterranean

Ready to experience the Mediterranean lifestyle? Try the French island of Corsica.

Located on Corsica's western coast, Ajaccio is a modish, debonair community complemented by Old World charm. This attractive coastal retreat hosts a variety of unique shops, dramatic panoramas as well as a healthy collection of trendy bistros.

The town is becoming one of Europe's most sought-after seaside destinations. Meticulously maintained, age-old buildings showcase Ajaccio's rich past. Sparkling Mediterranean waters and sandy alcoves attract beach enthusiasts of all ages.

Getting there: Corsica Ferries (www.corsica-ferries.co.uk) makes Ajaccio easily accessible from mainland France, and any rental car that you've already secured will be included.

The arresting and tranquil Mediterranean cruise from Nice runs $82 and takes approximately 5 1/2 hours. For a luxurious upgrade, book your passage with an exclusive two-bed cabin for an additional $38. Also, British Airways, EasyJet and Air France all run daily service into Ajaccio's Napoleon Bonaparte International Airport from both Paris and London.

A room with a citadel view: In the center of Ajaccio's historic quarter is the Hotel San Carlu Citadelle, with a panoramic view of the 15th-century Genoese fortress overlooking the Mediterranean. The hotel (www.hotel-sancarlu.com) is centrally located and a short walk to the lively harbor or the scenic beach. Cost: a reasonable $72 per night

Enjoy the food: In Ajaccio, eating healthy and losing weight are part of daily life. A restaurant known for delectable, authentic Corsican dishes and charm is Le 20123. Enjoy inspired, mouth-watering sea bass, daurade or lobster, or the delightful "sanglier" - wild boar - prepared in a velvety red wine sauce.

One thing you have to sample in Corsica is a luscious pastry, fiadone. Available from any number of Ajaccio's coastal eateries, the wildly popular item is made with brocciu, a goat cheese, and is only served fresh from December to June.

Napoleon's birthplace: Napoleonic heritage steals the spotlight in Ajaccio. A multitude of tributes and monuments pay homage to Corsica's favorite son. In the town center, Place de Gaulle showcases a grand bronze statue of Napoleon on horseback towering over his four brothers.

Also, Napoleon Bonaparte's birthplace, a modest three story residence, is now a museum devoted to the early life of the French emperor and his family (www.musee-maisonbonaparte.fr).

Ajaccio shopping: Designer labels, artisan-crafted jewelry and one-of-a-kind artwork can all be discovered in the old Genoese town. On weekends, one of the largest farmers markets on the island can be found at Campinchi Square. You'll find a wide selection of uniquely Mediterranean offerings, including vine-ripened produce, fig jams, goat cheese, wild boar sauces as well as fresh olives and almonds galore.

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