The Corsican MoorDwight Peck's personal website

Corsica in the Off Season, 2007

Corsica, the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the off-season rates, late November and early December 2007.

Hike to Pointe d'Agnello

The habit of hiking along the Cornwall Southwest Coast Path is hard to shake at this time of year, so here in northern Corsica, today, we're going to replicate a Cornish coast walk.

From Bastia, Kangoo has conveyed us northward up the east side of the Cap Corse to the yachting village of Macinaggio, and we're going to start our walk along the "Sentier des Douaniers" near the beach, just a little farther along, called the Plage de Tamarone. Not exactly AT the Plage, because Kangoo balked at some of the big wash-outs in the dirt road and we acquiesced and left the thing a half a kilometre or so short of the beach.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The Sentier des Douaniers is so-called because it follows the ancient track along the coastline once plodded methodically by customs agents looking out for smugglers. The Sentier goes right the way around the northern end of the Cap Corse to Centuri on the western side, but it's too long for a day-hike unless you've got another Kangoo parked there and waiting for you -- so we're bound today out to the Point d'Agnello and back again.

This little port of Macinaggio, a favorite of yachtsmen we're told (in summer), was actually a naval base in President Paoli's time.

But about an hour out over a little hill (not a hurried hour by any means -- we were shuffling along and telling George Bush jokes), we come upon the old Genoese watchtower called the Tour de Santa Maria, or what's left of it . . .

. . . like, a little less than half of it.

Like a Dorling Kindersley cutaway drawing of what a Genoese watchtower would look like inside it. It was old Admiral One-Eye Nelson who shot the other half off of this thing, in 1793. Can't tell you why; that's just the sort of thing he did.

Nearly all of the ancient defenders of the castle have fled or died off long ago.

But, as usual, one guest lingers long after the party's over.

Ignore him. We continue walking northward, Kristin in her "hiking sandals", which let the feet breathe. Maquis shrubbery all about, with an aroma that you can also buy in bottles at the duty free.

Breathing feet scamper along the trail, now inside the protected nature area called the Capandula.

Very nearly as beautiful as a walk along the Cornish coast

We've just noticed, however, that we need to go up that big lump in the distance on the right, the Pointe d'Agnello, before we can reward ourselves with a big Corsican smoked salami and brocciu on probably very healthy bread.

A quick look back at the way we've come before we start slogging upwards for a while. That's the island of Elba in the distance: "Able was I ere I saw Elba", as Napoleon might have said palindromically.

Surmounting the heights of the Pointe d'Agnello (I'm dramatizing again, it's probably only about 160m above the sea level) and down to our destination for the day, the Tour d'Agnello -- another Genoese watchtower, of course.

The island of Giraglia just off the coast, the northernmost part of Corsica -- a nice lighthouse on it, and, what else, a Genoese watchtower.

With smoked Corsican salami on our minds (made, as we learned just the other day, from free range pigs), we go back up the Pointe d'Agnello and find a nice spot to chow down.

A perfect spot for a salami. And for us, too.
I'm preparing to sit comfortably down upon my soft blue 20-year-old LoweAlpine backpack, but when I did, I heard a little click. Satisfied that no old bones had broken, I forgot all about it and ate salami with peasant bread.

Ready to start back -- that's the Tour of Santa Maria in the cove, and the tower on the Finocchiarola islands just off the coast at the far end.

The village of Barcaggio from the Pointe d'Agnello -- the next stop if we had been continuing farther along the Sentier des Douaniers. (And we did two years later.)

Maquis and Kristin, and what looks very like Merlin's Cave just ahead of us.

Merlin's Cave! It can't be! Not here.

Or if not Merlin's Cave, Prospero's?

The narrator and Prospero's Cave. "Where the bee sucks, there suck I / In a cowslip’s bell I lie."

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own –
Which is most faint.

Some wonderful white-sandy beaches on the Corsican coasts, but covered with Poseidon Grass a couple of meters thick. Pretty disgusting.

We're back at the Half-Tower of Santa Maria with our path over the next hill looming before us.

The Tour de Santa Maria late in the day, and Poseidon Grass, or Neptune Grass (Posidonia oceanica) all over the shoreline

Just near the tower, the Chapelle of Santa Maria, a convent from the 11th century, restored in the 17th. Windfarm on the mountaintop.

Imagine yourself out here eight centuries ago, in that convent, praying a lot presumably, and counting the days till the next CARE package from the folks at home, with cookies, and mittens.

The Finocchiarola islands just off the coast, a nature reserve, off-limits March through the end of August.

And -- what else? -- a Genoese watchtower on the big one

The day wanes. A few more hills still to get over.

A little later -- STILL a few more little hills to get over.

A slidy little coastal path just near nightfall

A 20-year-old LoweAlpine backpack (still good as new) with a headlamp shining bravely out from inside the bottom of it. That was the perplexing click at lunchtime.

As Kangoo waits patiently for us. An excellent coastal path walk, that was. We'll have to do another. Tomorrow, in fact.

Base map:

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 December 2007, revised 14 June 2012.

Corsica, 2007

Corsica, 2009