Arrive at the Nice Airport on the Côte d'Azur and take a shuttle to your hotel in the center of old (Vieux) Nice. Relax from your flight and then ride le petit train around town for an enjoyable first look at Nice's irresistible Mediterranean charm. Enjoy a welcome dinner en plein air on a lovely square near the flower market.
This morning our expert local guide leads us through the quaint streets of Vieux Nice and tells us about Nice's colorful history. We have free time to explore, and in the afternoon visit the splendid Matisse Museum with its extraordinary collection of Matisse paintings, all left to the City of Nice by Matisse himself. Tonight's gastronomic dinner is a Mediterranean feast with a Provençal twist.
Take an excursion to the fairy-tale hilltop village of Eze, so picture-perfect it doesn't seem real. In the afternoon board the ferry for a four hour cruise across the Ligurian Sea to the port of Calvi, on the island of Corsica. Our tour guide Dominique meets us at the ferry and takes us to our beautiful hotel, where we have a delicious Michelin starred dinner of Corsican specialties.
Today we explore the charming port village of Calvi with its 12th century citadel steeped in history. We meet some local Corsicans and visit a Corsican winery and olive oil producer. We then enjoy a Corsican cooking class, and with our new Corsican friends taste many Corsican dishes we have helped to prepare.
Corsica is perhaps best known for its rugged, unspoiled mountain beauty. Today we discover some of the most dramatic, stunning scenic vistas of mountain and sea by hiking along a sampling of Dominique's favorite trails that take us up close and personal with Corsica's natural wonders. If the weather cooperates we'll take a boat ride along the coast and have a picnic at a beautiful spot only the Corsicans know about. On the way home we stop at a goat farm to sample the cheese. The Brocciu is the most famous Corsican cheese and is made of 80 percent whey and 20 percent whole milk. With its coveted registered "AOC" designation, about 500 tons are produced on the island each year.
This morning we head into the mountainous interior to visit some friends of Dominique and her husband, Pascal, who live in a tiny village high in the mountains on the way to Corte. We enjoy their hospitality and get a lesson on local charcuterie (cold cuts) with a hearty sampling. We continue through the scenic mountains to Corte. Founded by Pascal Paoli, Corsica's beloved hero, this city was the capital of the Republic of Corsica for the few years in the 1700s when Paoli won Corsica's independence. Today it is a lovely town surrounded by mountains, dominated by a citadel built under Louis XV. It is also home to a large university and The Museum of Corsica, which we can visit. Our next destination is today's Corsican capital, Ajaccio. We check into our lovely hotel in the city center and stroll the tree-lined boulevards before dinner.
We have all day to discover this wonderful waterfront city, known foremost as Napoleon's birthplace. We'll visit the house he grew up in, the lively port, the 16th century cathedral, and the renowned Fesch Museum. Ajaccio is a delight to wander around, and we have free time to relax or explore.
Corsica's prehistoric megalithic monuments dating from as far back as the Neolithic era (roughly 6,000 B.C.) are reason alone to visit this enchanting island. Departing Ajaccio, we head south to the Valley of Taravo, where we discover a number of extraordinary statues and dolmens. We see several fascinating menhir-statues in Filitosa and the beautiful dolmen of Funtanaccia in Sartène. We'll see "cardial ware", a type of pottery dating from the 7th millennium B.C. On the Cauria plateau we see many of the best preserved menhirs and dolmens. Our expert archeological guide explains the significance of these rare findings. We continue driving to the southern tip of the island where we check into our next beautiful hotel in Bonifacio. This amazing town is perched on a narrow limestone peninsula about one mile long which parallels the coast and forms a harbor on the southernmost point of Corsica. Founded as a defense against pirates in the 9th century by a Marquis from Tuscany, Bonifacio was fought over by the Pisans, the Genoese, and the French for many centuries. We explore Bonifacio and relax before a wonderful seafood dinner.
From the tip of the Bonifacio peninsula we look out over the Straits of Bonifacio to the beautiful wild islands of Cavallo and Lavezzi. Just beyond lie the shores of Sardinia. We can't resist! A one hour boat ride takes us across the straits to the seaside town of Santa Teresa di Gallura. From here we visit a fascinating prehistoric village, La Brandall. We see the Tomba del Giganta, a vast communal grave that was used from the 14th to the 10th centuries before Christ. We enjoy lunch by the harbor in Santa Teresa and return by boat to Bonifacio.
This morning we take a scenic drive up the eastern coast of Corsica, stopping frequently for photo opps at lovely coves and beaches. Our final destination is outside the port city of Bastia, where our sea-view hotel provides a perfect base from which to explore this beautiful corner of the island. We take a tour of Bastia to see the old and new ports, the old citadel, and many picturesque streets and squares. Dinner tonight is at one of Bastia's finest restaurants.
Today we drive around Cap Corse, the peninsula jutting out into the Ligurian Sea on the northeastern corner of the island. This mountainous coastal region has spectacular vistas and is dotted with ancient towers built by the Genoese centuries ago. We pass tiny fishing villages, sleepy harbors, and dramatic cliffs covered with the Mediterranean "maquis", low bushes with beautiful spring blossoms. At lunch we'll taste one of the two excellent local wines. We return to our hotel to relax before a grand farewell dinner.
After breakfast we drive to the Bastia airport for our return flight.
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