Corsica and Sardinia - the Mediterranean's best kept secret!
If it was good enough for Napoleon Bonaparte and the Aga Khan, then it is definitely worth a look. If you’ve sailed Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and experienced the idyllic anchorages of the Greek Islands, and you think you have seen the best of what the Mediterranean has to offer, think again. The ancient islands of Corsica and Sardinia are possibly the best kept secret of the Western Mediterranean.
It is their semi-isolation which has protected them from the frenzied tourist hordes that have scoured mainland Europe for places to get away from it all. Horatio Nelson unsuccessfully urged the British Government to annex Sardinia because of its abundance of natural harbours and strategic importance.
Two hundred years later, nothing has changed; the British are still visitors and the spectacular coastal scenery of these islands attracts discerning sailors from all over the world. The people of Sardinia see themselves as Sards first and Italians second. Their detachment from the humdrum life of Continental Europe gives them an air which suggests they are from another time.
The land bears witness to that. It is dotted with ancient stone fortresses called nuraghi which date from 1500BC, some of them are only second in size to the pyramids of Egypt. Ancient Celtic tombs of the giants and magical druid circles stand near the relatively modern Byzantine and Roman architecture.
On the Costa Smeralda the Aga Khan has headed a development consortium which has built Porto Cervo into the premier Mediterranean playground for the rich and famous.
Sailing into Alghero, on the west coast, you will discover a town founded by the Arabs and later settled by the Spanish. Further north the quiet village of Capo Caccia will enchant you with its dramatic cliffs and fascinating caves.
True to the long-held theory that these islands are the cultural melting pot of the Mediterranean, the cuisine of Sardinia is a cosmopolitan mix of French, Italian, Spanish and Greek. From, saffron to pasta, fish soups to goat’s milk feta, there are enough flavours and textures to entice and intrigue any palate.
With its breathtaking coastline indented with white sandy coves, deserted bays and vibrant villages, Sardinia provides a glorious setting for a relaxing, enjoyable and rewarding cruise.
To the north Corsica is crowned by majestic mountain peaks that fall away into ravines and valleys with pine forests and scented marquis fleecing the slopes. The rocky, jagged coastline invites exploration among inlets and beaches that are inaccessible to the land-bound.
Corsica came under French rule in 1769, the same year in which it’s most famous son, Bonaparte was born. The many streets, restaurants and cafes named after the Little Emperor are testament to his influence and popularity.
Holidaying in Corsica is both simple and sophisticated. You can feel close to nature, yet have all the conveniences and safeguards of civilisation – splendid harbours and marinas, water sports galore and little restaurants where you can savour local specialities such as cured hams, salty brocciu cheese and freshly caught fish.
Ajaccio, the island’s capital, is bustling and lively, offering all the attractions of a thriving islands centre. Bonifacio has a fjord-like harbour dominated by the military fortress of the French Foreign Legion, and it is one of Corsica’s best known towns.
Porto Vecchio caters directly for the yachting fraternity and, with the expansion of its “pleasure pot”, it has one of the prettiest villages and towns in Corsica.
Some regions of the twin islands of Corsica and Sardinia remain virtually the same as the Roman galleys must have found them over two thousand years ago.
Yet there are other areas on the two Mediterranean islands which are as organised and as sophisticated as the tourist hubs of mainland Europe. Certainly Corsica and Sardinia contain the distilled essence of Europe along with a touch of timelessness.
The crewed yacht charter scene is on a large scale here with the Aga Khan’s Porto Cervo the main hub.
A wide range of bareboats is also available, with monohulls from 36-54’ and Catamarans 38-46’
Olbia in Northern Sardinia is the most accessible airport – just a short 40 minute flight to Rome.
Mare di Fautea, Corsica
Cala Corsara, Sardinia
Bay of Cala Spinosa, Sardinia