Letting the train take the strain. This perfectly sums up Arena Rails’ first tour back to Corsica since 2019 in early May. It was wonderful to return to one of our favourite destinations to travel on the infamous Trinicellu (little train in Corsican).
Corsica known as the ‘island of beauty’ has it all; beautiful Mediterranean coastline, saw-tooth mountain ranges, deep valleys, and dense forests. Best of all, the scenery can be viewed, perfectly framed, from the comfort of modern, panoramic trains that operate on the narrow-gauge, single-track railway which has operated since the 1850’s. 232km of track was laid across the rugged terrain of the island.
Gustav Eiffel designed the amazing 84m high Vecchio Viaduct whilst working on a well-known large tower in Paris!
Our tour began in London with Eurostar & TGV whisking us down to the South of France. We had an overnight in Marseille before taking the Corsica Lines Mega Express ferry to Corsica.
The ferry has a choice of restaurants, a la carte, served buffet and coffee lounges with a range of reasonably priced menus. Berths and Pullman chairs are available at a charge on board.
On arrival in Corsica, we continued to Bastia, a port town on the east coast of the island. The architecture is distinctly Italian with Saint Nicholas Square providing views of the port. The petit tren city tour took us through the historical sites with a local guide. We departed Bastia to our next destination Calvi along the northern section of the rail system. The train stopped at many local villages through the mountains and valleys planted with olive groves and citrus orchards. The last section is along the coast from L’lle-Rouse to Calvi, the train is so close to the shore that the beaches are in touching distance.
The Citadel of Calvi was visible in the distance as we travelled along the coast. There are ancient lanes to explore with a boardwalk along the coast from the harbour flanked by pine forests. Our hotel, the Saint Christophe situated overlooking the Mediterranean and the Citadel was a delight. The sunset with the colour changing on the Citadel was spectacular.
Our next train journey took us from Calvi to Corte, a fortified town, and the former capital. We stayed in the Restonica valley at the Arena Refuge hotel (no connection!) by a clear, fast flowing river with the mountains above us. A petit tren took us up to the Citadel, home to the Museum of Corsica. The lanes below the Citadel are dotted with many restaurants and shops with pretty squares to watch the world go by.
We departed Corte to take the most spectacular section of the Corsican rail system to Ajaccio. The highlight of this route is the Vecchio viaduct and Vizzavona – the highest station in Corsica. The train hugs the mountains dotted with pine and chestnut forests that perfectly frame the landscape on either side of the train before arrival into the lush countryside on the outskirts of Ajaccio.
The capital city of Corsica has a distinctly south of France feel to it with the old town bordering the port and marina overlooking a horseshoe bay. Of course, its’ most famous son is Napoleon Bonaparte. Various street names, squares, restaurants and even the airport bear Napoleons name! His name is very much at the heart of Ajaccio's identity.
It was time to say goodbye to beautiful Corsica with an overnight stay in Marseille before returning to London on the TGV/Eurostar services. We had a wonderful trip exploring the ‘Island of beauty’ following the hibernation of the last two years.
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