Corsica Things to Do Tips by kokoryko Top 5 Page for this destination
Corsica Things to Do: 119 reviews and 298 photos
The symbol of Castagniccia
In Corsica, a whole region, located between Corte and the Eastern Coast is named Castagniccia, meaning the chestnut tree country; the area is covered of wild and cultivated chestnut woods and orchards. In the area of Corte, and further west, the chestnut trees are more isolated, but they are very impressive with their big trunks (picture 2). The chestnut was until recently a staple food in Corsica’s countryside. Chestnuts were used as floor (pure or added to wheat flour) for bread and pastries, just cooked or grilled as whole fruits, used to make a sort of jam (crème de marrons), or candied for making glazed maroons, etc. . . The bad quality chestnuts were used for food for the pigs. In the past, when food was rare, there were still chestnuts.
Since 1945, the chestnut sales have declined by 90%, and most trees we see in the countryside are old, but beautiful trees, and the chestnuts they produce are mostly “harvested” by the pigs who roam freely under their foliage; that makes wonderful future sausages and ham!
I like a lot trees which have a “personality”, and here are pictures of some chestnut trees of the Golo Valley, where you see that spring is coming (picture 1); they give some character to the landscapes (picture 3), or to the small roads (picture 4). One can well identify the trees, even in winter, with their special shape and their dark colours; near villages, they make orchards and sometimes surround cemeteries (picture 5), a peaceful tree!
Antonius and the pig
Elsewhere in this page, I wrote about St Antonius not Antonius of Padua, the great one; here he is! I was not really surprised to “meet” him here, and I liked a lot to see him, not in the classical representation of resisting against an irresistible temptation, but as a simple pig shepherd! It is known he loved all animals, and the “dirty” pig was one he loved the most. Of course, in Corsica, where pigs are “venerated” (in the way, they make a wonderful base for lots of delicacies. . . ), it could not done less than have a veneration for St Antonius. Here he is, with his pig!
In Casamaccioli, there are two reasons to visit the church, the Santa and St Antonius!
Santa di Niolu
I was not there when the Santa du Niolu is taken out for the yearly procession at Casamaccioli, on 8th of September, every year, for the local fair. I only met her in the church (picture 1), with other saints displayed in niches or on pedestals.
Casamaccioli is a nice little quiet village where a stop at the church, during a walk around the lake of Calacuccia is a good thing to do. The bell tower (picture 2) you can see when arriving in the village is separated from the main building, and there is a striking contrast between this austere tower and the baroque style of the church, with its bright yellow colour and the main door with the Lady of the Niolu on the tympanum (picture 3). The boys were not really interested in going in, but I took a few minutes to have a look, as it was open (usually the churches, now are closed, a pity) as there were workers doing renovation works. I told about baroque? Yes, baroque, like in Italy or Southern Germany, but not as “flamboyant”, somehow “decent” baroque.
Inside, the marble columns add to the colours, there are paints and painted statues all around, but that was not too much; St Roch and St Christopher above the altar (picture 4) watch who is coming in and on the ceiling, painted angels and a nativity also look at you (picture 5). There are many paints and statues in this church, well known from Corsican pilgrims, and the people who com to venerate the Santa du Niolu; among all those saints represented in the church is a special one, who deserves a separate tip :) )
I like that atmosphere
When you walk between the villages, you can pass by nice romantic cemeteries which look like they are abandoned since centuries.
One kilometre east of Casamaccioli, near the sealed road I stepped across one of these nice
places; a small wall circling a field where the graves are just marked by tombstones and crosses (picture 1), still snow on the mountains, green grass, an isolated place. . . . a nice place for a rest (picture 2). . . ! Different types of crosses (picture 3), reflecting different periods, possibly, or different wealth, social status, or. . nothing special. . . It is just a nice quiet place, where your body can relax for a while and your thoughts can wander whilst looking at the crosses and the surroundings. . .
A cute animal
The Cinto area belongs to the Parc National de Haute Corse, and as you are in a National Park, you can expect to see some wildlife; we were lucky, besides the birds, to spot a mouflon (equivalent to the American Mountain sheep), who took his time crossing the trail (picture 2); despite its hunting has been banned in 1953, this animal is rather shy, and you are quite lucky to meet one of these animals, as it has a population of about 500 animals in Corsica.
Some biologists think that the mouflon is not endemic to Corsica, but it is a species which originates from early domestic sheep, introduced in Palaeolithic in Corsica and then escaped and returned to wild state; the domestication was at its early ages!
Well, this one took his time, as we stayed quiet, but it preferred to go away, and soon disappeared in a small valley (picture 3)
There are lots of pigs in the Corsican mountains, there is cattle, there are also sheep and goats running freely on the rocks (picture 4) or the slopes of the mountains. Corsican cheeses are famous and I think that the quality of milk is related to the way of breeding these animals, that means leaving them as free as possible. The sheep you see on the three first pictures are of the Corsican Breed, a breed with long not curly wool, very well adapted to rough terrain conditions; there are about 100.000 in Corsica, but only 15.000 are “officially recorded” in herd books! This breed is one of the few still presenting high variations in colours and stature. They are bred for milk and meat, wool is a secondary product. Those animals are interesting to watch and observe, as they are well adapted to difficult terrain conditions, and are almost as easy on rocks as goats.
And, Ah! Back to pigs! In Corsica, most “domestic animals” run freely around and do what they want, they can give lessons of biology or even sex education (as for most of kids who live in the countryside), but sometimes, they make it wrong. . . there are even gay pigs in Corsica! (picture 5); well, just for fun. . . .
The pigs of Corsica deserve (at least) a second tip, for many reasons, in my opinion!
First, they look quite cute, almost wild (picture 1), and that makes them more than just future food. I must say, I liked to look at these animals, a bit shy (you never know if the butcher is coming!) (picture 2), running freely between the shrubs, sometimes looking curiously, sometimes walking on rocky ridges (picture 3) , or having, like all pigs their bath in a mud pit (picture 4). . . . .
Strangely, in Corsica, St Antonius of Padua is a very venerated saint, you find shrines dedicated to him in villages, on sides of trails, roadsides. . . . and this, with all the pigs around made me think of St Antonius, the Great, the older one, father of all monks, who resisted to a famous temptation, lived like a hermit and is very often represented with swine; the reason for which swine are a symbol in paintings representing him is not clear. Wilhelm Busch (father of comic strips), confused Antonius of Padua and Antonius the Great, and in a strip he featured him, loving that animal, and taking him with him to the Paradise (picture 5)! At the door of heaven, Maria told Antonius:
”Willkommen! Gehet ein in Frieden!
Hier wird kein Freund vom Freund geschieden
Es kommt so manches Schaf herein,
Warum nicht auch ein braves Schwein!!“
(Welcome, peace on you, here we do not separate friends, some sheep happen to come in, why not a good pig!
Very yummy !
Corsican are very proud of their ham, sausages, coppa and other delicatessen, and besides the know how to elaborate them, the “raw material” of top quality is a fundamental ingredient which gives them their unsurpassable delicate taste. Yes, the swine which roam wild in the hills and countryside around the villages have a different taste from their cousins bred in industrial farms!
What you see on picture 1 is not the result of some industrial process, but a long work done with skills and knowledge, for the pleasure of the palate of the locals and visitors!
Here, on the road sides, you can meet black pigs (picture 2), but also hidden in the shrubs, when you walk on some path (picture 3), having here different colours, elsewhere, you meet the young generation crossing the street not far from a village (picture 4). Popular wisdom (and great novelists, like George Orwell) talk about the cleverness of these animals, but alas, one day they finish in the butcher shop where you can buy some sausage to take along for picnic in the mountains (picture 5) . . . . .
St Franciscus awaits you !
No, this monastery is not an architectural marvel, but history has passed by, and it was here that the freedom fighters of June 1774 have been hung on chestnut trees! A plaque recalls this when you arrive at the monastery.
A big white building, with the church on the right side and the “quarters” on the left (picture 5), a nice yard with grass and flowers at the back where you can look at the towers. . . (picture 2).
This monastery, is now a “Gite d’étape” (a hostel) still owned by the religious congregation, but run by a “civil” couple;
The church can be visited, but do not expect some grandiose religious art; like for everything, there are exceptions and the average. . . here we are in average, but it is worth, before you leave the place where you slept, to have a look, just for curiosity. St Franciscus statues are there, of course (First and third pictures); architecture is plain, there is something more or less baroque (picture 4).
Directions: 1500 m East of Calacuccia, on the road from Calacuccia to Albertacce, right side coming from Calacuccia.
42° 20’00”N; 09° 00’ 11”E
Albertacce, a small village above the Calacuccia lake counts 250 inhabitants; there are a bit more things to see here than in Calacuccia, and, if not really picturesque, you can look at the churches and their bell towers (picture 1), walk in the quiet main street and look at the coloured window shutters of the dry stone houses (picture 2), and discover here and there a modest Christian statuette inserted in the wall (picture 3).
Many guides report of an archaeological museum in Albertacce, but generally forget to warn it is closed most of time, and this was the case when I wanted to have a look! (picture 4). A local archaeologist made research in the area and he stored all his finds in this museum; there are mainly prehistoric items, from what I heard.
This is an austere mountain village which looks almost abandoned in winter. . . (picture 5).
In Albertacce is a famous convent (other tip) where you can find accommodation.
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