Some of the most distinctive – and splendidly situated – prehistoric remains in Europe are to be found on Corsica. Surveying the coastal plains in the southeast of the island is a chain of towers containing the remnants of dwellings and granaries constructed around 1,500BC. But it’s in the southwest that you’ll find the greatest of all Corsica’s archeological sites. In addition to the remains of fortified ‘towers’ built around rock outcrops, Filitosa holds an assemblage of anthropomorphic standing stones, strikingly carved with faces and swords. Whether memorial stones or warnings to would-be attackers no one is certain, but the menhirs have endured as potent reminders of the people who lived, hunted and farmed the area 8,000 years ago.
After petering into a band of wind-bent maquis, the southern tip of Corsica has one final flourish in store before tumbling into the straits. A huge chalk cliff, weirdly eroded by waves and weather, rises sheer from water. The striated white walls screen an extraordinary secret. Behind them huddles a natural harbour, entered through a narrow opening between two headlands.
One of the legendary anchorages of the Mediterranean, Bonifacio has a long history. Homer mentions it in the Odyssey, and everyone from the Romans to the Pisans, Aragonese and French have left their mark. Today, it’s a tourist honeypot, but one whose extraordinary location and beautiful medieval architecture effortlessly transcend the crowds that flood its cobbled streets in summer.
Rising forlorn and rather neglected from the fields to the south of Bastia is an early 12th-century Pisan church known as ‘La Canonica’. Made of beautiful Cap Corse marble, its walls are enlivened with a menagerie of carved animals and geometric patterns. Much older fragments of Corinthian-style columns are also visible in places, hinting at the Roman origins of the site, where a garrison town was founded in 93BC. Nearby, vestiges of an early Christian basilica dating from the 5th century AD include a mosaic depicting Neptune surrounded by dancing dolphins. Only a stone’s throw from Poretta airport, the spot makes a fitting one to bid farewell to the island before heading home on Air Corsica’s flight to Stansted. Look out for it shortly after take off, as your plane banks north towards the French mainland.
Air Corsica is now operating flights from Stansted to Ajaccio, Bastia and Figari, allowing great flexibility for any itinerary. The service operates from early May to early November, with up to nine flights per week from June to September. Fares start from £49 one way and that price includes a generous 23kg hold luggage allowance, 12kg cabin bag and free seat selection. Car rental is available at each airport and Air Corsica has a preferred arrangement with Hertz so you can book your vehicle at the same time as your flights. aircorsica.com