Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Piana & the Calanches de Piana

I visited Piana many years ago on a work visit and vaguely remembered the pretty little village, but as I was in the area, I thought I’d stop off and wander round. The village itself is fairly small, but that didn’t seem to bother the three coach-loads of tourists who arrived shortly after me!

Life in Piana seems to centre around the pink and white church with intricately painted doors, and the small village square where there are a number of bars and restaurants covered with brightly coloured geraniums, ivy and palm trees. As well as the obligatory souvenir shop which was packed with French OAPs, there is a little bakery where the locals seem to spend a fair amount of time chatting and catching up on local gossip, so don’t expect to get served quickly!! From the car park there is a nice view of the village with the Calanches, but this morning they were shrouded in cloud.

Just 2km from the village is one of the most famous sites in Corsica and a UNESCO World Heritage site – The Calanches de Piana. The scenery was not at all how I remembered it, but perhaps even more awe inspiring with huge red granite peaks jutting up almost from nowhere.

The road through the Calanches is actually only about a mile, but it can take forever when it’s busy. Today we had to contend with coaches trying to navigate windy narrow stretches, tourists doing the same as I was (looking more at the scenery than where they are going), photographers stopping every two minutes and the odd goat/pig who wandered into the road!

One of the most famous ‘tafoni’ which is the name for rocks sculpted by the wind is the Tete du Chien (head of the dog), which is really only recognisable when you approach the Calanches from the Porto direction. If time permits, I’d recommend a round trip to really get the best from the visit. There are also a number of walks that start from the parking area at the Tete du Chien and the café Roches Bleues – some easy, some not so easy – so it was a shame I didn’t have more time.

Just as pretty but less well known is the route that continues on from Piana to Porto and then on to Evisa on the D84. Here the hillsides are covered with chestnuts and the verdent greenery offers a stark contrast to the red and grey granite peaks.

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