Monday, 26 October 2009

Alta Rocca Village Tour – La Corse Profond!

Today was one of those days that makes you glad to be alive; bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds and not even a breeze which made it feel much warmer than the actual temperature of 22 degrees. I didn’t fancy the beach so I decided to do a little tour of the villages of the Alta Rocca.

Being the slick travel professional that I am, I set off without looking at the map and quickly found myself at Viggianello heading towards Arbellara. I really wanted to go and scrutinise the beautiful old granite house next to the church, but the obligatory old lady outside was giving me the evil eye so hopping over the gate was out of the question (this time!).

Fozzano was next on my route. We often walk the track that leads from Baracci to Fozzano, but have never made it all the way up to the village as they don’t provide oxygen along the way! I have visited the village many times by road, but this time I was put off stopping by the herd of cows milling about. Worryingly, I saw more cows than people in Fozzano...

From here, the road winds up towards Santa Maria Figgianella, passing the odd bergerie and little stone building. I spotted one battered old roof that reminded me of the red tiled roofs of southern Tuscany. Who would believe it is nearly November.

The village of Santa Maria Figgianella itself is quite small. The road leading up to the village is just about wide enough for two cars, but at this time of year where they are doing roadworks, this can be a bit challenging. It’s worth the effort though as the village is really pretty, and during the season there is a little atelier (craftsman) you can visit.

Just below the village on a little promontory is the church and bell tower. In spring, it is surrounded by oleander bushes in all shades of pinks and reds. The church itself was closed, so I couldn’t visit inside.

What really surprised me was the silence. One of the houses in the centre of the village was being renovated, but even so the only sound I heard was my feet crunching along on the gravel. I suddenly found myself very conscious of the noise of my footfall and realised I was tiptoeing along!

I continued on heading in the direction of what I thought was Zonza, but very quickly realised wasn’t. I’d been so busy singing along to my 70’s disco anthems CD that I hadn’t realised that I was on completely the wrong road until I recognised the huge red rock formations and far reaching views of the Col de Siu.

From here I had the choice to turn round and re-trace my steps, but as most of the locals had stared at my right hand drive car like it was something from outer space, that didn’t really appeal, or continue along the same road in a circuit back to Baracci. Option B it is then.

So eventually I found myself on the D268 heading towards Sante Lucie de Tallano - hurrah! I was tempted to deviate and go down to the rock pools at Zoza to eat my picnic of Viande Grisson and Parmesan shavings with cornichons, but in the end I decided to stop at the little chapel after the convent and eat my lunch with a view over the village.

I settled myself on the stone bench outside the chapel to enjoy a chapter of Peter Mayle in the sunshine, but there was so much still to fit in, it was soon time to press on. I had the road nearly to myself which is one of the joys of Corsica at this time of the year. It also meant that I could swerve off at a moments notice to take a photo of Mela.

This is a village that I have often noticed as we pass by on our way to the mountains, but never had the time to stop or even take photos out of the car window. My main aim wasn’t far away now, and that was San Gavino di Carbini.

I’d visited the church many years ago and wanted to go back as the setting was so beautiful. I missed the first signpost for the ‘Eglise’ so had to turn round, and when I finally got there, I realised it wasn’t the church I’d remembered at all! The one I was thinking of Carbini not San Gavino di Carbini. Drats!!

It was worth another look anyway as San Gavino di Carbini is unusual in that the bell tower is completely separate from the church. I was quite disturbed to find that the mayor is a 'Don' - say no more! As it’s half term this week, there were quite a few kids running around and building forts in the next field so I was soon on my way to Zonza. I stopped for water from the source just before the village and the autumn colours were just amazing.

The sun was shining through the trees creating a dappled sunlight, and there was every colour from green through yellows to deep russet oranges. Zonza is a favourite haunt of ours on the way to the mountains, but today I drove straight through to Quenza where I stopped to take a photo of the castle that is actually a private house, albeit abandoned.

It was here that I was reminded again that this is really rural Corsica as a little old bloke of about 100 drove by on an ancient tractor. I wasn’t sure which one I was more concerned about making it to wherever they were going!

As I approached Serra di Scopomena I realised that I’d been here before with Patricia and Serge. We’d had a drink at the café before visiting the ancient water mill where we ate cherries from the tree next to the road and I made myself feel quite sick!

This is actually a much larger village than I’d realised, and felt very friendly which surprised me for some reason. Aullène was next, followed by Petreto Bicchisano which was another surprise. I have only ever seen this village from the main road before and the view over the rooftops to the dome of the church was gorgeous, but sadly no space to stop and take photos. This would be a beautiful spot at sunset – what a shame I was just a bit too early...

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