Stylist’s editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski gathers up some of her favourite people for a Mediterranean island escape
Stood on an empty beach, sun beating down and with not a speck of shade in sight, it was hard to imagine where a paddleboard was going to appear from. But we had been promised that Chevanu was the place to be, a small cove accessed by a dusty unsigned road. “Wait here,” our guide told us, before dashing back to his car, leaving the four of us, squinting towards the sun, sipping from our ever-decreasing single bottle of water. Suddenly a speedboat appeared from around the headland, coming towards us, piled high with paddleboards.
After a quick negotiation (“You keep as long as you like, just call me when you want to leave”), we found ourselves alone, again, in our own private beach playground. Luckily, for four novice paddleboarders, with zero instructions or people to ask for help, the sheltered bay was stiller than a swimming pool, and we found ourselves skimming through the warm, crystal waters, past the pine-tree lined beaches and laughing hysterically whenever one of us tumbled head first into the sea. Such days are the making of life-long memories and friendships, and Corsica is the most amazing place to travel with friends.
At 113 miles long, Corsica is a fairly large and quite hilly island, so we settled in the south near the teetering town of Bonifacio. The coastline is incredible, from the isolated coves of the south with wild beaches like Torrano and Chevanu, to the beach-club lined east coast. The beaches here are hard to access without a car, with many sat at the bottom of adrenalin-pumping cliff drives, but they are all well worth the adventure of the journey. The sand is pale and soft, the water clear and warm and the beaches shelve gently into the sea which makes the water shallow for what seems like miles.
Palombaggia beach – a long stretch of coastline near Porto- Vecchio – is dotted with beach clubs and restaurants. It can be hard to decide where to park up and take your chances, but we liked Palm Beach – with our feet in the sand, we feasted on seafood and the local Domaine De Tannella rose wine, occasionally dunking ourselves in the sea to cool down.
Further along the coast, Santa Giulia Bay is idyllic. A large lagoon type beach, backed by mountains and with white sands and turquoise waters, it’s more reminiscent of a beach from Thailand or the Caribbean than something you’d usually find in Europe. Walking along the beach away from the crowds, we discovered expanses of space and the most surprising cafe, L’Oasis, a tea and smoothie specialist complete with hammocks, day beds and swinging chairs, which did everything possible to live up to its name.
Our home for the week was I Bruzzi, a five-bedroom villa made for sharing with friends. The modern building is only a few years old, and is a beautiful architectural vision of wood and glass. At the centre is a triangular courtyard, complete with jacuzzi, driftwood benches and a wild flowered green roof, surrounded by sliding glass doors which (when opened) make the entire building seem wall-less.
The front of the villa faces the south coast, an incredible place from which to watch the sun set over a glittering sea complete with a moored catamaran bobbing in the distance. The infinity pool, flanked by decking, bean bags and sun beds, opens into a wild garden, where a secret table hidden among the trees makes a great spot for an evening negroni.
There are no bad bedrooms, three face the sea and the other two are in complete isolated privacy at the back of the villa. With the open-plan living area, ability to slide open every “wall” and more wireless speakers and atmospheric lights than a boutique festival, this was the ultimate space for a pool party.
Food is a big part of life in Corisca, with its fusion of traditional French and Italian flavours, and there are two basic, but tasty, pizzerias just a short walk from the villa. In nearby Bonifacio – a maze of lanes, churches and restaurants built on a crumbling chunk of limestone – there are lots of fantastic places to eat and people-watch. The land train takes you from the harbour with its super yachts and waterside fish restaurants to the old town, where we perched in bars with spectacular views but sheer drops underneath, and tucked into mouth-watering crepes and cider in a very French town square by an old church. In Porto-Vecchio, a charming boutique-lined town with amazing sea views, we devoured huge salads packed with prawns and salmon in a restaurant called Chez Felix tucked discreetly away behind a main square.
But the best meal of the week was created by chef Juliette and served in our own villa. We tucked into caramelised tomatoes, baked in honey and seeds, that looked like tiny toffee apples, tuna tataki starter with edible flowers, home-made ratatouille, fish baked in salt served with rosemary and garlic baked new potatoes. After all that, we struggled to finish the creamy crème brûlé.
When travelling with friends there are three things you must consider carefully: 1) the location 2) the villa 3) the actual friends. At I Bruzzi in Corsica, the first two are already sorted out for you… which means that all you have to do is choose the perfect people.
Lisa travelled to Corsica with The Thinking Traveller. Prices at I Bruzzi start from £6,099 per week sleeping up to 10 people. In-villa cook service from £163 per day (lunch or dinner).
Images: I Bruzzi