Have you cruised to the French Island of Corsica? Did you tour the Prunelli Gorges?
Isn’t it fun when cruise ship itineraries that you’ve experienced multiple times add new ports to their offerings? It’s one of the reasons Alan and I extended our Atlantic Crossing on Silver Wind to include the next segment that visited Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily.
How could we be in the beautiful Mediterranean and not experience these new destinations?
You may be saying, “those aren’t new cruise destinations.” But they were to us.
We typically travel on itineraries concentrating on the cities that hug the Mediterranean Coast in Spain, France and Italy—with an occasional Baleric Island thrown in for good measure. We’re pleased to see that luxury cruise lines are spreading their wings to include a more varied Mediterranean cruise experience.
Ajaccio Shore Excursion with Silversea
You may recognize the French Island of Corsica as Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthplace. And there’s plenty to see in Ajaccio that celebrates the city’s famous son, Napoleon.
But Alan and I can never resist the opportunity to explore nature, especially after so many days cruising. That’s why we chose a Prunelli Gorges tour as our Ajaccio cruise excursion.
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Touring Prunelli Gorges
As the bus traveled along the Corsican coastline, it was tempting to jump off to spend time on Corsica’s pretty beaches. But Alan and I are on the bus to explore Corsica’s rugged, mountainous interior so beach time will wait for another visit.
If the bus windows had been open as we traveled through the Zipitolli Forest in the Prunelli River valley, we would have quickly learned why it is rumored that Napoleon could smell his island with his nose. Rock rose, myrtle, and mint create a fragrant mixture of evergreen herbs known as macchia or maquis.
As the bus negotiates severe curves on the road that travels the red, granite cliffs populated with chestnut and pine trees, we forget all about sweet smelling shrubs. At each curve, the driver honks to warn oncoming traffic. Yes, the road is that narrow and steep.
When the bus pauses at a one-lane bridge for a photo stop, we appreciate the chance to stretch our legs. Water babbles through a stony course that reminded me of the high desert in the American Southwest.
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Stopping at the Lake Tolla Overlook
We continue the drive to another photo stop at the Lake Tolla Overlook. The man-made lake serves as the water source for the region as well as hydro-electric power. Across the lake, the village of Tolla tumbles down the hillside.
And everywhere there are mountains. Several hiking trails started from the parking lot and would have been fun to explore on an independent trip or a guided one.
The drive continues before stopping for a short break at Ocana, a typical Corsican mountain village. According to our humorous guide, if the grandmothers of the village don’t approve of you, you can’t live here. And picturesque mountain villages in Corsica are becoming popular second home or retirement locations, so the grandmothers have plenty of vetting to do these days.
Alan and I take a short walk, creating our own photo tour. Wisteria blooms purple in the side yard of a stone house.
Orange poppies grown alongside the road. And then there are the colorful shutters of the stone houses, we could spend hours taking photos here.
But we couldn’t leave the village without sampling a glass of Pietra. The amber-colored Corsican beer is brewed from a mix of chestnut flour and malt. If there had been time, we would have enjoyed a third one. Yes, it’s good.
Things to do in Ajaccio
Not up for a shore excursion when your ship visits this lovely spot on Corsica? Here are more things to do in Ajaccio from the official tourism website:
- Cathedral Notre Dame de L’Assomption
- Chapelle Imperiale
- Place Marechal-Force
- Maison Bonaparte (very popular restaurant)
- Eglise St-Jean Baptiste, 12th century stone church rebuilt in 15th century to the neo-Gothic style
- Hotel de Ville (town hall) Empire-style grand salon contains portraits of the Bonaparte family
Are you looking for even more adventure? We found the following experiences offered at Get Your Guide:
- Go Canyoneering in Zoicu Canyon, it’s only an hour away from Ajaccio.
- Take a half-day aquatic hike
Alan and I returned to the ship refreshed from a morning out in nature, even though most of our time was spent on a bus. Seeing Corsica’s interior was worth the ride.