Corsica: seafront homes and rural villages

The beautiful Mediterranean island will host the celebrated Tour de France this year. Buy your ringside seat now
After Bradley Wiggins became our first homegrown winner of the world's greatest bicycle race in 2012, British interest will be stronger than ever in this year's Tour de France, the 100th anniversary of the Grand Départ.

For the first time, it will take in one of France's most beautiful islands, Corsica, where the Lycra-clad cyclists begin their 2,088-mile odyssey on June 29.

And what a treat they and the watching world are in for on this granite island in the Mediterranean. Corsica, 110 miles by 50, with a population of barely 300,000, has the whitest sand beaches and the most true-blue seas in Europe.

Corsica holiday homes
© Alamy
Bonifacio harbour, a busy port, is overlooked by the island's impressive fortifications

Planning ahead
Wild is the word for Corsica, from the mountainous interior with nearly 50 peaks above 6,500 feet to the many deserted beaches accessible only by determined hikers or boats.

It has managed to avoid the worst excesses of identikit overbuilding that blight much of the Med coastline — hooray — but largely because of the zealous attention of nationalistic organisations that target ostentatious, illegally built waterfront mansions built by non-Corsicans.

Even owners from the French mainland are not spared as a wealthy Parisian banker found out last summer, when his mansion in the south was razed to the ground.

"Lots of Brits have heard about the problems in Corsica and are wary of coming but it is so unnecessary," said Andy Wilson, a pilot from Welwyn in Hertfordshire, who has owned an apartment in Lumio, northern Corsica for seven years. "There is never a problem for tourists or owners of legally built homes here. I have been visiting for 23 years and it is one of the most special places in the Med with exceptional, raw scenery and good people."

Andy, 50, is so sure that Corsica is the place for him that he and his girlfriend are buying a larger villa where they plan eventually to live full-time. Their two-bedroom duplex apartment with terrace and patio is up for sale at £324,750 through Direct Corsica.

Corsica holiday homes
This manor house in Olmi-Cappella rents for between £860 and £3,200 a week. directcorsica.com
Live by the beach
With Caribbean-quality beaches at Algajola and Arinella within 10 minutes, classy Lumio, between the mountains and the sea, is a perfect base, said Andy. "We love to explore the island, sailing around Cap Corse or trekking in the mountains with friends from the Foreign Legion who are based here."

Most buyers in the charming seafront spot of L'Île Rousse look to spend £76,920 to £213,650, said Marie-Louise Filippini of Agence Calvi. A one-bedroom ground-floor apartment in a small development is £162,370 — a perfect lock up-and-leave property — with annual management fees of £1,025. A high-quality four-bedroom apartment with good sea views from its large terrace is £440,120. Both through Agence Calvi.

Homes in the hills
The fertile Balagne region covers the major part of north-west Corsica, including the perfect beaches from Calvi to L'Île Rousse and the pine and chestnut forests of inland Giussani.

Away from the coast, property prices tumble by 50 to 100 per cent, said Marie-Louise Filippini. Buyers prepared to brave the winding, vertiginous roads can find excellent value and electrifying scenery.

Corsica holiday homes
Iain and Janet Rankin, from Sussex, have been regular visitors to Corsica since 1969. They own a manor house at Casa Altiani in Olmi Cappella
In Olmi-Cappella — a delightful, rural village of red-roofed stone homes in the mountains of the Giussani, 40 minutes from Lumio — property ranges from a two-bedroom townhouse over four floors, including a sun trap terrace and private garden with exquisite mountain views for £125,620, to a six-bedroom 18th-century manor house with pool for £982,750. Both are through Direct Corsica.

The owners of the manor house are Iain and Janet Rankin from Sussex, regular visitors to Corsica since 1969. They have owned property on the island for 30 years, buying and selling four holiday homes and have also owned two companies promoting Corsican holidays. They say they have always felt safe on the island.

"Corsicans have a reputation for being loyal and we have always found them to be warm and welcoming," said Janet. "We have made so many friends in our years here, both locals and other second-home owners. "It's simply a magical, natural island, French but with a character all of its own."

Their south-facing manor house looks over the village and rents for between £860 and £3,200 a week for 20-25 weeks every year. The Rankins' company, internet-based Direct Corsica, has 150 holiday homes to rent.

Contacts:
Direct Corsica: directcorsica.com
Agence Calvi: agencecalvi.com (07714 897117)
Sotheby's International Realty: sothebysrealty.com; 00 33 (0) 64343 4445

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