corsica story and photos : paolo ciaberta

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1 corsica story and photos : paolo ciaberta 18 ADVENTURE CYCLIST o c tober/n o v e m b e r 2017

2 ADVENTURECYCLING.ORG 19

3 day 0: croissant, jam, butter, and coffee The plan was simple leave the car at the port of Vado Ligure, jump on a ferry at around 9:00 pm, take some time to eat and sleep, and then wake up to the stunning dawn on the island of Corsica. Our first stop would be a small café on the shore that serves the typical French breakfast: croissant, jam, butter, and coffee. As the sun got warmer, it was time to begin our journey. Our destination was Galeria, riding along the west coast and returning through the backcountry. We would stay in Algajola and on the way back in Saint-Florent, a small and charming seaside town full of September tourists. day 1: light, desert, and military exercises Like all Mediterranean islands, Corsica is perfect for cycling with its pure and bright light. First we climbed the hills up to Saint-Florent. The ride was short, and we soon reached the coast where we went for a swim. It s always an exciting experience the scent of the sea, the sky s reflection on the water, the feeling you get while diving in. Then we were back on the D81, which crosses what we call the Des Agriates desert, which is not really a desert but a chain of low mountains smoothly rolling into the sea. This protected area was used during the 1950s for military exercises. September is usually not very busy so the streets were free of cars and there were plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Our ride was slow there was no rush, and we had long daylight hours. We found time to dine in a restaurant along the road where a lovely lady welcomed us and described the menu, even though somehow we already knew it. After a break and some refreshment, we followed the road that led to our first destination. Unfortunately the roads were busy, but we rode just a few kilometers and quickly reached Algajola, a fortified town overlooking the sea. It s a small shelter to escape the From French breakfasts to long stretches of beach-side riding, Corsica delivers many pleasures. 20 ADVENTURE CYCLIST o c tober/n o v e m b e r 2017

4 Corsica offers a classic Mediterranean experience with some sections of road demanding multiple rides just to see them in slightly different light. ADVENTURECYCLING.ORG 21

5 Fall riding helps avoid the large summer crowds, keeping traffic low and leaving paths empty. busy centers of Calvi or L Île-Rousse. day 2: birds of prey, maquis, and relaxation There are two ways to get to Galeria, the big and busy D81 or the small and stunning D81B. Obviously we chose D81B. This twisty coastal road between the sea and the mountains is a cycle tourist s dream. We slowed down, each curve leading to a different view and each promontory to a new landscape. As we followed the road, we watched the blue and green of the sea melting into little bays, inhaled the scent of the Mediterranean Maquis, and felt the warm September sun on our skin. Shadows of birds of prey followed us along the path, and the noise of our bikes failed to spoil the sounds of nature. Cycling slowly allowed us to appreciate every detail. It s worthwhile to ride this mystical road in both directions. In fact, we returned from Galeria straightaway in order to see how the light and colors would change, especially during the afternoon when the tints are warmer and the sunset spectacular. Before returning to Algajola, we indulged in a swim in Calvi where we also enjoyed a glass of beer while watching the sunset. 22 ADVENTURE CYCLIST o c tober/n o v e m b e r 2017

6 day 3: shepherds, hunters, and boules Cycling toward the inland part of Saint-Florent where we would stay for the night, we discovered some isolated places and quiet roads populated by hunters and shepherds. On our path, we encountered towns that didn t exactly sound French: Lumio, Lavatoggio, Avapessa, Cateri, Muro, oases of peace sitting on hilltops where life slowly goes by between shadows of plane trees and houses made of stone. The few tourists livening up the coast had now disappeared, which gave us a much appreciated sense of distance from civilization. This mood would accompany us throughout the trip. Once visited, such peaceful places even the small Saint-Florent could seem chaotic and busy. The main square was crowded with locals playing French boules (bocce), officially the national Corsican sport. It was the perfect place to eat and discuss the details for the following day. day 4: dark clouds, white clouds, and knives On the fourth and final day, we headed back to Bastia to catch the ferry in the early afternoon. We chose the steepest and most direct road, only 25 kilometers, while the sky threatened us with its dark clouds. The rain spared us. On the top of the hills the clouds turned white, and we were delighted by some dazzling bursts of light. In Bastia we could feel the end of the journey while we wandered in the streets between coffee shops, knife craftsmen shows, and the harbor. We would soon embark encumbered with melancholy, fatigue, and joy. Seven years had passed since my last trip in Corsica. I m sure I ll be back again, and this time I won t wait so long. Paolo Ciaberta is a professional photographer based in Italy. His experience varies from journalism to covering theater shows and from visualizing sports to commercial business. See more of his work at cycling. paolociaberta.eu or follow on Instagram ADVENTURECYCLING.ORG 23

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