The citizens of Calvi on the north-west coast of Corsica claim that contrary to popular belief, Christopher Columbus was not born in Genoa in 1451 but was actually born in their port town some ten years earlier. If there is any truth to their claim you’d have to wonder why the great explorer ever left such a beautiful place! Today the marina in Calvi is a popular port of call for the many private yachts sailing around the Mediterranean during the summer months. It also attracts a small number of cruise ships which allow passengers to visit the ancient Citadel overlooking the harbour or travel further afield to discover the historic and natural attractions of the region.
Port of Calvi
Cruise ships visiting Calvi will anchor offshore and tender their passengers to Quai Landry in the town centre. From there it’s a short but steep walk up to the Citadel and other attractions located within its walls.
Getting to Calvi Port
During the summer months there are a limited number of direct flights to the nearby Aéroport de Calvi Sainte Catherine which lies just 7km inland from Calvi. Other airports worth checking out are Aéroport de Bastia Poretta (95km east) and Aéroport d’Ajaccio-Napoléon-Bonaparte (120km south) which also attract a limited number of international arrivals during the summer months. The best alternative is to fly into Marseille Provence Airport on the mainland then take a private transfer to the Corsica Ferries terminal in Toulon. There’s a regular daytime ferry crossing to L’Île-Rousse which lies just 25km to the north-east of Calvi. Day and night crossing are also available to the Port of Ajaccio but it’s then a 3-hour drive to reach Calvi.
Some travellers may prefer to fly to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport then transfer to the Corsica Ferries Terminal in Nice from where there is a direct ferry service to Calvi.
Passengers who wish to discover more of the region would be advised to book shore excursions through their cruise line as public transport options are very limited. One interesting way to get around is on the scenic narrow gauge railway called Le Train Corse which runs from Calvi to Bastia in the north and to Ajaccio in the south. With ten departures per day in each direction during the summer months it can be used as a hop-on, hop-off service by passengers. Another popular excursion is a boat trip from Quai Landry to the spectacular Scandola Nature Reserve.
Main Tourist Attractions
Overlooking the marina is the medieval Citadelle de Calvi which is the town’s main attraction. The climb up to this 13th century Genoese fortress can prove challenging to some but the views over the Bay of Calvi from its ramparts make the effort well worthwhile. Within the walls of the citadel are a number of other historic attractions including the Governor’s Palace and the Baroque Cathédrale St-Jean-Baptiste. There’s also a house which claims to have been the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.
Insider Tip: All along Quai Adolphe Landry overlooking the harbour there are terrace restaurants which provide an idyllic sport to enjoy lunch. Highly recommended is Le Comme Chez Soi which offers a fine selection of typically Corsican dishes.
Outside the walls nearer to the port is the pink Église Sainte-Marie which is recognised as a French Historic Monument. A lovely walk for those who are physically able is to the chapel of Notre Dame de la Serra which stands on a hill some 3km inland. Visitors are rewarded with panoramic views of the Corsican countryside. The lovely beaches along this stretch of the Corsican coast have turned Calvi into a popular holiday destination. The most convenient beach for cruise ship passengers wishing to enjoy some sun, sea and sand is Plage de Calvi which lies just 2km south of the port and can be reached on foot. This 4km long beach is one of the most beautiful on the island.
Shore Excursions Beyond Calvi
Heading 15km north from Calvi leads to the former fishing village of Algajola which now serves as a popular tourist destination centred around an ancient fortress on the seafront. A short drive inland leads to the beautiful hilltop town of Sant’Antonino which is officially recognised as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’ (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). Continuing along the coast road leads to L’Île-Rousse which is a chic holiday resort lying 25km north-east of Calvi. A further 45km along a winding road leads to Saint-Florent which is another stylish resort with a history dating back to the Genoese. Its upmarket marina welcomes many luxury yachts during the summer season whilst proximity to the wine region of Patrimonio provides an additional string in the bow of the local tourism industry. Heading south from Calvi leads to the Golfe de Porto which is a spectacular natural region which appears on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It consists of three main attractions:
- Réserve Naturelle De Scandola
- Golfe de Girolata
- Calanques de Piana
Accessing these features by land is very difficult so most visitors try to arrange boat tours of the Gulf departing from the towns of Porto or Galeria.
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