Travel – Hunting for A Home: Splendid Isolation On The Island of Corsica

An upturn in fortunes for the Corsican independence movement hasn’t managed to put off a new wave of buyers. Located just 1 hour 30 minutes from Paris, the “Isle of Beauty” certainly lives up to its name.

In the French elections in June, Emmanuel Macron’s coalition won a landslide victory, but did not take a single seat in Corsica. The region instead elected three MPs from the autonomist “For Corsica” alliance, the first time that secessionists have taken a seat at the Palais Bourbon, the national assembly.

Corsica has always had a distinct identity, separate to the rest of France. In fact, it was part of the italian maritime republics of Pisa and Genoa until the 18th century and it even has its own language, Corsu. Italian is also widely spoken and spaghetti is as likely to be on the menu as escargots. The island’s cultural, historical and geographical divisions from France are set in a wild, unspoilt environment, boosting interest from property investors. Between January and August, inquiries were up 32 percent year on year. So far in 2017, transactions are up 20 percent on last year, with two thirds of visits leading to sales.

Corsica’s charm lies in its varied landscapes, its preserved nature and the softness of its microclimate often 20 degrees celsius in December. Stunning pink cliffs drop sharply down to implausibly clear turquoise waters which elsewhere are fringed with sandy beaches. Inland, high granite peaks tower up in breathtaking shapes while kites and buzzards circle the aromatic vegetation.

It is also relatively affordable with prices around 30 percent lower than the Cote d’Azur. Prices in Corsica fell about 15 percent between 2011 and 2015, but have now stabilised. New-build developments are limited to residential areas under a new urban plan. For example, a four-bedroom apartment with terrace in the Résidences de la Cruciata, a residential complex of 57 apartments in the village of Pietrosella, near Ajaccio, is o the market for about €1m.

The most sought after areas are in the south of the island around Bonifacio and Porto-Vecchio, some going as far as calling it the “St Tropez” of Corsica. Waterfront villas round here go for up to €20,000 per square metre. Other areas in the same price bracket include Palombaggio, a white sandy beach bordered by maritime pines, and in Domaine de Sperone near Bonifacio, which looks over the rocky Lavezzi island and has the only 18-hole golf course on Corsica.

Transport links to Corsica are awkward with the few direct flights or ferries from outside France, as well as a slow (but of course charming) winding roads all through the island. As a result, 70 percent of home buyers are French. The island’s relative isolation has helped prevent excessive development, and nature reserves make up about one third of the island – making it a paradise for outdoor activities and hiking.

Corsica’s pristine coastline also owes much to the separatist movement which waged a 40 year armed struggle ending only a few years ago. A long lasting bombing campaign targeted property developers and although no tourist has ever been harmed, mass developers steered clear. Since 2014 arms have been laid down and the ceasefire seems to have helped to heal old wounds. Either way, potential house buyers might want to give the newly minted peace some time to find their way before joining the fray.