Haute Corse is one of the two administrative departments of the Corsica region, the other one being Corse du Sud . The department gathers 148,000 inhabitants, living in 236 towns and villages. The administrative centre of the department is Bastia, with 43,577 inhabitants. The department, and indeed the whole Corsica region, has a very different history from all the other French departments, probably a past more similar to overseas department than the metropolitan France. Let’s have a closer look at the history of the Beauty Island.
Corsica is located in the Mediterranean sea, north of Sardinia. As a result, its history has been marked by Greeks, then Romans, Italians and French invasions, not to mention Arab invasions during the 8th and 9th centuries. This is why Corsica has nowadays such a strong cultural identity, very different from France. As a matter of fact, its culture has almost nothing to see with the French one, as it is closer from the Italian one. It is especially very close from Sardinia, probably because they share most of their past.
In 1790, when all French departments were created, Corsica was administratively created and has as a capital Bastia, until 1793, when the area was split into 2 departments: Liamone and Golo, which are respectively the Corse du Sud and Haute Corse. After being under English supervision, the island was definitely split into two departments in 1976. Corsica has a special political and administrative status, which is always being under political discussions, and which is always the source of many conflicts that happen in the island.
But even though Corsica is renowned for its strong cultural identity, it is also worldwide renowned for the beauty of its beaches and its still preserved countryside, especially in the mountains. In Haute Corse, most beaches are stone beaches, but they are still very beautiful, and the area is less touristic than the south, which offers postal card views!
In France in 2009 a house is sold €3,200 /sq m. Since in Haute Corse prices are averagely around €3,000 /sq m, we can say that the island is fairly expensive. Of course this is understandable as it is a very touristic place, where rental opportunities are high and where views are breathtaking. In some touristic places, prices can even reach more than €4,000 /sq m, this is the case for instance in Saint Florent (€4,159 /sq m), Lumio, a lovely village between seafront and mountain (€4,665 /sq m), or again Calvi, located by Lumio (€4.,160 /sq m).
As already said, Corsica offers great rental opportunities, especially in summer. Indeed, with over than 1,500,000 over night stays from foreigners, and almost 35,500,000 over night stays from French people in 2007, the beauty island is one of the most touristic places in France.
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Cultural heritage: when we talk about the culture or the identity, it is hard to make a difference between the two departments, as the boundary is artificial and both departments have of course the same assets. Corsica is renowned in France to have a very strong cultural identity, and this can be shown for instance by the fact that 70% of the population can speak the local language, which is a branch of Italian. Local music is also very traditional, and you’ll hear traditional voices songs for any kind of events, such as weddings, hunting games or only lullabies.
Gastronomy: Mediterranean gastronomy is famous for being one of the healthiest in the world. Olive oil, introduced in the island by Greeks, centuries ago, is used in all the dishes. It is mainly produced in the Balagne area, and is frequently awarded prizes for its flavour and quality. The charcuterie in the beauty island is definitely another delight to taste, along with cheeses and some wines. Some traditional dishes include: ‘Aziminu’ which is a kind of Bouillabaisse (a seafood and fish soup), polenta (boiled cornmeal), and as regards pastries you should taste the Canistrelli, which are white wine biscuits, the fiadone, which is a cheesecake made with the typical brocciu cheese, and the chestnut flan.
Tranquillity and scenery: usually when we talk about Corsica we always mention beautiful sand beaches and villages in the top of a cliff, but we often forget to say that Corsica is also a fairly wild region, where all the inland has been very preserved from tourism and pollution. In addition to the numerous small villages in the mountain, which might not be easily reachable, unless you know the area, you can visit Corte, which is a fairly large town (14,000 inhabitants) and which houses the university of Corsica. You will be delighted by the charm and authenticity of the town, in a breathtaking mountain surrounding.
Climate and weather: if many French or foreigner tourists choose Corsica for their holiday destination it is mainly because of the beautiful Mediterranean weather. Being in Corsica is just like being in Greece or Italy. It does reach very high temperature (sometimes 40°C), however the way and rhythm of life are adapted to the climate. Most people are having a nap between 12 and 4pm, and main activities take place in the morning or in the late afternoon.
Beautiful beaches: this is of course the main asset of the Beauty island. The most renowned beaches are located in the south of the region though, however in the north, even if you find less white sand beaches you do find beautiful places, such as Saint Florent. In Haute Corse, most beaches are pebble beaches, and as a result most visitors prefer the south of the region. You can then take advantage of beautiful landscapes without being bothered by too many tourists.
Outdoor activities: Haute Corse and Corsica in general, boasts an extraordinary large and rich natural heritage which will charm nature lovers. In addition to beaches and mountains, we can mention lakes, rivers, and other small islands around the main one. As a result you can hike, practice water activities, bike, go horse riding, and do eventually all kind of outdoor activities in an amazing natural frame.
Villages in Corsica are built on the mountain side, usually on a sloping land, never on the coast as it is not a protective area. The main material is the stone, although you can find some straw houses.
Village houses: houses in typical villages in Haute Corse are gathered in an apparent disorder. Indeed, families gather their houses together and they build some passageway to correspond between each others. The typical Corsica house is made of schist and it is large enough to welcome the whole family. Indeed, they are usually 4 or 5 storey high while the staircase is usually outside the house in order to save space. There are some very small opens in walls in order to protect houses from cold in winter and from hot and light in summer. Roofs are covered with very thin schist slabs which colour can vary from blue to green and grey.
Villas: along the seafront you will be likely to find some huge and beautiful villas. They are not really characteristic of the area, at least they are not traditional, however, as an investor you are likely to deal with some of them. They are very luxurious properties and offer an amazing view over the sea. It is useless to mention that the price for this kind of property is prohibitive!
Sheepfolds: you will find them mainly in the middle of the mountains, insulated from villages. They are each time more abandoned as the transhumance is an activity less and less practice. They are large stone houses, assembled thanks to small flat rocks. In the north they have double tile roof. As most of them need to be renovated you might find some good bargains to drive, however be aware that they are located in the middle of the mountains with a small country road as the only transport link.
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