Belle Isle

Corsica has been part of France for almost 250 years, but it has a personality all its own -- part French, part Italian, part fiercely independent. It's called the Ile de Beauté, and for good reason -- snow-capped mountains, spectacular stretches of rocky coastline, lovely beaches, a ruggedly beautiful interior, and attractive towns like the port of Calvi with its impressive citadel (seen here) dating back to the island's Genovese occupation in the 15th century. It's best to rent a car to visit the major port towns and the charming villages of the interior. Some of the sights, especially the wilder and more spectacular coastlines like the Scandola nature reserve near Calvi or the chalk cliffs of Bonifacio, are best seen by taking a boat ride. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon and, supposedly, Christopher Columbus, but the most revered historical figure on the island is Pascal Paoli, the general who governed Corsica during its brief period of independence in the 18th century. There are still calls for independence and the Corsican language is still used along with French. If you've seen a lot of France but haven't yet ventured out to the Isle of Beauty, it's well worth a trip. Corsica is France as you've never seen it before.