Bastion de l’Étendard Bonifacio
The historic fortress town of Bonifacio on the southern tip of Corsica is one of the most romantic yacht charter destinations in the Mediterranean. The picturesque harbor, carved from limestone cliffs, is lined with shuttered villas, rustic restaurants and smart hotels, whilst the Haute Ville (Upper Village) teeters on a ledge 200 meters above the sea with glorious views of the horizon and narrow, labyrinthine streets for exploring. Established in the 12th century as Genoa’s first Corsican stronghold, Bonifacio blends the best parts of Italian influence with rich French culture.
The small boutique Hotel Genovese, perched on the cliffs in the heart of the old city, is the most fashionable place to stay in town. The majority of the rooms are located in the main building – a pastel pink villa – along with a stunning swimming pool and chic glass encased restaurant, whilst the three suites are housed in a more secluded setting down a steep hill on the port. Drive 15 minutes up the coast and you’ll reach the rustic-chic retreat, U Capu Biancu Hotel. The stylishly decorated rooms are bright and homely, each with private balconies boasting breathtaking views of the ocean and the pretty isolated beach beneath where five exclusive tables appear for the restaurant, La Paillote Orrizonte’s evening seating. Just beyond U Capu Biancu and slightly inland, Hotel Version Maquis is a quiet retreat on the hillside. The eight suites are spacious with floor to ceiling windows providing a glorious view of the olive trees.
During the summer month’s Bonifacio’s dramatic, deep-water port attracts super-sized yachts from across the globe, creating a lively, stylish social scene. The boating crowd eat at Les 4 Vents for its convenient location near the yacht terminal and friendly service. On the menu you’ll find fresh grilled fish and meat as well as excellent risotto and pasta. Another port hot spot is Le Voilier, headed by chef Jean Paul Bartoli and his wife who serve seafood dishes, along with Corsican sausage and traditional cuisine, including especially good fiadone (cheesecake). For the best of authentic local cuisine though, Kissing Pigs is the go to. The stone walls, terracotta floors and aged salamis hanging from the rafters all add to the restaurant’s rustic charm whilst the menu is simply focused on meat, cheese and wine. Organic pork is the specialty, straight from the owner’s pig farm, though the homemade ice cream, in flavors such as fig or chestnut, is also divine.
The island’s unspoiled white-sand beaches and glittering turquoise waters mean that the main activities are usually sunbathing or watersports – the strong winds that whistle through the town makes Bonifacio ideal for sailing and windsurfing – but there’s ancient historic structures to explore too. In the center of the citadel’s maze of cobbled streets, sits a 12th Century Pisan-Genoese Church with buttresses attaching it to the surrounding houses and an 82 foot high bell tower jutting into the skyline. The former garrison, Bastion de l’Étendard is also fascinating, where you can still see the system of weights and levers used to raise the drawbridge and life-size dioramas of the bombardment of the bastion in the 16th-century Franco-Turkish war. The steep steps lead to an impressive panoramic viewpoint of the white chalk coastline. Or else, drive 15 minutes east to the island’s spectacular golf course, Sperone, on the cliff tops. Back on board, sail to the blue Dragon grottos, a series of beautiful geological sites accessible only by boat or the Lavezzi Islands, the uninhibited, granite archipelago between Corsica and Sardinia, home to thousands of rare species of fish, birds and plants.
As the sun sets, turn back to the warm, twinkling lights of Bonifacio for a cocktail at the Caravelle Hotel’s beautiful bar in a 13th-century fisherman’s chapel.