A more peaceful time was to be had at U Museu, a restaurant alongside the walls of the citadel. Renowned for its traditional cuisine, the wood-panelled interior had a wild boar’s head overlooking the diners. The menacing teeth made one grateful to be encountering the animal on a plate rather than on the mountain slopes.
Corsican soup might seem a strange choice on a day when the ochre-walled buildings shimmered in the heat. Yet this rich soup flavoured with strips of local charcuterie and packed with leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and beans was welcome in any weather.
Followed by wild boar stew, this was the food of the mountains. Slow cooked to melting tenderness, the deep flavour elicited a pleasurable sigh; it was served with customary saffron potatoes that lit up the plate.
Lip-puckering lemon sorbet and a fabulously rich caramel ice cream left us replete and energised to explore the small town in which Napoleon Bonaparte’s father once lived. The memory of Napoleon, Corsica’s most famous son, is ever present on the island, especially in Ajaccio, his home town, where statues and museums pay tribute to the French emperor.
While Corsica is part of France, it feels rather Italian. From place names such as Porto-Vecchio to the local canistrelli biscuits, the island’s culture harks back to the days when it was governed by Pisa and Genoa. Groups of Italian youth gathered on the beaches as if they had stepped out of an Elena Ferrante novel.
The political scene, however, is decidedly French. Controversy raged on the island over the summer when a local mayor banned the burkini. Ferries arriving from mainland France were diverted away from ports without the requisite security measures in an attempt to protect the island from attack.
Reality is less magical than the environment. Yet, gliding along coastal roads that hug the cliffs, with sandy crescents slung along wide bays below, all seems well with the world.