Published on: 13 March 2017 | Last updated: 23 December 2019
At a glance
Easy-ish. The first part along the eastern coast is very easy, but there’s then a climb to 350m. There’s more climbing on the western coast
The road coming out of Bastia is fairly busy , but gets very much quieter as you get further away. Note that this section is a popular scenic route so expect it to get busier in the main tourist season.
The route is entirely on surfaced tarmac roads. The road has been recently resurfaced so is in excellent condition.
This section of the route follows the well-signed D80 route départemental.
This section of the route takes you around the Cap Corse, which has a distinctive identity of its own. It starts as a fairly gentle cruise, but get more challenging the further you go on. It goes through the Patrimonio wine country before it ends at the seaside resort of Saint-Florent.
The Cap Corse is the long thin peninsula at the northern tip of the island. The grey stone roofs of many of the houses in the Cap Corse - made of flat stones (lauzes) that are like very thick slates, give the area its own distinctive look and feel. It’s almost like an island within an island.
Along the way are the villages of Erbalunga and Nonza - two of the prettiest villages on the Corsica coast. The coast is also dotted with the tours génoises towers built by the Genovese rulers of the island in the 15th and 16th centuries to protect against pirate raiders.
On the western coast of the cape, look out for the tombs built in the 19th century by capi corsini who had made their fortunes in the Americas.
Cap Corse doesn’t have as many sandy beaches as the rest of the island (which is probably one reason why it is relatively unspoilt by tourism). The best bets are probably the beaches at Barcaggio and Tollare - but note that these involve a detour off the route and a fair amount of climbing.
Map and altitude profile
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|Bastia to Macinaggio||37 kms|
|Macinaggio to Nonza||52 kms|
|Nonza to Saint-Florent||19 kms|
Bastia to Macinaggio
The urban sprawl of Bastia continues for several kilometres, but things start to look up as you get to Miomo which has the feel of a real village, and the first of many watchtowers built by the Genovese along the coast. Be prepared for sudden flurries of traffic as cars follow slower-moving vehicles.
Things really start to look up you come to Erbalunga. As I photographed the view over the village a local told me proudly that I was photographing the most beautiful village in Corsica. Erbalunga is indeed very pretty, and probably the nicest place along the eastern Cap Corse. When I called in in April it was very quiet with cafes and restaurants still preparing for the season. No doubt in high season it gets very busy. It’s worth five minutes of anybody’s time wander down to the concrete jetty in the old harbour for the best view of the watchtower.
After Erbalunga the road definitely gets more scenic, with a bit more climbing, but nothing very taxing.
Macinaggio to Pino
The road along the eastern shore of the cape comes to an end at the tourist port of Macinaggio, from here the D80 climbs from Macinaggio towards the villages of Rogliano and Ersa. Inland Corsica is sharply different from the coast. The climb through woodland is smooth and evenly-graded and continues pretty much constantly to about 200 metres altitude, and after that, it levels out. When I did the route the fields and verges were full of wildflowers — mainly snowdrops and dandelions. As you climb the woodland starts to thin out and there are views back over Macinaggio and the sea.
Look out on your right for an information board and a path leading towards a viewpoint which looks out over the lighthouse on the Isula della Giraglia. The information board describes how this was once the site of the municipal rubbish dump that was restored in 2011 and 2012.
If you have the energy you could take the road down to the tiny villages of Barcaggio and Tollare on the northern tip of the cape. There are a couple of hotels and a restaurant there and a watchtower. The beaches here are reckoned to be the best on Cap Corse.
The road continues to climb up towards the Moulin de Mattei on a high point looking out over the northern-most tip of the cape. It’s definitely worth making the short walk to go up to the moulin itself to enjoy the view.
From the Moulin, it’s downhill towards Centuri. At the junction, you have the choice of going down to the Port de Centuri or continuing to take the higher road into the village of Centuri itself.
From Morsiglia there’s a glorious descent down towards Pino. And to really metre la beurre dans les épinards (put the butter in your spinach) the road surface for most of its length is beautifully smooth. There are still the odd patches that haven’t been resurfaced to give you a flavour of what it was like before. At the bottom of the descent, there is a small bay with a lovely little sandy beach. If the weather is warm enough.
As you come into Pino look out for the cemetery and extraordinary family mausoleum with a pair of cypress trees. In the nineteenth century, many capicorsini emigrated to the Americas and many of them seem to have been extraordinarily successful. The returning wealthy émigrés built the palazzi des américains as well as a number of family mausoleums that you can see along the coast. Further on, below the road on the right-hand side, there’s another tomb with a view the Tombeau Altieri-Calizi.
After Pino there is a gorgeous section of corniche road. I’m going to save the word ‘spectacular’ for later, but by any standards, this is pretty special.
There’s a short climb into Minervio (191m). There’s a water fountain here, but unfortunately warning signs to say that it isn’t safe to drink the water. After Minervio, the road levels out for a while with another dramatic corniche section. I know I have said I would hold off on using the s word, but it is very tempting.
After descending almost to sea level, the road starts to climb again. After Canari, the road levels out a bit for a while before you come round a bend in the road and are suddenly faced with the sight of the now-abandoned asbestos mine. A great grey scar in the landscape, it comes as a bit of a shock.
Aerial view of the mine | View Larger Map
The road passes by the old cleaning and processing buildings. The workings themselves run down the cliff-side above. Unthinkable as it now seems, the spoil from the mining operations was simply dumped into the sea. The mine was also a human tragedy as well. Many victims had to wait until the 2000s before receiving any compensation.
You can read more in an article in Le Monde in September 2015 about the 50th anniversary of the closure of the mine: Le Monde Planète: Cinquante ans après sa fermeture, l’usine d’amiante de Corse reste un problème insoluble.
In case you’re worried, the type of asbestos that was mined here is the less toxic chrysotile that was widely used in artificial slate roof tiles up until a couple of decades ago. So long as it’s left undisturbed it won’t harm you.
The road climbs towards Nonza (altitude: 118m). With a watchtower on a rocky outcrop above the village, houses that appear almost to be carved out of the cliff face, and the church of Santa Ghjulia (Sainte Julie), painted in shades of peach and golden yellow, glowing in the afternoon sun, this is perhaps the most attractive of the villages of the western coast of the cape.
It’s well worth making the climb up to the tower (follow the sign ”La Tour’). There’s a panoramic viewpoint and a cliff-top restaurant (see services section)
As you descend out of Nonza, look out for the ruins of the Couvent Du San François on the shoreline below you.
At the Marine di Negru, there’s one of the best-preserved tour gênois as well as a the double-span bridge that formed part of the old coast road built under the Genovese.
On the way to Saint-Florent, the road swings inland through the wine country around Patrimonio (Patrimoniu). We are now entering the Nebbiu region of northern Corsica. Saint-Florent is the major tourist centre the region. If you have the time you can visit the old village and the citadel.
If you are feeling fit and raring to go you could start the route off by making the climb out of Bastia along the D31 and follow the cornice road via San Martino di Lota, before rejoining the main route at Miomo.
If you have more time you could make some side trips away from the coast and into the hill villages, or to see the palazzi des américains or the tour de Sénèque.
Places to stay
I stayed at the Hotel Toga which is almost directly opposite the exit from the ferry terminal. They charged me for parking my bike in the underground garage, but otherwise it was a nice place. There are a number of hotels on the road out from Bastia, if there’s enough time and daylight, Erbalunga would be a good place to stay the night.
Macinaggio has plenty of accommodation options but if you have the time and the energy, it would be worth continuing to Rogliano or Ersa - or even Barcaggio and Tollare. Nice hotel-restaurant in Ersa (the Hôtel Le Saint-Jean)
Accommodation options on the western coast of the cape are very limited. The Port de Centuri is attractive and a nice place to stay - although unfortunately the accommodation options there are fairly limited and can be expensive. Between the Port de Centuri and San-Florent, there’s the Auberge du Chat qui Pêche near Canari and a couple chambers d’hôtes (B&Bs) in the Nonza: the Casa Maria and the Casa Lisa.
Near Patrimoniu (and Saint-Florent) there’s the Hotel La Palma named after the palm tree growing outside.
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There’s a gîte d’étape in Sisco the Relais de Sisco.
There are about a dozen campsites on Cap Corse, but most are open from May to September so be sure to check opening periods if you are travelling in Spring or Autumn. There are no campsites on the western coast until you get to Saint-Florent.
Map of campsites along the route: corsica-campsites-map-show in overlay | corsica-campsites-map-show in new window
Transport and services
It should be relatively easy to find somewhere to eat on the eastern coast, including café/bar/restaurants in Miomo, Erbalunga, Sisco and Macinaggio.
After Macinaggio, there are fewer bars and restaurants: Here’s are those on the route itself (or at least those that were open in April):
- Ersa: there’s a restaurant (Le Saint-Jean), and an épicerie with a terrace panoramique. Between the two there’s a water tap on the left-hand side.
- Morsiglia: (the bar-ristorante Anton Mattei with an outdoor terrace area you can have coffee or a meal under the olive trees
- Pino: the Bar des Platanes. It’s next door to a Spar supermarket, and just a little further on up the road, there’s a water fountain
- Canari the Auberge du Chat qui Pêche — a little bar-grill with a terrace looking over the sea.
- Nonza the Café de La Tour is a popular bar-restaurant. It’s right in the centre of the village. There’s a water tap the middle of the restaurant terrace. There’s also a restaurant (La Sassa) whose cliff-top setting is really hard to beat
- Patrimoniu there’s a bar-restaurant on the roundabout opposite the Hotel La Palma. It’s named Le Rond-Point, after the roundabout. As you’d expect from the choice of name, it’s an unpretentious, friendly place with a fixed-price menu of €18 for two courses and €21 for three courses (I couldn’t manage the three courses)
I have to give a special mention to the café Bar Caravelle in Saint-Florent —the only place on the island where I managed to get a decent espresso.
Bike shops on this section of the route
- Bastia: Cycles 20
- Saint-Florent: Rapido | Sport Line
If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.
Tourist information websites
- destination-cap-corse.com. This is by far the most useful site for Cap Corse. It includes useful lists of hotels, campsites, bars and restaurants. There is also information about places of interest including the palazzi des Américains. A lot of pages are also available in English and Italian (and you can of course use Google Translate). There are also a couple of useful pdf downloads: A Guide Pratique and a map that will give you a good idea of what there is to see in the area. Both are available from the brochures page: destination-cap-corse.corsica: Les Brochures
- capcorse-tourisme.corsica (Very slow to load. Flash).
- Office du Tourisme Saint-Florent
Articles in this series
- Corsica Coast: introduction
- Corsica Coast: Part 1: Cap Corse
- Corsica Coast: Part 2: The north-west coast from Saint-Florent to Porto
- Corsica Coast: Part 3: The Calanches de Piana and Cargèse
- Corsica Coast: Part 4: The south-west coast: Campomoro and Bonifacio
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Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.
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