Alys’ field notes from Corsica and Sardinia

Alys shares her experiences from her research trip to Corsica and Sardinia.

One trip, two enchanting islands – and plenty of insights. Recently, we sent Alys – one of the luxury Travel Experts from our London team – off to Corsica and Sardinia for some in-depth field research. Often overlooked by travelers in favor of mainland France and Italy, she set off to discover what secrets these island counterparts had to offer – and to report her findings. First France’s Corsica, then Italy’s Sardinia.

After exploring by boat, horse, and on foot, we asked Alys to share what she loved most about each destination. Between horseback riding across Corsican beaches and dining with a local shepherd for an al fresco lunch in Sardinia, we couldn’t wait to hear the stories she’d come back with.

Over to you, Alys.

Rural relaxation at Domaine de Murtoli

After arriving in Corsica, I headed straight for the southwestern coast – and a hotel called Domaine de Murtoli. Passing acres upon acres of stunning green countryside and luscious mountains that towered overhead, we navigated the winding track-like roads to reach it. And it was worth the wait. Nestled in the heart of this private estate lay a collection of beautifully converted 17th-century shepherd huts. Dotted with these peaceful dwellings steeped in rustic charm, the hotel’s land overlooked everything from the forests and mountains to the sea below. And then I saw our room. With golden framed mirrors, an antique bathtub painted with intricate flowers, glistening chandeliers, a heated outdoor pool, and a private balcony with views of olive groves and striking mountainous terrain – I had never stayed anywhere so elegant or unique.

Here, everything felt so authentic – whether that be the organic fruits and homemade traditional cheeses produced by the estate’s own farm or the buildings’ high wooden beamed ceilings and terracotta rooftops. I really felt like I was getting a true insight into the 17th-century local Corsican way of life – all with a delightful sense of luxury.

If you’d like to experience this charming rural retreat for yourself, our luxury Travel Experts will be sure to arrange it. Just say the word and they’ll make it happen.

domaine de murtoli corsica
domaine de murtoli corsica
domaine de murtoli corsica

Picturesque trails and horse-riding adventures

Naturally, I couldn’t stay put for long and soon I was heading out to explore our beautiful natural surroundings more thoroughly. And on horseback. With our expert guide to lead the way, we started off with a steady walk down curving country lanes lined with olive trees before trotting through lush green meadows dotted with buttercups and lilac crocus. As we were still riding at a relatively slow pace, I was able to look around and take everything in. Surrounded by maquis, or shrubland, covered in wildflowers and herbs – I soon saw why Corsica was named ‘the scented isle’. Breathing in the perfect blend of fresh pure air, floral notes, and aromatic herbs, I caught a scent of salt as we headed towards our next destination – the beach.

Swapping countryside for seaside, we rode between sand dunes, heading closer to the crashing of the waves. Glancing to my left, I saw rugged mountains bordering the far side of the beach before I looked ahead to see the dazzling seascape in front of me. Cobalt blue waters, golden soft sand, and the white foam of the waves. The best part? Well, actually there were several. Firstly, I got to canter beside the sea. And secondly, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. It was definitely one of the most unforgettable moments of my trip. And I loved it.

Even if you don’t wish to horse ride, the Murtoli estate is the ideal place to get up close and personal with these gentle creatures as both ponies and horses live in the valley. But if you would like to experience that bucket list-worthy horse ride along the beach, then we’ll make sure it’s a part of your bespoke trip too.

horse riding corsica
domaine de murtoli beach corsica

Joining in the festivities

Leaving the gorgeous island of Corsica behind, I headed south to investigate the glorious coastlines of Sardinia – and its picturesque seaside towns. Starting off in a small market town called Arzachena in the north-eastern corner of the island, I really got a taste of Sardinian life. Between picturesque cobblestone piazzas, local markets, and 18th-century churches, there was a real sense of authenticity and simplicity to be found here. And beauty, of course. But what made it really special was that while we were there some local festivities were taking place – the town was celebrating its centenary. Upon entering Piazza Risorgimento, we noticed a variety of craft stalls lining the corners of the square. Next, we heard and saw a brass band marching into the piazza, with locals looking on and applauding. Finally, a charming ballet performance by the town’s school children. It was wonderful to see, and you couldn’t help but get swept up in the cheerful atmosphere of it all.

If you’d like to experience traditional local festivities for yourself, our luxury Travel Experts will be sure to plan your visit around any seasonal celebrations or cultural events that take your fancy.

sardinia town
sardinia doorway 2
town in sardinia

Taking to the waters

My next stop? The Mediterranean Sea – specifically, the east coast of Sardinia. After being picked up from the beach, we set off on our private boat tour – and it was breath-taking. Set against a backdrop of steep limestone cliffs and verdant hillsides, the beautifully clear waters and hidden coves were a sight to behold. One of my favorite moments has to have been when we sailed up close to the island’s edge, passing straight under an impressive natural archway that extended out from the cliffside. It was truly spectacular – and very fun.

Exploring by boat really allowed us to experience Sardinia from another perspective – and to discover beautiful white sand beaches only accessible from the sea. As we travelled round the rocky cliffs, they slowly revealed a beautiful small cove (and my new favorite beach), Cala Mariolu. Here, the water was so clear and blue that it took my breath away. The way it was so tucked away by lush greenery and towering rockfaces made it seem as if it wanted to remain hidden from the world. And since this is still a relatively untouched part of the island, we enjoyed it all without the crowds. The perfect place to experience peace and serenity. And striking natural beauty.

cliff sardinia
sea sardinia
cave sardinia

Mountain hikes and ancient traditions

But there was still another side of Sardinia I hadn’t seen yet. So, leaving the mesmerizing seascapes behind, I headed inland. My destination? The Supramonte mountains. Hiking up from the small hill town of Orgosolo with our expert guide, the higher we ascended, the more incredible the views became. For as far as the eye could see, green carpeted mountains lay before us, covered with flourishing trees and wild white flowers. Naturally, we had to stop for a while so I could get some (essential) snapshots.

After marveling at our picturesque surroundings, our guide led us further into the wilderness, up sloping mountain terrain and through forests filled with oak trees. Up here, the air felt fresher – crisper, purer. It wasn’t long before we reached a lovely shaded, secluded area made up of traditional round huts. The perfect spot for some lunch – with a local shepherd, of course. Sat outside immersed in nature, we were served traditional Sardinian specialties and dined on cheeses, cold cuts, pane carasau (a Sardinian flatbread) – even a roast suckling pig. We washed it all down with some Cannonau wine which had flavors of berries, floral notes, and a hint of white pepper. Put simply, it was delicious. Chatting with the shepherd about his way of life whilst savoring the flavorsome meal he had prepared for us was an experience that will stay with me forever. And one I would happily repeat.

shepherd sardinia
supramonte mountains sardinia

Final thoughts

Typical travel guides will point you towards mainland France and mainland Italy, but these islands offer so much in their own right. Here, limestone cliffs plunge into clear glittering waters and wild mountains and meadows flourish beneath the warm Mediterranean sun. These two strikingly beautiful destinations make for the perfect pairing. Afterall, not only do you get to experience two cultures in one trip, but they also aren’t too crowded or overpopulated (Sardinia has more sheep than people). For those seeking an exciting and alternative island-hopping experience, we’ll take you on an unforgettable Corsican and Sardinian escape. Completely bespoke, of course.

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