Visiting Calvi on the Corsican Riviera in France

Calvi is located in northern Corsica. The town owns the same fragrant smell of maquis, a blend of lavender, myrtle, and heather, that the rest of the island. Seafarers back to the time of the Greeks have exclaimed over the unique odor of Corsica, and it has long had the name “the fragrant isle.”

In the northeast, the desert of Agriates shares part of the north coast, but for most of this region annual precipitation is generous. And like the rest of this region, when you get into the country you’ll see the common home to be the maison haute, a farmhouse with thick stone walls that insulate against winter cold and summer heat with stables on the ground floor and living quarters above.

Aerial view of Calvi in Corsica, France. Ocean, coast line, hotels, and mountains.

The Corsican Riviera

Calvi itself is considerably more modern, though. It’s one of the towns referred to as the Corsican Riviera, with a strong Genovese influence due to its commercial ties with the Italian town.

It claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and long resisted the attacks of Corsican nationalists while it maintained its support of Genoa.

Today, Calvi’s four-mile stretch of white sand beach attracts visitors, and the citadel and nightlife keep them there.

The Citadelle in Calvi

The Citadelle, a Genoese relic, perches on a rocky promontory at the tip of the bay. The welcome center offers a video on the history of Calvi, and you can take either a guided tour, given in English three times a day, or a self-guided walking tour.

Walls of the citadel of Calvi on the old town with historic buildings at evening sunset. Bay with yachts and boats. Luxurious marina and very popular tourist destination. Corsica, France
The citadel walls

And there’s also a 13th century church, St-Jean-Baptiste, that is quite interesting.

Where to stay and eat

The ocher-colored 16th century terraces of Chez Tao offers excellent seafood, but the food is secondary to the atmosphere of Corsican folk singing and a piano, as well as the occasional celebrity. Other excellent restaurants include Emile’s near the port and L’Ile de Beaute, one of Calvi’s most celebrated and historical restaurants.

La Villa, up on a hill with a great view of the town and ocean, looks and feels like a Mediterranean villa. Wrought iron and fountains give quiet atmosphere to the hotel, and the dining area overlooks the pool and a fragrant garden.

Cheaper options for staying are Le Signoria, a 17th century country manor with panoramic views of the mountains and bay from the pool, and Le Magnolia, a 19th century former mansion next to the marketplace with a giant magnolia tree in the restaurant garden.

The nightlife

The cabaret of Chez Tao is the nightspot to hit. L’Eden Port is a hot piano bar, and La Camargue is the largest dance club. A free shuttle bus roams downtown Calvi all night to give clubgoers safe rides to and from their parties.

The Calvi Jazz Festival, during the last week of June, is popular in the area, and there are several other musical festivals. You’ll also find the Festiventu, a unique celebration of wind in the form of wind-powered sports, musical instruments, and scientific artifacts, a marvelous thing to go to in late October.

There are so many other things to do in Calvi – horseback riding, the GR 20, sailing and water sports, shopping – that you should never be bored.

Map of Calvi in France

Interesting places to visit in Corsica