There are also reasonable rates for family holidays. Corsican Places (01489866931; corsica.co.uk) offers breaks to Residencia Sognu di Rena – a simple but comfortable four-star apartment complex with a pool on the sands of the East Coast. A seven-night holiday for a family of three, flying from Heathrow on 23 July, costs from £2973.
Vacations with hiking boots and backpacks are totally possible. Exodus Travels (020 8772 3936; exodus.co.uk) runs a regular ‘Mountains and Villages of Corsica’ break – an eight-day guided tour that chooses a wonderfully slow route between Bastia and Ajaccio. Corsica’s high-wire railways cover some parts of the route. Others – via the legendary GR20 walking route, and along the Gravona River to Richiusa Gorge – you can walk on foot. Ten copies of the tour are scheduled from now until the end of September – starting at £1,499 per person, including flights and accommodations at a country hotel near Bocognano.
Describing Sardinia as “Italy’s second largest island”, though accurate, is to emphasize a place that dates back long before the country of Puccini and Puttanesca. The Norajic civilization dominated Sardinia from the 18th century BC until the arrival of the Romans about 1,500 years later. Their footprints and tombs have been tattooed on land – according to the UNESCO-listed influence, in the case of the Su Nuraxi di Barumini archaeological site. However, other evidence that it is “different” is less old. The most romantic is certainly the continued presence of a Sardinian native and a version of Catalan – both recognized as two of Italy’s official minority languages. These linguistic anecdotes set Sardinia as far from the mainland as strongly as the rugged interior and tendency to look inward, even if some of its resorts are as special as those in Amalfi and Tuscany.
Northeasterly Olbia, the gateway to Costa Smeralda, has become Sardinia’s busiest airport for flights from the UK. It is served by the BA from Heathrow and easyJet from Gatwick, Luton, Bristol and Manchester. Its pivotal role in package holidays is also seen in communications operated by Tui (020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk), from Manchester and Gatwick – and by Jet2 (0800408 0778; jet2holidays.com), which flies from Stansted and Manchester, and will add new routes. From Birmingham and Leeds Bradford in 2023.
The capital, Cagliari, down the south coast, welcomes British Airways and EasyJet from Gatwick, as well as Ryanair (01279358438; ryanair.com) from Stansted. The latter airline flies the only British line to Alghero on the west coast (also from Stansted).