The inland area along the northwest coast of Corsica has been renowned since Roman times as an orchard of olive, fig and orange trees and the breadbasket of the island, crisscrossed by a network of narrow, winding roads. Tiny villages such as Sant'Antonino and Speloncato perch high above the countryside, built around rocky outcrops, while others along the Artisan's Route, like Pigna, proudly display their traditional crafts, such as pottery and stringed instruments. Set beneath a wall of imposing jagged mountains that remain snow-capped until July, the rocky coastline of the Balagne area shelters a string of stunning white sand beaches and an old fishing settlement, now turned into one of the island's most popular holiday resort towns, at Calvi.
In the shadow of its citadel, built by the Genoese, Calvi bathes in the legend of Christopher Columbus whose birthplace it is said to be. It was during an attack on Calvi that another famous mariner, Lord Nelson, lost his eye. Not far away from this historic and compact gem can be found another port town, Ile Rousse, founded by Pascal Paoli in direct contrast to Calvi, which he felt was too Genoese. Many of the settlements along the Balagne coast have been developed into busy holiday villages; however, the stunning scenery and idyllic beaches more than compensate for the crowds. Trains connect Calvi and Ile Rousse with Ajaccio and Bastia. Buses are also available.