Calvi is a city on the French island of Corsica and the biggest tourist centre of the island proper.

Calvi Bay



Because of the Corsica's strategic location, Calvi has a rich and chequered history. The earliest found remains of settlers in Calvi date back to the Neolithic period, in one of its many caves.

The first real recorded history of the settling of Calvi was around 1000BC, when the Romans brought agriculture to the land. Since then, Calvi has been invaded many times, giving rise to the popular saying souvent conquis, jamais soumis (often conquered, never enslaved). Until 1729, Calvi was part of the Genoese empire, leading to the legend that Christopher Columbus supposedly came from there (there is a large statue at the foot of the citadel that commemorates this legend).

The anarchist uprising against the Genoese led by Pascal Paoli from 1729 to 1768, and the shortly independent Corsica as a whole, was not supported by Calvi, which retains a very cosmopolitan feel, as opposed to the strictly Corsican feel of the old capital Corte, even today.

Admiral Nelson lost his right eye at Calvi during the siege of the citadel.

Get in

By plane

By boat

There are several ferry routes to Calvi port, including Nice, France and Savona. It is generally best to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Take Corsica Ferries from Nice. There are two ferries; the fast one, the blue-and-white NGV (Navire à Grand Vitesse) which reaches Calvi in 2h45m, or the slow yellow-and-white one, which takes appx. 5hr30m. I would recommend the latter, as the NGV is not much fun on rougher crossings (you cannot go above deck) and the crew of the slower boat are hilarious – loud, friendly and warm, though they don't speak much English or French (they're Sardinian). You can book cabins on the slow ferry, though unless you have to drive or need the sleep, it's probably not worth it. Meals in the restaurant are of Italian fare and are fantastic and super-cheap, as is the beer which is served in the aft bar above deck. Whales can sometimes be seen following the slower boat for some way, and it is generally a very enjoyable crossing.

Get around

There are no buses, but there is a small red train that runs along the coast from Île Rousse to Calvi, and a blue one that runs from Calvi to Bastia. There is no need to hire cars, scooters etc. to get around Calvi, as it is quite a small and densely-packed town. If you wish to get around Corsica as a whole, it is worth checking the 'Get Out' section below.




Almost every shop in Corsica will sell dried meats (you'll smell them before you see them) and also offer an amazing variety of honey, olive oil, spices and herbs (from the bushes that litter the mountains, called maquis). For those of you who are a little more adventurous, it may be worth buying some chestnut flour (farine de châtaignes), which is a local speciality used in crêpes, cakes, etc. If you want to be a little more touristy, on the Rue Artisanat you will find everything from hats (I'm not kidding; check out the Chapellerie, nearer the citadel, for every kind of hat you have ever imagined) to Watches (there is a shop selling everything from Breitling to Swatch opposite the Eglise Santa Maria, or the Big Pink Church) and T-Shirts (Bianc' & Neru [1] sell some fantastic shirts, all of the best quality, great classy gifts for family etc.) and of course knives, of which there is a rather disturbing prevalence here (Opinel knives are sold in the tabac opposite the Grand Hotel on Boulevard Wilson, fantastic quality and super cheap—great for campers).






A romantic place to have a bottle of wine is Chez Tao in the cittadell. The cheapest bottle of red wine costs 30E.



There is a youth hostel up the hill from the beach a couple of kilometers towards I'lle Rousse, up from a supermarket and small shopping centre. However it is difficult to find and you would probably need some French to be able to locate it and get a room.


Stay safe

Calvi is, on the whole, a very safe place to be. Locals leave their keys in their cars, ignition running and the doors wide open, with apparently no fear of GTA. Pickpocketing is almost unheard of, and general theft more so. Violent crime against tourists is likewise rare. However, 80% of France's violent crime occurs on the island of Corsica, so it is worth taking several precautions. It is probably best not to discuss the Mafia, the FLNC or FNLC (Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale di a Corsica / Front de Libération Nationale de la Corse), Napoléon or refer to Corsica as 'France' or 'French' when talking to natives

Go next

By train

There is a red train that runs several times daily to Île Rousse, also running by the beach at Calvi and affording wonderful views. Be careful which carriage you choose to sit in—the smaller one has windows that do not open properly and it gets incredibly hot in there. There is also a blue-and-white train to Bastia which appears to be fairly regular.

By car or motorcycle

It is possible to rent motorcycles and cars from several places in Calvi, the most notable being Locations Auto-Moto on the Marina (you will most likely notice this company by the two Porsche 911s parked out front). Aside from the more expensive vehicles previously mentioned, they also rent family cars, dual-purpose bikes, etc. All vehicles seem to be in great condition and prices are pretty reasonable.

It is worth noting that Corsica's road network leaves a lot to be desired outside of the main tourist centres, with roads either lacking markings, being extremely narrow or having no guard rails over mountains and cliffs. If renting a motorbike, I would recommend going for something that is not averse to a bit of rough terrain; Ducati 999Rs, while lovely, are probably not best suited to the Corsican road system (though this does not stop the Italians trying!). Also, many of the road signs are in Corsican only, the French having been scrubbed out thanks to the FLNC or at least nationalist sympathisers, so make sure you have a map that covers both.

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