Med to the Balkans research trip – week 1 Back to News List

Endless delays, baggage issues, a good dose of jet lag and being bitten by an overexcited hotel dog couldn’t dampen our spirits as the plane touched down at the Franjo Tudman Airport on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, Zagreb. It had been three years since we had completed our last research trip and since then the world has changed, forever. The familiarity of travel reminded me that travel is indeed the elixir of life, and we intended to have a good long drink.

Rental car in hand we were soon across the border into Italy and warmly ensconced in our 18th century villa converted to a hotel, if it was good enough for Napoleon to visit this villa it was good enough for us and subsequent Compass clients to stay in. A day in Venice rammed home our love, and need, of travel with this iconic city not disappointing but we were only warming up. Our first day researching “on the road” was spent winding through mountains and valleys dotted with ancient villages that clung to mountainsides. We drove the road that Enzo Ferrari himself tested his cars on. Our day was topped off with dinner overlooking the remarkable Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It was a 4 ½ hour ferry sailing across the Ligurian Sea where we disembarked at Bastia, on the French controlled island of Corsica. What followed was some of the most exquisite coastal scenery I have ever seen. The scenery was utterly breathtaking and nothing I could say here could go anyway to doing it justice. The Corsican secret is out as the roads were a collage of every type of motorbike with moto dedicated restaurants, hotels and services catering to every bikers need. We spent our days not seeing top gear as we wound our way along an impossibly scenic coastal road, around UNESCO listed red rock monoliths that cascaded into an amazing azure ocean far below, all the while being guarded by ancient Genoese Towers, citadels, and forts. We ascended into the mountains, that loomed above, via a series of utterly empty back roads barely a lane wide, through tiny villages and farms struggling to make a living in this hard rocky landscape.

A Corsican highlight is the legendary Cap Corse (Cape Corsica) and we spent an entire day managing to do under 200ks, travelling from Central Corse into the cape, such were the mountainous winding roads that make up this epic landscape. The cape is an inspiring landscape weathered over millennia and populated with fromage outlets, wineries and other boutique produce establishments dotted amongst historic towers and citadels, it’s the quintessential French country scene Corsica has been an absolute revelation and any attempt to truly describes it beauty is an exercise in futility, it must be seen to be believed and is most certainly a destination we will be returning to privately, it is simply breathtaking and seemingly only known to French, Germans, Italians and a smattering of other EU countries, by all accounts Australian / US / Canadian visitors are a rarity. We saw the week out crossing the Ligurian Sea once again and overnighting in another 18th century castle converted into a hotel, in Livorno. Next destination Tuscany!

…you’ll never guess what was carved into the road when we got to Pompei! 😱 Click here to find out.

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