On the chance that you’re not into pig’s blood, there’s another place to sample Corsica’s ancient and elusive culture—and it happens to be the chicest address on the island. At Domaine de Murtoli, 17 cottages are spread out across an Edenic 6,200 acres along the coast south of Sartène. Owner Paul Canarelli, a native Corsican who inherited most of the land from his grandfather, converted its extant centuries-old shepherds’ houses and fishermen’s huts into haute-rustic cottages.
Canarelli’s guests, including plenty of privacy-obsessed European celebs and politicians, can cook meals in their own kitchen with ingredients picked from the organic garden, or they can head to the seaside restaurant and order a sublime veal-and-langoustine tartare, confident that virtually everything that passes their lips has been raised, grown, or caught on the property. “What is luxury?” Canarelli asks. “It’s not gold faucets—it’s being able to eat just-caught fish while watching your kids swim in clean water. It’s space. And these days, there’s less and less of that.”
This being Corsica, such a venture is not without its controversies, including a recent debate about Canarelli’s right to limit public access to Murtoli’s prime beach. Canarelli insists he’s only trying to keep out the billionaires who disembark from their yachts onto noisy Jet Skis and zoom around on them for hours. There can be a few land hazards during high season as well, including certain pampered Parisians. “Some will arrive here and immediately complain when they see a wasp,” Canarelli says. “You’re in the country! The wasps were here before you. It’s you who needs to adapt to them.” Given that he’s generally booked a year in advance, Canarelli never hesitates to invoke his Corsican privilege of barring outsiders not to his liking. “I have a blacklist,” he says with a half-smile. “It gets longer every year.”
For the record, I should note that during my stay in Corsica, I didn’t witness a single contract killing, nor were any hotels blown up. A few morbid jokes were made at my expense, though. One morning while wandering around the village of Erbajolo, I stopped for an orange juice at a café where a posse of octogenarians was huddled around a table, starting the day with a few rounds of pastis. Upon learning I was a magazine writer from the U.S., the men invited me to join them. After peppering me with questions about the Normandy invasion, their beret-clad ringleader asked, deadpan, how high a ransom my editors would be willing to pay in the event of my kidnapping. Then he laughed and went off to lunch. A few minutes later, when I asked the waitress for my check, I learned he’d already paid it.