The island of Corsica combines the craggy peaks of the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean with blue beaches, vibrant old cities, verdant forests, and elevated plains. It makes sense why the Greeks called it Kalliste, which means “most beautiful.” Even the notoriously difficult to please French refer to the island as L’Île de Beauté (The Island of Beauty). Obtained it in a contentious agreement with the Genoese Republic of Italy in the 1760s.
Nowadays, a large portion of the island’s 340,000 inhabitants roughly three million tourists annually rent cars to take in Corsica’s winding valleys and hilltop cities. Nobody seems to know that there is a railway on Corsica. However, its railroads offer a unique opportunity to explore the island’s interior and past. A one-week pass that covers train travel across Corsica for about €50 makes Le Chemins de Fer de la Corse. Known as U Trinicellu (Little Train, as the locals lovingly refer to it). One of the most economical train experiences in all of Europe.
A Little Train
The “Little Train” of Corsica is actually a network that connects three very different coastal cities on the island. Ajaccio on the west coast, Calvi on the north-west coast, and Bastilia on the northeast coast. The railway’s initial phase began service in 1888. Over the following decades, it grew, slipping into valleys between mountains. Ascending isolated hilltops, and connecting old interior villages like Corte.
A uniquely Corsican way of life is embodied by the narrow-gauge railway’s blend of older and newer carriages. Clatter, climb, and slalom through a dizzying variety of landscapes at a leisurely pace. Travellers can experience some of Europe’s wildest landscapes at speeds that rarely exceed 80 km/h.
A Unique Experience
If you choose to travel in the older, wood-panelled coaches. You can get a taste of antique Orient Express splendour at a reduced cost. Add to this the network’s assortment of “request stops”. Where daring travellers can be dropped off at secluded inland locations for hikes in the backcountry. Discover small beach hideaways away from the hordes of resort town tourists with only a few word to the conductor upon boarding.
This 232 km iron highway was built over two decades at the end of the 19th century. To build the 32 tunnels, 52 bridges, and viaducts that span an incredible array of peaks and gorges, 20,000 workmen were needed. After finishing his renowned namesake tower in Paris, Gustave Eiffel started building the magnificent Pont du Vecchio viaduct at Corte, which would support the Little Train over the precipitous terrain, two years later. However, the Trinicellu faced an existential threat by the 1960s due to the car’s growing popularity. Following a 1959 speech in which France’s then-transport minister Robert Buron mockingly. Claimed that “cars and five buses” would be sufficient to handle Corsica’s transport needs, steps were taken to destroy the rail connection.
After Corsica’s mainland landlords insulted the island, thousands of protesters marched in the streets to safeguard the island’s train. Sparking the protests and broad strikes throughout the island. Protests lasted more than ten years as French authorities talked about closing the Trinicellu; eventually, in the 1970s, the government not only backed down, but also pledged to build new trains.
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