The D80 in Corsica mostly follows the sea around the Cap Corse peninsula. It is one of the most exhilarating and beautiful drives in the world, but be forewarned: This route has switchback curves and some hair-raising drops into the Mediterranean on the other side of the guardrail — when there is one. Overall, it is not for the fainthearted, especially when impatient Corsican drivers occasionally turn up the stress with aggressive tailgating (because they know the road and are in a hurry to get somewhere rather than to admire the view). That said, even in a little Renault rental car, the drive I did on a sunny summer day with the sea as a vast glittering swath of topaz was one of the most memorable road experiences I’ve ever had.
Leaving the Misincu hotel, I headed up the east coast at a leisurely pace, happy to find the road mostly empty on a weekday. Not having the time to do the entire route, I stopped at the well-marked viewing point near Rogliano and gazed at the island of Elba away in the distance. The breeze, which smelled both of the sea and the pungent floral maquis, was as invigorating as a strong espresso. Four and half miles later, I paused again at the Col de la Serra to visit Cap Corse’s best-known landmark, the Moulin Mattei, a stumpy white windmill with a terra-cotta tile roof, which is surrounded by a round terrace offering some of the most operatically gorgeous views on the island.
From there, I drove down the west coast to the charming village of Pino, with its Genoese towers and baroque Église Sainte-Marie. Turning inland, I returned to the east coast at Santa Severa. My never-to-be-forgotten 43-mile drive had taken a little under three hours.