[SARTÈNE, CORSICA] — I was having dinner by myself the first night in Corsica at Domaine du Murtoli — one of the most exclusive resorts in France — and sitting back and grinning at all the natural wonder before me in this candle-lit treehouse of a restaurant hidden under the maquis trees. Barefoot waitresses in linen frocks darted under the leaves, brining drinks, appetizers and cute smiles.
Around the corner came a vision, the most perfectly tanned specimen on this planet. Valérie, the proprietress of this magical haven (and a former model and mother to four beautiful children). She floated on a cloud up to my table and I gulped.
“Bon soir, my name is Valérie. How was your dinner? Did you see your little friend?” with a nod to behind me.
I swung around — not suavely, because the wine — and shrieked like a little girl. He snorted at first, which made me jump, just a meter behind me. A wild boar, standing in the shadows.
Domaine du Murtoli is a working ranch and a hunting reserve. So wherever you drive around the immense property there are animals. You feel one with the land. Chianina cows, fluffy sheep, game birds of every feather, and boars. Wild boars. Dozens of them scattered about, often with their teeny baby boars in tow.
I was always taught to fear wild boars, they’ll lunge at you, rip your jugular out with their tusks and shake you ’til your bones fell out. And here I was, face to tusk with this grizzly guy. Trying to act cool in front of madame.
Turns out he was totally mellow. Stopped by the restaurant every night just to say ‘allo, tentatively standing off to the side under the up-lit trees, with a solemn look like “You gonna eat that extra chop?” This paradise is so wonderful and calming, even the boars walk around like they’re boers wearing a smoking jacket, carrying a snifter and a snort.
And that’s how this week in paradise at Domaine de Murtoli started.
It got better from there.
Domaine de Murtoli isn’t really a hotel, per se, but a huge private hunting estate saddled between the sea and Corsica’s shark tooth interior mountains. And one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. Bar none.
In the same family for generations, there are only a dozen or so thick stone houses spread across all 5,000 acres, each only available to rent by the week or longer. From quaint two person former sheep bergeries, to larger rustic outbuildings fit for a family, each pristinely restored and decorated just like you’d want … and then some — which Conde Nast Traveller aptly describes as “Ralph Lauren meets Jean de Fleurette.” Couldn’t agree more.
The vast Domaine tumbles down to the turquoise sea, with a kilometers-long sandy beach with hardly anyone on it.There’s another beach around the corner that is so private you can only go there if you are renting one of the houses on it. I so wanted to peek.About the only crowds you run into are when huge yachts and sloops pull in and everyone swims in to lunch. Giggling. Their matching dinghies shuttling their sarongs and sunglasses in for a lazy long meal. Once you pass through the locked front gates, you never have to leave the property again. Nor want to.
So with only 30-40 people spread out over all that land, there’s plenty of elbow room… and most people you never see, which is why this is one of the most coveted places for celebrity and famous person privacy.
So rather than call it a hotel, “domaine” seems just the right name for it.
After driving down the crazy curvy two lane road from Ajaccio, you must pay specific instructions in your pre-arrival packet. You pull behind a building off the side of the roadside bar, busy with its own purpose and then follow a bumpy dirt road behind it — thinking this must be where the trash truck must go. And then it is. An innocuous gate that looks nicer than the surroundings. There is no sign. Just a blind gate. This must be it. You see a buzzer and ring it. “Bon soir!”
You can see how big the estate is, they even give you a map. Even though some houses are inland, they may be on a mountaintop with sea views. Others in protected canyons.
“Look, there’s a guy on the beach!” Just one guy, on this whole beach. 😳
For those seeking ultimate privacy — like Presidents and movie stars — there are two villas in a super-private area that other guests can’t visit, complete with their own private beach.
Right around the next cove is Roccapina beach. You can hike up to that tower (photos elsewhere in this post) and look down to the emerald green clear water.
The incomparable Roccapina beach, the next cove down. You can hike to the top of the separating mountain, with views all up and down the coast.
With only a dozen or more houses spread over 5,000 rolling wooded acres of pristine hunting lands, everyone pretty much gets their own hilltop or private canyon.
Some face the sea, some look over natural pine forests and others nestled between giant elephant rocks.
The visionary owner and moviestar good-looking Paul Canarelli, has spent the last few decades taking rustic old buildings on his grandfather’s farm and tricking out their humble insides with all the greatest creature comforts one could desire. Like mini La Cornue kitchens, Ralph Lauren Home-quality sturdy antiques, stone fireplaces and nice sheets.
But the greatest thing they have is privacy. Ain’t nobody around to see you walking around naked…😳
But the greatest thing they have is privacy. Ain’t nobody around to see you walking around naked…
Oh look… they have a pool! 😳 About the prettiest little wading pool there ever was. Hanging on the side of a cliff, you can sit back and watch the world not go by.
Each of the the bergeries you rent by the week has a totally kitted out outdoor kitchen area. In fact, this is where your spend most of your time when you’re not down at the beach. Rotating between a dip in the pool, a sip of Lillet in the afternoon or a nip of Negroni looking out over the valley below. Or a nap in the shade, a lap in the pool or a cap off the night with a star-filled Armagnac. Before your arrival, you send a shopping list, so the full fridge is stocked when you get here; every last thing. And you have a beast of a La Cornue range and a searing plancha at your disposal, all right here. (I may or may not have been napping on that rumpled purple sofa before taking this pic)
From your outdoor kitchen, you can be cooking and see all the way down to the yachts in the sea.
Every villa is so secluded, nobody else can see in. Like everyone get’s their own hilltop or valley. I was naked around here most of the time.
With only a dozen or more houses spread over 5,000 rolling wooded acres of pristine hunting lands, everyone pretty much gets their own hilltop or private canyon. Some face the sea, some look over natural pine forests and others nestled between giant elephant rocks.
Everyday you wake up and you don’t know what yacht has pulled in for a bite. Or who’s on it.
Like Swiss Family Robinson, but French. And on the beach.
As if the houses weren’t cool enough, the restaurants are the best part. Three great restaurants spread out over the estate, one on the beach, one is a grotto and another on the farm. The design is like Elle Decor meets Swiss Family Robinson, with a little bit a Tarzan thrown in. (Some may have to google that).
Purple is the theme of everything throughout Domaine de Murtoli. The most perfect purple, ever. Cushions, table cloths, napkins, uniforms. It works so well.
As night falls, the lights in the “La Table de la Plage” beach restaurant come up and the food comes out. Beautiful tanned and barefoot servers in simple white cotton dresses pad about the staggered wooden terraces, intimate tables tucked into alcoves nestled into the trees. Innumerable candles are lit. A local Corsican band croons plaintive ballads as grilled seafood and lamb from the Domaine rolls out, course after course. Made even better with wine from the Clos Canarelli, the family’s own respected label, produced right around the corner
Lunch from the gods.
The perfect Negroni spot
Before dinner, whilst enjoying your Negroni on the hefty driftwood chairs on the beach 😳, the cute waitress drags over a chalkboard of the day’s specials to let you think about that for a little bit… Meanwhile, sailboats clang-clang to the waves just a orange peel’s throw away.
Yep, dinner in a hidden cave, lit only by candles.
They only open the grotto up one night a week. I guess because more than that and it would get old... 😳.
Every night there’s a different surprise at La Plage, just to keep Interesting, interesting One special night they brought in a local Corsican fisherman, perched precariously in the sand on a small three-legged stool, a wooden crate of freshly harvested sea urchins at his side. He cracked each open with an Opinel, a device almost as pretty as the spiny creatures, carefully placing each on a broad white plate like a food stylist, smiling; might have been missing a tooth or two. It was my first time, but I think I decided I do not like the urchins. But like Negronis, an acquired taste. I gave it my best try, but left the best parts for the frenetic bees. (See them?? They were crazy with the fevers. They did a good job hauling chunks away with precision, like a military C-130) They sure do look good on a plate, though… like a cover on Bon Appétit.
My favorite yacht of the week, color-coordinated with the sand and stone.
I think there’s a pretty good chance they still remember this night…
There’s a beautiful river that runs through the property and out onto and through the beach. You can kayak up in those clear blue waters
You HAVE to check out the video on their website. It is the single sexiest video I’ve ever seen for any hotel or restaurant and totally captures the vibe and drop-dead atmosphere of the whole domaine. murtoli.com Watch that and you’ll see what I mean…then come back and follow the story… Good god is it good. Here’s a mention in Conde Nast Traveller UK’s website Gold List. And cntraveller.com calling the restaurant La Plage one the Best Beach Clubs in the World. And the US Conde Nast Traveler’s article on Corsica. And a Trips of their Dreams mention in Travel & Leisure. A beautiful listing on Scott Dunn’s awesome website. And another awesome article on Andrew Harper’s website. And a listing in Tatler as one of The 101 Best Hotels in the World. And a Pool Party in the Truffle Pig. And an article of Dream Hideaways in Forbes.
Here is a link to other posts I’ve made about Corsica. An amazing island.
— Last visited July 2015 —
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