Located in the extreme south of Corsica, between Sartène and Bonifacio, nestled between sea and mountains, the very discreet Domaine de Murtoli presents us an original vision of how a high standard hotel can operate tastefully and harmoniously amidst a reserve of natural wild beauty. The Domaine de Murtoli came into being thanks to the determination of one person: Paul Canarelli, a local Corsican with a passionate love for his region, who has succeeded in the crazy gamble he embarked upon 25 years ago. He has achieved his goal, sensitively transforming a plot of 2500 hectares of hilly Corsican maquis terrain, which rises spectacularly above the Mediterranean, into a hotel much loved by stars from across the world.
Domaine de Murtoli is unique. This is no exaggeration. The five star hotel - the only one of this category in Corsica open throughout the year - is exceptional because of the sheer size of its wonderful grounds and because the lucky few who have the privilege to stay here are not accommodated in rooms or suites, but rather in cottages - some are converted old traditional shepherds’ homes - which are scattered around the estate. And amongst this classic Corsican wilderness is a twelve hole golf course, a summer spa and other amenities for a wide range of activities.
Set back from general view, the Domaine de Murtoli is accessed through an inconspicuous wrought iron gate. On entry there is a reception where guests pick up keys and a map showing the layout of the grounds and directions to their lodgings. Once passed the portico, Murtoli gradually - modestly - reveals itself along the curves of its 50 kilometres of track. Appreciate the views in silence, relish the sheer pleasure of being part of this peaceful landscape.
As for dining, guests have the choice between the beach and its La Table de la Plage, built entirely of driftwood, or La Table de la Ferme, a Michelin Star restaurant run by chef Mathieu Pacaud or La Grotte, which, as the name suggests, is in a natural cave and has a terrace from where diners overlook what must be one of the most beautiful views on Earth. To better comprehend the size of the area, realise that to go from, for example, the reception to the beach is a good 15 minute drive, often on sandy tracks.
Murtoli is not just a hotel business. It is first and foremost a farm that Paul Canarelli has been continuously developing over the past 25 years. There has always been the desire to get the best out of the soils in the most natural way, to encourage local producers and bring the produce of the farm fresh and direct to the guests’ plates.
Paul Canarelli and Mathieu Pacaud are enthusiastically looking to the future and are creating new gardens to increase their production of fruits, vegetables and herbs and, by doing this, they are able to give pride of place to wholesome Corsican fare at their 25 seat gastronomic restaurant. As for the guests of Domaine de Murtoli, they love the idea of being able to come to the kitchen gardens and, if they so wish, pick what they want and take it for a meal back at their shepherds’ cottage.
Annexed to Murtoli’s star rated Table de la Ferme is a small cheese factory where five traditional varieties of Corsican cheeses - including tomme and brocciu - are produced. Five kilometres away, and within the confines of the estate, land has been cleared for 400 ewes to freely roam. Here, grazing to their hearts’ content in dreamlike conditions, these gorgeous sheep give us a deliciously tasty milk. Two shepherds start the milking at four in the morning; that done, the milk is taken to the cheese factory and processed straight away. Sheep farming at Murtoli is part of the family DNA: Paul Canarelli’s grandfather was himself a farmer-breeder on this very terrain before he bequeathed the land to his grandson 25 years ago.