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Some places in this world are more inspiring than others and SanFrancescu is one of them. It has inspired its new owner to go above and beyond in order to share all of its hidden charms with the guests that stay here. Thanks to the dedication of the owner, Candida Romero (a painter and now fragrance designer) a Mecca of Upper Corsica’s cultural, historical and religious heritage has been revived and opened to creativity. This remarkable success has received many awards. Floating serenely on the hills of Oletta, it mingles with the perfumes of “Eau de Couvent” and the violet, jasmine and mandarin scented candles whose sales partly financed the safeguarding and restoration of this mysterious property. The artistically and skilfully designed thematic gardens contrast with the very personal and undeniable elegance of the area as they echo a return to the sources of creation and original sin. This is a place for sensitive souls. The former convent of St.Francis of Oletta will enchant its guests in unforgettable ways.
It was a case of love at first sight. I was enchanted by the property from the moment I saw it as well as its tranquillity and the way it inspired me. That was all it took as it had so much promise already. As close to the sea as it is to the mountains and with the freshness of the countryside as a bonus, I was captivated by this location at the heart of an exceptional natural heritage in the stunning Gulf of Saint-Florent region dotted with orchards and vineyards. Not to mention the richness of the architectural heritage and the baroque churches which I am a huge fan of.
Beyond its structure, the Convent SanFrancescu d'Oletta mainly bares the marks of the Italian influences which established two important religious families in Corsica. First were the Romanesque churches at the beginning of the second millennium, SanFrancescu is an example of the stunning Baroque architecture that followed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, the convent is still attached to its church and offers some thirty cells that have been transformed into living spaces over three floors.
SanFrancescu was founded in the 13th century with the aim of being one of the island’s most important Franciscan convents. The original building remained intact until it was replaced during the Genoese occupation by the Italian baroque style ones that are here today. Unfortunately, after a few turbulent political episodes and a return to orders, a long period of neglect and desertion ensued. The property was almost in ruin when I purchased it and committed to safeguarding its heritage by carrying out major restoration work in 2001. I first installed my own workshop before inviting the artist Simone Dat (who is also my mother) to live here permanently. Then, in 2007, I created a line of perfumes named "Jardins de SanFrancescu " to symbolise the property’s rebirth.
As my mother and I live and work here, we eagerly await the chance to greet guests and share creative moments in our respective workshops. We also take great pleasure in helping our guests to discover the magic of the area, particularly over a glass lemonade which we make using organic lemons from our vegetable garden. A stroll through the gardens or the Theatre de Verdure are just the beginning of its richness. It takes a little time to find pleasure in the silence here which is perfect for meditation and reflection in the shade of the fig tree or the wisteria. A candlelit dinner in the old refectory or a film night in the chapel with a view of the stars are the perfect end to a day filled with joy.
On the way out of Oletta, the Teghine pass to Nonza leads to a breath-taking view of the gulf of St.Florent and the famous vineyards of Patrimonio that are nestled between the sea and the mountains in Conca d’Oro. Also within this stunning landscape is the village which can be accessed via a small path from the convent. The café on the Piazetta has an unrivalled view of the area. A family menu and some delicious homemade tarts are available at “A Forge”, whilst the bar with a view of the Sant’Adria Church and its ex-votos at “Chex Mathieu” is a must-see in Oletta. The Marché aux Puces de Bastia that takes place every Sunday is a good starting point for exploring the capital of Bagnaja just twenty-five minutes away.
The Baroque church, which can be used for wedding ceremonies, is the highlight of any reception at the Convent of Saint Francis. With ten small chapels, it can accommodate three hundred people for sit-down lunches and dinners, or four hundred people for cocktails. The landscaped parklands include a lovely swimming pool and a series of thematic gardens which can allow for up to five hundred guests depending on the arrangements. The accommodation allows guests to stay in the convent and in the same building. The car park can fit up to ten cars on site, whilst another that can accommodate one hundred is just seven minutes by a shuttle bus which can be requested.
Temporary exhibitions are scheduled and take place from April until the end of December.
Every summer, artists in residencies are invited to stay and work at the convent.