D81 road through the Calanches de Piana is one of the great drives of Europe. It’s located on the west coast of Corsica, France. It’s one of the French balcony roads. It runs as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with nowhere to pass another vehicle. Here one says a prayer that nobody is coming towards you until the road widens some kilometres further.
Located in the gulf of Porto, this 11,7km section goes through a spectacular landscape of red granite cliffs and spiky outcrops, carved into bizarre shapes by the forces of wind and water. Between Porto and Piana, this narrow road winds against the magnificent red granite faces that plunge into the sea. These are the "Calanche of Piana". Engraved by the erosion, they look like a fantastic sculpture.
The drive is definitely worth it. Don’t forget your camera! Because they are so attractive, and are now a UNESCO World heritage Site, the Calanches are also very popular and the road can become very busy during the summer months. The D81 is a narrow, winding road connecting Porto and Piana that hugs the impressive red rocks of Piana Calanche, giving endless views out to sea. Caution is required when driving on this road, as in parts it's so narrow that cars can only just pass through - but the location is worth it.
This road is one of the most famous balcony roads in the country. A balcony road is a hair-raising lane cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. It’s a kind of road not for those who fear heights. There is little room for error on these roads. It’s normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos, imagine what it must have been like before the barriers. The best time of day to drive is at sunset, when the rocks become an event deeper shade of red, casting sharp, jagged shadows over the landscape. The D81 road cuts across the creeks for about 2 kms with excellent viewpoints of the famous red granite cliffs and the gulf of Porto. Really magnificent, particularly at sunset. It’s worth the detour, exceptional. This road has not to be missed if you are visiting this region of Corsica!
2019 Update: Due to the fact that Calanches de Piana are so famous this road is flooded by tourists and their vehicles. Even big motorhomes and buses with 40 persons and more try to pass the road even though they are simply too big for this road. This results always in traffic jams because going into reverse is not an option. During the touristic season the village of Porto provides a special service. On both sides of the scenic part of this street there are guides who communicate via radio. Alternating they block the traffic and guide the buses through this tight part of the road by driving a bicycle. Partly there is less than 10 cm left on both sides of the vehicle!
Road suggested by: Michael Spannlang