Friday, 3 October 2014

Corsica - Corte, Pigna and Saint-Florent

In this final post on Corsica I'd like to introduce you to some must-dos. I found Corte an interesting city. It was once the capital of Corsica though was not established by the Genoese.

Independence leader Pascal Paoli stormed the citadel in 1755 and took it for Corsican independence. Naturally there are statues to this leader. The citadel, built in 1419, is in quite an outstanding location on a rocky outcrop. Goodness know how Paoli and his men got up all the steps and took it.
Napoleon initially admired Paoli but they eventually had a falling out, with Bonaparte taking the side of France and setting out on his path to immortality by consequence.

The Museum of Corsica is located inside the citadel but our tour didn't, alas, include a visit. Just getting up to the viewing platform to look at the citadel can leave you puffing a bit, but the view  of the citadel and city is worth it.

Corte is smack bang in the middle of Corsica and has the only citadel not on the coast. I was captured by Dr Gaffori's house in Place Gaffori. While fighting the Genoese to defend the town, the good doctor was killed in a hail of bullets. A statue recognises his valiant defence and you can clearly see the bullet holes peppering his old house. They've been left there to illustrate history.

There are quaint alleyways full of old-fashioned shops, plenty  of cafes catering to tourists. There's also a university, originally established by Paoli, alive and thriving in the city.
Our group visited the small town of Pigna. There's not a lot to see, though it is a good example of a perched town with its cute stone houses and narrow streets inviting discovery. I think that if you want anything ceramic from Corsica, this is one of the better places to buy some. I came away with my second (and last) souvenir of Corsica from here; a beautiful beautiful blue vase that reminds me of the sea that splashes the coast of Corsica.

We spent several nights at Saint-Florent in the north of Corsica. It's a handy base from which to explore the Cap and surrounding areas. I didn't find anything particularly note-worthy about the place though it's pleasant enough. Each night we dined in a restaurant jutting over the sea, watching the sun go down in brilliant red and pink hues, lulled by the sound of water lapping the old stone buildings at the water's edge.

In summing up. I'd say that if you like the climate of the Mediterranean in summer, an island that's French but is even more Italian in flavour, wine that's not as good as the rest of France, cold cuts that get a bit monotonous, local honey and jams, bullet holes ancient and modern, sharp knives, mountains and coastlines, Napoleonic history and a rather too-laidback approach to enterprise and service then you'll feel right at home. It's not like the rest of France, and it doesn't want to be.
Below - the gorgeous 'ceiling' above us as we lunched one day.


Maureen Helen said...

Hi, Frances
Love your blog. I'm passionate about France. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Paris and Sete after we eloped when we were both in our 70s. We've been back to France three more times in the last seven years, and looking forward to exploring the north-eastern corner next year.

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