On the road
Corse-du-Sud consists in the southern part of Corsica. The island is split between two departments, Corse-du-Sud and Haute-Corse in the North. The department is shored by the Mediterranean on its west coast, by the Tyrrhenean sea on its north-east coast and faces Sardinia southwards. Born in 1975 of the law splitting the island like in the Genoese times, Corse-du-Sud now spreads around several major centres, the main one being its prefecture, Ajaccio, with its port and airport. The department has three other ports, Porto-Vecchio, Propriano and Bonifcaio, also active for the passenger traffic and all popular tourist resorts. The cliffs of Bonifacio, the calanques of Piana and the gulf of Porto are the most spectacular sites in a department combining paradise beaches around Porto-Vecchio and a stunning hinterland like in Alta Rocca, the Ospedale massif with the Aiguilles de Bavella or around Vico. While the historical heritage in Filitosa, Bonifacio, Sartene or Ajaccio is another asset, agriculture is still vivid and the area produces fine wines (Patrimonio, Fiumicicoli). The presence of two airports in Ajaccio and Figari reinforces the department's appeal.
Sub-prefectures: Calvi, Corte.
Created on January 1, 1976, the Haute-Corse department (Cismonte in Corsica), lies in the North-East part of Corsica and its prefecture is Bastia. In 1073, the Pisans had created “pieve”, the equivalent of the current cantons, and in 1284, the Genoese already created two Corsican provinces, which became the Golo and the Liamone departments when Corsica became French in 1768. A 1975 law created the current departments of Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud.
Haute-Corse spreads over 4,665.57 km2, for a population of 164,344.
Tourism is one of the main resources of the department with such exceptional sites as Cap Corse, with its fantastic Muscat wines, Calvi and L'Ile Rousse, but Bastia's vitality and the importance of its port are also major assets for the departments. Historically, Haute-Corse is home to two former capitals of the island, Aleria, the capital of the Greek and Roman Corsica, and Corte, the capital of national hero Pascal Paoli and cultural heart of the island.
Km 21.5 : Bonifacio
Like Charles V or Napoleon Bonaparte, French poet Paul Valery was bewildered by the beauty of the site of Bonifacio. When he called the town “the picturesque capital of Corsica”, he summed up the impression that strikes visitors to the “city of cliffs”. Indeed, with its thousand-year-old fortress, its dozen monuments, its houses hanging 60 metres above sea level and its 120-km shoreline, Bonifacio has what it takes to please the most curious and demanding tourists.
From the Neolithic to the Roman emperors, the doges of Pisa, Dominican and Franciscan monks, French royalty and Republic, Bonifacio saw several civilisations pass through, each leaving its mark and turning the town into an open air museum. Bonifacio can as such be visited on several levels, for its military constructions, its religious buildings or its medieval houses. Over less than 6 ha, the town boasts some 40 listed sites.
With a 70-km shoreline and 120 kilometres if one includes the Lavezzi archipelago, Bonifacio also displays a whole range of different types of beaches – sand beaches, remote creeks, islands of all sizes and other remote sites to spend perfect farniente holidays.
PLACES TO SEE
Stairs of the King of Aragon
With some 54,000 visitors per year, the stairs of the King of Aragon are one of Corsica's most visited site. It is as popular as it is peculiar, with its 187 steps cutting through the cliff on a 45-degrees slope. The legend has it that its was built overnight by troops of King Alfonso V the Magnanimous during the siege of Bonifacio in 1420. But the idea that it was used by Franciscan monks to reach a spring of water underneath their convent is much more credible.
Pisans first built a timber fort around 830 on the site of the present Torrione. But its is quite likely that Romans also occupied the site 1,800 years ago. Bonifacio was under Genoese rule for nearly six centuries (1195-1768) during which were built the Bastion, several towers and the rampart that surround the city. Bonifacio became French after the Treaty of Versailles in 1768 and the army consolidated the fortifications until 1940.
International Sea Park
For more than 20 years, the Nature Reserve of Bouches de Bonifacion, now called International Sea Park, has preserved the local environment.
Bonifacio is rich in rare and protected species like wild orchids found nowhere else in France. Some seabirds like puffins or dolphins can be spotted and observed from the coast. Several paths are available for hikers on the Lavezzu islands while a large underwater path has been created for divers.
Split between the departments of Haute-Corse and Corse du Sud, Corsica has a particular status as a territorial collectivity giving it more autonomy than the mainland regions. While agriculture remains strong and lively, most of the activity is now tertiary, especially in the sector of tourism. A mountainous island surrounded by a multitude of smaller isles, Corsica has a Mediterranean climate made cooler by the altitude. The only local language is Corsican, derived from low-Latin and medieval Tuscan. Split from north to south by a chain of mountains, Corsica is divided in three main areas, granite in the West, schist in the East and the north East with the Cap Corse peninsula and seaside alluvial plains. Famous for the Torean civilisation, who left several statues and stones over the island around 1500 BC, Corsica was placed on ancient commercial routes and was coveted by several peoples. Disputed by Phoceans, Romans and Carthaginians in the Antiquity, it was later held by Pisans and Genoese, who left a strong mark on the island. The French, who showed a strong interest from the 16th century, annexed Corsica in 1769, putting an end to a remarkable experience of democracy led by Pascal Paoli, who wrote the worlds' first constitution. While Napoleon Bonaparte also left a major influence, Corsica was split in two departments in 1976, a division already in place in Genoese times and during the Revolution.
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