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Ajaccio

Ajaccio, the city of Napoleon
Set between spectacular mountains and a bay with clear, calm sea, Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica attracts visitors with its elegance, the cordiality of its people and its ancient past.
 
Even though it was a land conquered by important Mediterranean civilisations, such as the Greeks, Romans and Arabs, the island of Ajaccio has managed to retain a strong cultural identity, and the city has preserved its unique appearance even within the island.
 
However, it is the memory of the city’s most illustrious citizen, Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born here in 1769, that has left the most visible mark. The memory of the Emperor of France is honoured in the museums, in the statues in the centre of the squares, in the names of the streets and in the historical re-enactments that each year are promoted by the local authority and by numerous associations founded for the purpose. 
 
The old town is dominated by the beautiful Renaissance cathedral which watches over the peaceful life of the local residents, who love the meet in the numerous open-air coffee houses or stroll along the picturesque pedestrian streets.
 
 
The coastline is succession of white beaches that alternate with inlets of incredible turquoise waters and wild bays. 
Even the port is spectacular and since ancient times has been considered extremely safe; a port that gave its name to the city as it was once called Agation, which means “safe harbour”.
 
On the west side of the city lies the extraordinary spectacle of the Isles Sanguinaires, islands of red porphyry, which are so called because at sunset they light up a vermillion red, like blood. 
 
 
A fifteenth-century fortification looks down onto the city
The Citadel, which is still well preserved, and features a donjon, the highest tower of the castle, low defensive wall and quay, and towers above the famous Plage Saint Francois.
 
 
 
One of the most representative places and heart of the city is Place Foch in the old town, which is flanked by picturesque coffee bars with tables outside in the shade of palms and pastel-coloured historic buildings, and dominated in the centre by a white marble statue of Napoleon. A statue of the Emperor also sits in Place Austerlitz, where it is said that Bonaparte used to play with his friends as a child.
 
The places of remembrance of the Emperor still reside in Maison Bonaparte, where the illustrious citizen was born and spent his youth, in the Napoleonic Museum, and even in the Cathedral, where he was baptised in 1771 and where he wanted to be buried, according to the wish he expressed when he was in exile on the island of St. Helena. His wish, however, was never granted as he died on the island and was buried in the Hotel des Invalides in Paris
 
 
The Bonaparte family is omnipresent, even in the Fesch Museum, which is hosted in the eponymous building inhabited by the maternal uncle of Napoleon, Cardinal  Joseph Fesch, a great lover of art who collected a large number of Italian masterpieces. Even Emperor Napoleon III, grandson of the more famous Napoleon I, is remembered: in particular in the Imperial Chapel, a mausoleum he commissioned and where he wanted the entire Bonaparte family to be buried.
 
 
 
Ajaccio is a city charged with atmosphere
not just of memories of its past, but also due to the cordiality of its residents, who warmly welcome all tourists.
 
Friendliness is assured in the numerous restaurants, which offer traditional dishes that use ingredients from the sea and land with decisive flavours: the cured meats are among the best in France, such as the Corsican coppa, lonzu and Corsican sausage, but the local cheeses are also strongly flavoured and highly regarded. 
 
Wild herbs are widely used, in particular in the famous and tasty Corsican pork. Even the sea, one of the richest in Europe, provides the freshest of ingredients for tasty dishes such as aziminu, a fish soup with shellfish and lobster, and octopus in tomato sauce.
 
Where to sleep in Ajaccio

Ajaccio is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.

To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.

 

STARS
Hotels for stars, differentiated by type of services:
DISTRICTS
Hotels in the districts
 
 
AIRPORT
Hotels near the airport
 
 
Text by Anna Glik
Photos: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
Video: www.ajaccio-tourisme.com 
Copyright © Sisterscom.com
 
 
Tourism Board
WHERE TO GO
Monuments
 
CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION
The façade of this sixteenth-century church displays the Mannerist style of the era. Inside there are 7 side chapels, including one devoted to the Virgin of Mercy, patron saint of Ajaccio, and another dedicated to the Crying Madonna, with a painting by Delacroix depicting the Religion. Every 18th March the ritual procession of the Madunnuccia departs from the church. This seventeenth-century tradition began as vow of the inhabitants of Ajaccio.
 
Museums
MUSEUM OF MAISON BONAPARTE

A museum has been set up in the house where Napoleon lived and spent his youth, which is filled with family portraits, furniture of the time, tapestries, decorative items, as well as superb collection of art collected by his uncle Cardinal Fesch. An interesting family tree of the Bonaparte family, which arrives up to 1959, is found in a room on the second floor.

www.musee-maisonbonaparte.fr
LIBRARY

This immense library, which has a reading room of some 30 metres long, is home to ancient books arranged on elegant walnut shelves, and is one of the most important in France. It was created by Luciano Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, in 1801 with books confiscated from revolutionaries of the Crown, nobility and clergy.

www.bibliotheque.ajaccio.fr
 
MUNICIPAL NAPOLEONIC MUSEUM
Housed in a building dating back to the thirties, this is the “place of memory” of the Imperial family, which contains medals from the Napoleon era, as well as portraits and busts of the family created by artists of the time and collected in the Napoleonic Room, one of which is an enormous portrait of Napoleon in imperial clothes. A room houses an interesting model of the ship that transported the body of Napoleon from St. Helena in France and a photo of the house where he died, as well as a copy of his funeral mask. Nearby is the Imperial Mausoleum, a chapel commissioned by the Emperor Napoleon III, which should have held the tombs of all the Bonaparte family, according to the wishes of Cardinal Fesch.
FESCH MUSEUM 

This museum contains one of the most important collections in France, particularly of Italian artCardinal Joseph Fesch, who lived in the nineteenth-century building which is now a museum, at the time when he was French ambassador to the Holy See, collected some 16,000 Italian masterpieces. Today the museum features some of these works by Bellini, Botticelli, Titian, Perugino, Veronese, Canova, Bernini and others: the largest collection of Italian artists outside the Louvre.

www.musee-fesch.com
 
 
Tours and excursions
ISLES SANGUINAIRES
Each day trips to the Isles Sanguinaires leave from the port of the Citadel. This small archipelago of 4 small islands in the gulf of Ajaccio has wild countryside and an old castle on the summit of the larger island. The Punta de La Parada has been named “Grande Site de France” for its beauty. Don’t miss the magical sunset when the islands light up a beautiful vermillion red due to the porphyry from which they are made.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF FILITOSA
At least one hour to the south of Ajaccio, in the area of Propriano, lies the archaeological area of Filitosa, which was discovered by chance in 1946. It features menhirs (tall stones placed in the ground with symbolic and propitiatory meanings), each with anthropomorphic appearance, dating back to 1,500 BC; the site however dates back to 3,000 BC.
A CAPULATTA

The wild Park of A Capulatta is found some 20 kilometres from Ajaccio. Well worth visiting for its unspoilt nature, uniquely approximately 150 different species of tortoises live here.

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