The majestic city of Bonifacio, sits on white limestone cliffs, at the very south of the island, facing the blue sea…. Sardinia seems so very close when the wind blows in the right direction.
The city was founded by people from the Italian city of Pisa at the end of the 12th century. Its fortress successfully kept enemies away for four centuries. Bonifacio was under siege several times: legend has it that, in 1420, while besieged by soldiers from Aragon, the inhabitants built, in a single night, the 187 steps of a colossal limestone staircase that goes down to the sea from the top of the cliff.
Bonifacio was defeated only once in 1553. Weakened by the big plague that killed 4300 out of its 5000 souls, it surrendered to a Turkish mercenary appointed by the king of France, thus becoming French for the first time. Six years later, it was given to the Republic of Genoa, until 1767, when the island was returned to France.
Today, the citadel still dominates the town and the harbour. In the summer, the medieval walls offer an incredible contrast to the festive atmosphere created by its one million visitors, restaurants, boutiques and night-clubs that stay open until early morning. After visiting the citadel and strolling through the old paved streets, you can walk go down to the harbour, where some of the most luxurious yachts in the world are docked during the summer months, then up through the staircase of the Aragon King. You can visit the old cemetery, built at the very TIP of the cliff that faces the sea; a visit at night, at full moon, will remain forever stay with you.
Although Bonifacio doesn’t have long white sandy beaches,, you will find everything you need for a wonderful stay just a few kilometers away. The famous ‘golf of Sperone ’ is considered one of the most beautiful in France, It faces the Lavezzi Islands: a paradise with a marine park that you can visit by boat. Windsurfer lovers will especially enjoy the bay of Sant’A manza on of the be wind spots in Corsica.
When you have had you ration of lazing in the sun, try the wonders of Corsican mountains. The ‘Bavella Needles’ rise above the charming harbour of Porto -Vecchio, some 40 Km north of Bonifacio. The road winds up a pine forest to a breathtaking view of Jagged rocks, where the wind howls constantly (you might need a sweater), and sets the trees a 'dancing. Then on your way down, stop at one of the mountain villages to buy some of the tasty hams, salamis and cheeses that embody the Corsican way of life. How about a glass of excellent red or rose wine?
When you get back to the coast, you can stop for a romantic dinner in one of the seashore restaurants where they serve the freshest catch of the day or one of the Corsican specialty dishes.
Most visitors come to Corsica in the summer months, and particularly in August, when the number of tourists double or triple from the already large populations in July. If you can only go to Corsica in August, planning ahead is essential, as hotels, campsites, car rental agencies, and ferries are all likely to be pre-booked.
From France, the simplest and fastest solution is the NGV (High Speed Boat, Navire à Grande Vitesse): it takes 2:45 to 3:30 to go from Nice to Calvi, l'Ile-Rousse, Ajaccio and Bastia, and you can enjoy the view of the Corsican seashore and arrive practically downtown. It is also possible to take regular ferries from Marseille, Nice and Toulon. You can also get to Corsica from Italy, leaving Genoa, Livorno, Savona, Naples or Sardinia.
There are four airports on the island: Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and Figari (next to Porto-Vecchio). There is unfortunately not much available for getting into the big cities from the airport, other than renting a car or hitching, though Bastia airport has an almost-every hour bus service to town for €8, except in the evening where the interval is bigger. The last bus leaves at 2245. British Airways fly to Corsica from England and Scotland.
Activities and Sightseeing
Harbour, Citadel, Old town, many boat trips available to view coast/cliffs etc.
Corsica food has French and Italian influences, but has many unique dishes. The chestnut was one of the ancient (and even current) Corsican's mainstay foods, and many meals and even desserts are prepared with this. Also, most of the domesticated pigs on the island are semi-wild, released to forage for food much of the year, and the charcuterie reflects this excellent flavor. Typical corsican charcuterie include lonzu, coppa, ham, figatellu and saucisson made from pig or boar meat. Canistrelli are typical corsican pastries which come in many different flavors. Corsica also produces a uniquely flavored olive oil made from ripe fruits collected under trees. Many villages have small shops where locally produced food is sold. That said, it may be difficult to find a restaurant that prepares truly Corsican dishes, and you may find yourself eating at a tourist oriented Pizzeria, which nonetheless serves excellent food.
See the listing of the Hotels in Bonifacio .
Bonifacio has several different hotels, most of them located in the city's historic port. Here is just a sample of the places you can stay:
A Cheda –
Le Centre Nautique –
Le Solemare –
Long Distance Walking
Corsica has many walking trails, including the GR 20, perhaps the best known and most difficult of all the Grande Randonnée trails. The trail
takes approximately 17 days if using the traditional waypoints, though may take more or less time depending on your experience and needs. The trail is particularly crowded in August, many people suggest the best time is in late spring or early fall. The greatest danger on the GR 20 are the intense summer storms, with lightning claiming the most fatalities.
All walks will need topographical maps, despite usually excellent trail marks. The IGN maps may be found in many of the bigger cities, and at the airports, including Bastia airport. Additionally, you can purchase these maps (more expensively) from the internet ahead of time.
- Other Corsican Trails
Other trails include the two Mare e Mare (Sea to Sea) trails which cross the island, and the Mare e Monti trails (Sea and Mountain).
Mare e Mare Nord: Cargése to Moriani la Plage. Suggested time – 11 days. This trail intersects with the one of the Mare e Monti Trails. The trail is only lightly traveled from Corte to Moriani, as this is perhaps the less interesting half, with uniform scenery, and Gites that may not be open unless you call first.
Mare e Mare Sud: Porto-Vecchio to Propriano. Suggested time – 5 days. Considered an easier trail than the other trails on the island.
Mare e Monti: Calenza to Cargèse. Suggested time – 10 days. This trail includes the beautiful fishing village of Girolatta, unnusual in that it is only accessable by boat (from Calvi) or on foot.
There are additional Mare e Monti trails.
Corsica has excellent beaches and if you, like most of Corsica's visitors, are there in the summer many of your activities will center around the beach. Beside sunbathing and swimming almost every beach offers opportunities to snorkel. Some more popular beaches will rent windsurf boards and kite-surfing boards. Scuba diving is available, particularly at popular beaches near islands and in major towns. Expect to pay around €45-60 euros for a one hour dive.
Once the sun goes down, many people stay on or near the beach, enjoying gelatto or one of the many beachside bars and restaurants.
Sightseeing in Corsica's major towns is also an excellent activity, though those who wait to do this on cloudy/rainy days may find the roads in and out of town completely overwhelmed by summer traffic, with traffic jams up to 2 hours in August. On cloudy days, your best bet is to avoid the centers and head into the mountains, for a walk along a marked trail or a meal in a small village.