Ajaccio Corsica by car
Ajaccio Corsica by car
While storm bound in Bonifacio we hired a car and made our way to Ajaccio via Propriano and Filitosa. This was not an easy task for our driver Frank as it was up and down the mountains constantly turning corners for over two hours each way.
Propriano 41:40.66N 08:54.39E lies on the east coast in the Golfe de Valinco tucked between green hills and a very blue sea. The
yacht harbour and many beach resorts around the many coves make it a very easy holiday resort.
Due to the strategic position of Propriano it was sought after throughout history. In ancient times it developed its famous port and trading centre for Etruscans, Greeks, Carthaginians and the Romans especially in the 2nd century BC. In the 1980’s while restructuring work on the port was being carried out numerous objects from this period were found.
During the Middle Ages Propriano was governed first by the Pisans and then in 1230 onwards by the Genoese. In 1563 Sampiero Corso landed here and initiated a period of anti Genoa revolts. His actions proved disastrous and the village was left to pirate raids and virtually destroyed. In the 19th century Propriano came to life again and become a commercial port. Many of the houses date from 100 years ago.
Even in the 1950’s Propriano has quite a violent reputation of innocent locals murdered in drunken revelry or tourists robbed and then murdered. A local fisherman who killed the coastguard who had him convicted of fishing with dynamite was one of the local troublemakers. In April 1990 the FLNC blew up a restaurant and holiday village in the vicinity but no one was hurt. It appears this sleepy little town where we had our picnic lunch overlooking the harbour and boats has quite a dark side to it although we found it a pleasant place to sit in the sun for a while.
We drove further north to Filitosa which is a famous prehistoric site in Corsica which is managed by the heir’s of Charles-Antoine Cesari who made the first discoveries in 1946.
5000 years of history shows Filitosa was populated in very ancient times because it was fertile and easy to defend. The fortified town dominated the valley of the small Taravo River. It was here among the stones one of the most significant alignments of anthropomorphic menhirs was found. Most of the ruins of Filitosa date between late second millennium BC and 700 BC. With the arrival of Christianity the menhirs were considered pagan and therefore destroyed. The remains were heaped together in piles like mere stones to be discovered centuries later. There is a small museum and display area. It is quite interesting to visit although health and safety are not in evidence as you walk and climb over lots of very uneven ground.
We continued our journey north to Ajaccio 41:55.67N 08:44.59E as it is the largest city in Corisca and political centre. To be fair the drive had taken a long time and by the time we arrived it was dull and overcast and once parked and out of the car it rained heavily so we did not see as much as we would have liked. We had enjoyed the view over the huge bay on the drive down the last mountain.
We walked along the harbour area into the old Genoese town which has narrow streets with pastel coloured facades mixed with a little of the modern city with tree lined avenues and outdoor cafes. We sheltered in a restaurant enjoying the coffee and beer deciding what to do for the best. In the end we decided it was best to walk back to the car and make for Bonifacio and the restaurant we found the night before as it was getting dark now due to the rain and we still had a good two hour drive back.
The Citadelle was constructed in 1554 by the order of the French Marshal de Thermes and was completed by the Genoese in 1559. Ajaccio was developed in 1492 by the Genose but in 1553 the city was conquered by Sampiero Corso for the French but it was returned to the Genoese as part of a Cateau-Cambresis agreement. Under Genoa Ajaccio prospered thanks to commerce, agriculture and coral fishing but not until 1592 were the locals granted permission to live there. In 1723 the city became the capital of West Corsica.
Ajaccio is famous as the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte who was born in the city on 15th August, 1769.
The Bonaparte family house has been restored and opened to the public. The family lived here from 1682. In 1793 Napoleon’s family were forced to flee the house via a trap door after his troops had fired on a local rally. The house was impounded 1794 to 1796 by the British and used as an arsenal. In 1797 Letizia Bonaparte, (Napoleon’s mother) returned to Ajaccio and obtained compensation to refurnish the house. Since 1923 Maison Bonaparte has been a state managed three storey museum illustrating the turbulent history of the Bonaparte family.