Corsica

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Shaped like a bunch of vine-ripened grapes, Corsica (Corse) ripples with mountain ranges covered in vivid green chestnut and pine forests, pastures and fragrant maquis scrubland. Grape cultivation dates back over 3000 years, with exceptional vineyards on the island.

 

History

As an island, Corsica has enjoyed a turbulent past.

There is evidence of early settlement in Corsica, with menhirs and dolmen being found in several locations. The island was occupied by Greeks and Romans during the early centuries AD., the earliest settlement being at Aleria (first called Alalia) on the east coast. Mineral deposits of copper, iron and lead further inland were exploited, as were the lagoons along the east coast, which were rich in oysters and eels.

The subject of many invasions during the middle ages, control of the island passed to the state of Pisa in 1077. Following a period of rivalry with the state of Genoa, the Pisan state declined in 1284, and rule of Corsica, together with Sardinia, passed to the king or Aragon.
The Genoese regained the island in 1347, and ruled it - with a brief intervention by the French in 1553 - until 1729, the year of the Corsican revolution for independence. There followed a turbulent forty years of struggle by the Corsicans, under the leadership of Pascal Paoli who governed independent Corsica from 1755 to 1768 and gave it its constitution, modelled on that of England.

In 1768, the treaty of Versailles ceded Corsica to France and 1769 marked the end of Corsican independence. Napoleon was born in Ajaccio on 15 August 1769. Apart from a brief period from 1794 to 1796 when St. Gilbert Elliot ruled an Anglo-Corsican kingdom as viceroy, Corsica has remained part of the French republic to the present. During the 19th century, under Napoleon III and the third republic, the island was developed economically, with the building of roads, the railway and schools.

 

flag corse

The Moor's Head - the origins of the Corsica flag (above)

The Moor's Head has become the Corsican emblem of Corsica and can be seen throughout the island on flags, locally produced goods, official buildings and Corsican owned boats, and the like. There are numerous theories about the origin, most are merely speculation or romatic legends. It is believed that the symbol dates back to the the 13th century, when the King of Aragon was gifted Corsica by the Pope after their victory over the Saracens.

In 1762, the great Corsican Patriot, Pascal Paoli, chose the Moors Head as the official emblem of independent Corsica. He reportedly said 'The Corsicans want to see well, liberty shall follow the torch of philosophy and we shall not be scared by the light'.

 

Places of Interest

Ajaccio

With a glittering harbourfront, designer boutiques and fashionable restaurants, Corsica’s cosmopolitan capital honours its famous son with street names, statues and several stellar museums.

ajaccio

Worth a visit:

National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence

http://www.musee-maisonbonaparte.fr/

 

Bastia

With its colourful jumble of tenement buildings built into the hillside and atmospheric old port, Bastia is in some ways like a miniature version of mainland Marseille: a thriving, lively city that’s not tizzed up for tourists. Basking beneath the Mediterranean sun, the city’s narrow streets are crowned by a crumbling 15th-century citadel.

bastia


Bastia-Poretta airport is the second major international airport on the island after Ajaccio Campo dell'Oro in the south, and is a good base to explore the northern part of Corsica.
The town also has a few cultural sights which are well worth a visit and is located just under one hour north of the Maison Natale de Pascal Paoli, the birthplace of the island's hero par excellence.
Bastia's main historical site is of course its Genoese citadel which was built in the 16th century for the Genoese governor of Corsica and its 15th century Sainte-Marie Cathedral.
On the way to the citadel fortress, visitors can stop at the botanical gardens Jardin Romieu, which are open from 8am to 8pm in the summer.
Bastia's other places of interest include Corsica's largest church, the 17th-century Saint-Jean Baptiste Church on the Hotel de Ville square, as well as the Baroque chapel the Oratoire de l'Immaculee Conception, which was home to the Anglo-Corsican Parliament in the late 1790s, when Britain briefly claimed sovereignty over the French island.

Northern Corsica's capital is also one of the best places to organise water sports activities in the area, including sailing, windsurfing, diving, kayaking, sea fishing but also paragliding and horse riding in the maquis and along the beach.
The town's best sandy beaches, including the Arinella and Marana beaches, are located south of town, but there are also some pleasant shingle beaches like Grigione or Miomo beach in the north.
Multiple day-trips to the mountains or the north and western coasts can also be organised from Bastia.

 

Bonifacio

bonifacio

The most vivid view of Bonifacio is from aboard a boat in the sapphire-blue Bouches de Bonifacio (Strait of Bonifacio). This stunning 12km strait channels between Corsica’s southernmost tip and the Italian island of Sardinia. From the water, the tall, sun-bleached buildings of Bonifacio’s citadel appear to morph seamlessly into the serrated white limestone cliffs rising up from the sea. Within the clifftop citadel is a charming maze of alleyways with a distinct medieval feel.

Wind capital of France, Bonifacio is the surfing destination by excellence in the Mediterranean.
Bonifacio's surfing school is located on Piantarella beach at 5 rue St Erasme, offering a wide range of courses for all levels and all ages.
The centre also rents sailboards, catamarans, kayaks and pedalos.

Bonifacio also boasts one of the most abundant marine reserves around the island, encompassing the Lavezzi and Cerbicales islands located by the eastern coast. The "bouches" is groupers' paradise and has become extremely sought after by scuba divers across the world.

To mention only the most popular spots, the beaches of Rondinara, Balistra, Santa Manza gulfs and Canetto are worth the trip, including Sperone beach which offers magnificent views over the Lavezzi islands.

Bonifacio is an architectural wonder and an extremely pleasant town to visit.
Its city walls were successively rebuilt by invaders from the medieval period onwards, and the town has preserved some of its most breathtaking houses, all built over gigantic drops above the sea.


Calvi

calvi

More like a glamorous mainland Mediterranean resort than perhaps anywhere else in Corsica, Calvi curves around a crescent-shaped bay, basking beneath the snowy peaks of Monte Cinto (2706m). Watching over the town, the citadel remains as a relic of the town’s past as a strategic military outpost, with a huddle of 13th-century hilltop houses cosseted by 15th-century bastions.

Archery and skydiving can be arranged at the "associations sportives et culturelles", which also hosts a chess club, an astronomy club, a car club, and "I Sbuleca Mare" for underwater explorers.

The Scandola reserve is home to a multitude of bird, mammal, reptile and marine species, an unparalleled abundance compared to other Mediterranean islands.

And to finish with, a visit to Calvi's landmark should not be missed. The 12th century citadel was first built during the Genoese conquest to protect their float from attackers and is also believed to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

 

Corte (Corti)

corte

To truly experience Corsican culture, head to Corte (pronounced Cor-tay), its heartland. Since Pasquale Paoli created an independent nation in 1755 and made this fortified town its capital, Corte continues to be a potent symbol of Corsican independence. Paoli founded a national university here in 1765, but it was closed four years later when the short-lived Corsican republic foundered.

Cradled by mountains, hiking in the area is some of the island’s best. The town marks the midpoint on the Mare a Mare Nord trail.

 

Porto (Portu)

porto

Nestled at the bottom of a deep eucalyptus-filled gully etched by the burbling Le Porto River trickling over a bed of stones to the sea, Porto is a rustic little seasonal town. Diving here is among the island’s finest. The town is an ideal departure point for hiking the Réserve Naturelle de Scandola, Les Calanques, as well as exploring the nearby mountain villages of Ota and Évisa.

 

Sartène (Sartè)

sartene

Said to be the most Corsican of Corsica’s towns, the grey-granite mountain town of Sartène has a sombre past. In 1583 Barbary pirates raided the town and carried 400 people into slavery in North Africa; raids only ended in the 18th century. Sartène was notorious for its banditry and bloody vendettas. In the early 19th century a disagreement between rival landowners deteriorated into fighting, forcing most of the population to flee.

These days, the town is best known for its increasingly famous Procession du Catenacciu, a colourful re-enactment of the Passion, which dates back to the Middle Ages. Each year on Good Friday, the Catenacciu (‘the chained one’), an anonymous, barefoot penitent covered in a red robe and cowl (to preserve anonymity), carries a huge cross through the town while dragging a heavy chain shackled to the ankle. The penitent is chosen by the parish priest from applicants seeking to expiate a grave sin.

 

 

Traditional Events

Literally every town and village on the island of Corsica holds its own festivals, for agricultural, religious or cultural reasons!

There are few outdoor venues for large events in Corsica, and so the main festivals and happenings are frequently held in the open air, during the late spring and summer. Many additional local celebrations and things to do take place at other times of year, often being linked to the seasons and their produce in rural areas.

February: Pig Fair (Fiera di A Tumbera) - takes place at A Tumbera in Renno, involving the traditional winter ceremony of killing a pig (illegal now in the EU, but it still goes on). It marks mid-winter and the role of the pig in the survival of agricultural communities.

March: Olive Fair - held in the charming Alto Rocco mountain village of St. Lucie de Tallano, this traditional gathering marks the new pressing of the area's superb olive oil. Of note, there is also an olive oil museum here.

tallano

 

May: Cheese Fair (Fiera du Fromage) - Corsica's premier cheese fair. Held at Venaco, south of Corte, with cheese competitions, stalls, crafts and fun for all.

June: Calvi Jazz Festival - attracting many famous jazz musicians, who perform on a stage below the old town, plus jam sessions on the quay

calvi


Festivoce - this important traditional music fest, based both in and around Pigna, begins in June and ends in September, with concerts of polyphonic music, the heart of the island's musical roots. Performers arrive from all over the world.

July: Calvi on the Rocks - kicks off early in July with electronic music and digital art, plus a nightly concert in the citadel. http://www.calviontherocks.com/

calvi rocks

 

August: Napoleonic Festival (Fetes Napoleoniennes) - celebrates Napoleon's birthday in Ajaccio, with lively processions in period costume, fireworks and much more.

Roman Festival - in the ancient Roman town of Aleria, on the eastern coast of Corsica. This is a celebration of its Roman past and features entertainment, a street market and fireworks.

October: International Chess Tournament - takes place in Bastia. This Open International de Corse is becoming an important date in the international chess calendar. Spectators are always welcome, as long as they are quiet!

chess

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December: Chestnut Fair - at Bocognano, between Corte and Ajaccio, one of the largest rural fairs in Corsica. Expect chestnuts and chestnut dishes everywhere, together with stalls, entertainment and competitions.

 

More events on: http://www.holidaysincorsica.co.uk/Events.htm

 

Market days

Ajaccio :

square Campinchi ........................ daily except Mondays
place Abbatucci ........................... daily except Mondays
bd Pascal Rossini (flea market)..... Sundays

Porto-Vecchio .............................. Sundays


Aleria........................................... 2nd Tuesday of the month
Bastia .......................................... daily execept Mondays
Calvi ........................................... daily
Ghisonaccia ................................ 2nd Thursday of the month

 

Language

The official language in Corsica is French, although there is a Corsican language called u Corsu which you will still hear spoken amongst the locals when you venture into villages. It sounds very much like Italian.

To understand a little of the development of the Corsican language, you have to consider the history of Corsica. Corsica has been invaded by virtually every Mediterranean civilisation since the Etruscans and her language reflects this.

Today's Corsican - Corsu - is thought to be based on old Genoese but certainly has considerable Tuscan influence in its structure. Modern Genoans can understand much of the spoken language, but there are words which defy etymological analysis. It is now an official school subject in all schools in Corsica, having at one time been banned by the French administration.

 

Local Specialties

Typical Corsican cuisine consists of inland victuals like cured sausages, cheeses and lamb seasoned with wild herbs.

Here's a few specialties followed by a typical Corsican recipe!

 

Local products
Cheeses
Savouries
Sweets

Sweet chestnut flour
Olive oil
Honey

Cedratine (lemon liquor)

Sheep and goat's milk cheeses
Brocciu (a delicate preparation based on goat or sheep’s milk)
Figatelli (pork butchery)
Coppa (pork butchery)
Tianu (pork or lamb meal)
Cooked meats
Pastizzu (anis flavoured cake)
Fiadone (lemon and brocchiu cake)

 

Corsican Grilled Whole Fish with Breadcrumbs and Anchovies

Ingredients

Serves 6 people

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 egg
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups coarse fresh white breadcrumbs

1 3 1/2-to 4-pound whole fish (such as sea bass), cleaned

Preparation

fish

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and cool.

Add egg, 2 tablespoons parsley, anchovy paste, rosemary and thyme. Mix in 3/4 cup breadcrumbs. Season stuffing with pepper.


Make two 1/2-inch-deep diagonal cuts on each side of fish, spacing cuts about 3 inches apart. Season fish cavity with salt and pepper. Spoon stuffing into cavity (do not pack tightly). Skewer opening closed.


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 3/4 cup breadcrumbs; sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Mix in 1 tablespoon parsley. Season topping with salt and pepper.


Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Brush grill with oil. Brush fish all over with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt. Place fish on grill and cook until fish is opaque in thickest part, turning once, about 25 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer fish to platter. Remove skewers. Sprinkle fish with breadcrumb topping.

 

Table linen:

They are from Provence but they suit the Corsican climate so well ! Les “Indiennes” of Provence ....
In the 17th Century, navigators brought to the port of Marseille some luxurious printed toile from India. They were an instant success in Europe for clothing and furnishing.
By mid 1600, craftsmen from Marseille and Avignon started to produce these very popular materials.
Traditional fabric manufacturers, considering these newcomers and their success as a threat, asked the French King to ban them. However, Marseille and Avignon enjoyed at that time a status of relative independence and were able to continue their trade. The ban on the "Indian" fabrics only increased the enthusiasm of the public for these brightly coloured materials ! The ban was lifted in 1759, many more "Indian" fabrics manufacturers opened, and the Provençal tablecloths and fabrics continue today to be an icon of French interior decoration.

Some of our Provencal tablecloths ...

You can see our entire collection on this page of our website:
http://www.lepinparasol.com/cotton_and_coated_tablecloths.htm

red olive tablecloth

provence tablecloth

blue and yellow provence tablecloth

Lizzy red Provencal tablecloth

Monique yellow Provencal tablecloth

Arles Provencal tablecloth

Clara blue Provencal tablecloth

You can see our entire collection on this page of our website:
http://www.lepinparasol.com/cotton_and_coated_tablecloths.htm

To get a price for any other size or place an order:

Contact & Order

line provence tablecloth blue and white provence tablecloth provence tablecloth pink provence tablecloth
Paquita linen Provencal tablecloth Elisa blue and white Provencal tablecloth Melanie ochre Provencal tablecloth Josette pink Provencal tablecloth

 

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Catherine Castelain
c.castelain@lepinparasol.com
Date Last Modified: 4/3/15
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