Ajaccio, the capital of the island of Corsica (located off France’s southern coast), is a chic coastal city characterized by its marina culture and a strong connection to its unique heritage. The city is notable because it was the birthplace of the French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Whether you prefer hiking outdoors, touring museums and historic cathedrals, or enjoying fresh seafood while gazing upon the majestic waters of the Mediterranean, Ajaccio is sure to please.
Getting To Ajaccio
Ajaccio is accessible by plane or ferry (ferries run from southern France, Italy and Sardinia). Once you are on Corsica, you can take a train from Ajaccio to other cities on the island.
By plane: Aéroport d’Ajaccio-Campo dell’Oro is located 8km east of the city center.
By ferry: It is possible to take a ferry to Ajaccio from France (Toulon, Marseille or Nice), Italy and Sardinia (Porto Torres). For rates and schedules, see: aferry.com.
By train: Ajaccio’s train station, Gare d’Ajaccio, is owned and operated by Chemins de fer de de Corse (Corsica Railways). It is located near the port and connects Ajaccio to the Corsican cities of Corte, Bastia and Calvi. There are two smaller train stations near Ajaccio: Gare des Salines is located just north of the city and Gare de Campo dell’Oro is close to the Ajaccio Airport.
What to see and do in Ajaccio
Ajaccio is steeped in history. It is best known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, so many of the main tourist sites in the city relate to the Bonaparte family.
Maison Bonaparte This impeccably maintained museum was once the home and birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. In addition to housing memorabilia, art objects and furniture of the Bonaparte family, the museum also owns a collection of portraits and other paintings from the 18th century
The Cathedrale d’Ajaccio (its full name is Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption d’Ajaccio; Rue Forcioli Conti) is a Roman Catholic church where Napoleon was baptized in 1771. The church is dedicated to the patron saint “La Madonuccia” (the “little Madonna”) who was believed to have protected the people of Ajaccio from the Black Plague. In her honor, there is a painting of the Madonna by the famous French painter Eugène Delacroix inside the cathedral.
Place de Foch is Ajaccio’s main square, located in the city center. A famous statue of Napoleon and a fountain stand in the middle of the square. If you are feeling peckish, grab a bite to eat and a glass of Corsican wine at one of the many cafes that line Place de Foch.
Le Musée Fesch (20 Rue Cardinal Fesch; Web: http://www.musee-fesch.com/) houses over one thousand Italian paintings, ranging in style from baroque to neoclassical. The museum built under the leadership of Cardinal Fesch, the maternal uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Located just outside Ajaccio, you’ll find the Cinarca Valley, characterized by its rolling green hills. Between these hills are the vineyards responsible for cultivating the Sciacarello grape, which gives Corsican wine its peppery, highly tannic quality. There are plenty of opportunities for vineyard tours and tastings in this region.
Where to eat in Ajaccio
Corsican cuisine is a unique blend of French and Italian culinary elements. Try it for yourself at one of these quality establishments.
Route des Sanguinaires
Tel: 04 95 50 05 22
Vino del Diablo
Port de l’amiraute
Tel: 04 95 22 70 10
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com