Friday, January 29, 2016

My Fascination With Napoleon Continues...

Corsica is known to most as a French Island in the Mediterranean Sea, and most people have heard that Napoleon was born there.  That's absolutely true.  Did you know that Corsica was ruled by all kinds of peoples and countries before it came to rest in the hands of France?  It did.  It was once even under the rule of Barbary Pirates.  But, most recently, it was Genoese until the 1700's when it was turned over to France by treaty.   Strangely, Napoleon was nearly born Italian, which would actually make sense since the island is closer to Italy than to France, and a stone's throw from Sardinia.  Less than a year before Napoleon was born, Corsica became part of France, and his father was a die hard supporter of the Genoese.  Napoleon was actually named after his uncle that died in one of the last battles before the French took over.  Isn't life strange.

The town is Ajaccio, and it lies in the southern part of the island.  It's a beautiful old city with more of an Italian feel than French.  It's the way on the island.  Corsicans have their own way, and France can claim them all they want.  It doesn't mean that they will change.  The house where Napoleon was born is on the tour route in Ajaccio, and you can look at where he spent the first years of his life.  Interestingly enough, when it came time to exile him for war crimes Corsica was not considered, and instead Napoleon was sent to Elba for his first exile.  When that didn't take, they sent him all the way to St. Helena in the South Atlantic where he finally stayed put until his death.

There is no doubt that Napoleon was Corsica's most famous resident, but the island is a beautiful and amazing place to spend some time.  Corsicans are famous for being independent and tough.  They also enjoy a rugged landscape with cliffs and mountains, yet at the same time the island is surrounded by beautiful beaches.  The scene there is still more Italian, and they have some traditions that are famously Italian like feuds and revenge.  Apparently the idea of going after your enemy's family didn't come from Sicily.  That concept started on Corsica.

Propriano is another of the fine cities in Southern Corsica.  This town has all the old world looks, but is updated for the tourists.  The Notre Dame is the main landmark that everyone visits in this town, but they are far more well known for their beaches and their old world harbor.  This is a great place for shopping, eating, hanging out at the beach, watching sunsets, and catching the ferry to Sardinia.  The landscape is beautiful, and it's a great stop while on the trail of Napoleon.

Sartene is another amazing old town along the southern coast.  It's more of a cliff stronghold turned into a village.  The narrow streets, the walled town, the ancient buildings everywhere are a sure fire winner for anyone who enjoys taking pictures.  You never know what amazing structures will be around the next corner.  This is a somewhat smaller town than some of the others that I mention here, but that keeps it more intimate.  The less people, the better the pictures.

I think that my favorite stop in Southern Corsica would have to be Bonafacio.  This is the town that was built on the cliffs at the south tip of Corsica.  It has some of the most dramatic landscapes anywhere on the island, and the town is perched on top of some super high white cliffs.  They have a castle, amazing roads, amazing walks, and this is the place to hire a boat to go out and see the view from the sea.  It's old, it's beautiful, and it's convenient as in you can catch the ferry there as well. 

There's a national park along the shore of this area and there are rock formations off the coast that you have to see to believe.  This is the fortress type village that you would associate with the Roman's and other great warrior cultures.

The islands of the Mediterranean have been inhabited for eons.  Homer sailed around them during Greek times.  The Phoenicians were here, and so many more.  The Mediterranean is supposedly the site of the lost city of Atlantis.  The stories go on and on from Egyptians to Romans and beyond.  Not far from any of the cities in Southern Corsica are ancient sites that are now open to the public.  There are structures and caves in the area dating back to prehistoric times.  Cauria and Palaggiu are two such places that aren't far from any of the towns along the southern coast. 

So, if you like history, and European History is a thing to you, Corsica has some great things to offer.  The southern shores of Corsica are alive with many histories, and in my case, the history of Napoleon.  Corsica is too big of an area to discuss it all in one shot, so you may see it come up again.  But, if you would like to visit an ancient island in modern times, Corsica is a great spot for you.  The landscape is surreal, the history is fascinating and long, the people are independent and interesting.  It's got a little something for everyone, and then you can go to the beach.  So, is this an Adventure for Anyone?  You bet it is.  Enjoy!

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