Corsica and Ajaccio travel has been important to mariners and conquerors for centuries, beginning with the Greek Empire who called the island Kallisto, meaning the “most beautiful.”
The Roman Empire arrived in Ajaccio in 259 BC, and independent republics from mainland Italy ruled for the nearly 2,000 years after that. The Republic of Genoa began ruling the island in the twelfth century, and it was during this time that the massive citadel that dominates the city was built. This is one of the main attractions of a vacation to Ajaccio as are similar huge defensive structures built by the Genoese in the island’s other seaports—most prominently Calvi and Bonifacio.
The city is known as the birthplace of Napoleon who was born here in 1769, the same year the Genoese were finally ousted and Ajaccio travel for the purpose of conquest ended.
Ajaccio Town Centre
The main centre of the town of interest to visitors is the 16th century citadel, and the region just to the west and north of the citadel. This region includes the Place Bonaparte and the renaissance cathedral, and continues up to Place Foch a little to the north. Note that it was in this cathedral, the Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Misericorde, that Bonaparte was baptised (you can still see the marble font where it happened).
The centre of Ajaccio is based around the 16th century citadel (still in military use, so not open to the public), and spreads west and north of the citadel into the town - this part of Ajaccio includes the Place Bonaparte and the renaissance cathedral, and continues up to Place Marechal Foch a little to the north, and is the part that is of most interest to visitors.
The old town, around Place Marechal Foch, has narrow streets lined with attractive, typically Mediterranean, houses and is very picturesque. It is also here that you can see (and visit if you are so inclined) Napoleons birthplace. Note that it was in the unassuming cathedral, the Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Misericorde, that Bonaparte was baptised.
There are a large number of cafes, bars and restaurants around Ajaccio, and it is in these that you will find the true town the laid back casual approach to life that Ajaccio seems to adopt so well. Place Foch especially is a very popular place to sit under shady trees and do some people-watching. Excellent cheese and charcuterie are ubiquitous. Worth seeking out are the cannelloni al brocciu (a pasta dish) and fiadone (a type of cheesecake); both of which use the island cheese brocciu. Also good are local fish and fish soup, mussels, and veal with green olives.
Other Ajaccio beaches will be found along the coast on both sides of the city. Probably the most popular for a family vacation to Ajaccio is Ricanto Beach, located only a short drive from city center. This one of the island beaches with a lifeguard, and has ample parking as well as toilets and other facilities.
If you want sheltered lagoons with beaches that are very secluded, travel north along the coast as far as the village of Cargese about twenty miles away. Ajaccio travel to this region offers a number of vacation rentals that are generally one-family homes and small villas.
There are also excellent diving routes along the coast, especially north of Ajaccio towards the Scandola Nature Reserve and south around the charming seaside town of Propriano where you can see the tallest of the several Genoese towers on the island. It is possible to climb stairs to the top of the graceful tower for fabulous views of the bay and coastline.
Ajaccio Tourist Board
3 Boulevard du Roi Jérôme, Ajaccio, Corsica
Tel: (04) 9551 5303.
Many shops in Ajaccio are stylish and expensive (prices of nearly all goods are higher than on mainland France or Italy) selling designer French and Italian brand names. Arts and crafts include local painting, leatherwork, pottery and wood carving. Products Coarse, mostly food items, indicate goods made on (and often exclusive to) the island. Corsican cheeses and charcuterie are renowned.