6 unmissable experiences between Bastia and Cap Corse

With its old port, citadel and steep streets overlooking the azure Tyrrhenian sea: Bastia opens a splendid door to the wild, preserved Cap Corse. This ‘island on the island’, punctuated with Genoese towers and maquis scrub, secret rivers and unexpected forests. Here are our top six experiences to ensure you soak up the best of the city and its surroundings.

Get lost in the citadel

Bastia owes its name to this ‘bastille’, built on a promontory in the 14th century by Genoese governors. In the shelter of its ramparts, it’s a village within the city. Each alleyway leads to a monument: St. Mary’s Cathedral honouring the Virgin in silver, the Oratory of the Brotherhood of St. Croix sheltering a black Christ under its Baroque stucco, and the imposing Palace of the Governors. The paintings of the Museum of Bastia are surrounded by a hanging garden overlooking the old port. From the Hotel des Gouverneurs you can watch the ballet of swifts in the sky, ships entering and leaving the harbour and the jumps of swimmers from the pier.

Stop in Place Saint Nicolas

An eight-metre-high marble Napoleon watches over the manoeuvering ferries and cruise ships. Behind him, under a double row of plane trees, a regiment of chairs is laid out. The terraces occupy the entire width of Place Saint Nicolas, one of the largest squares in Europe. The headquarters of the esplanade is the Cap Corse Mattei shop. Listed as a historic monument for its 1920s facade, the oldest shop on the island offers tastings and local products – such as home-made aperitifs – in a red and amber setting.

Taste migliaccioli

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the market is set up beside the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church, the largest in Corsica. This is the meeting place for lovers of brocciu, goat’s cheese and nustrale meat, made into ham, coppa and lonzo. Make sure you try migliaccioli (pancakes with cheese) – cooked in front of you, they’re delicious.

Visit an American villa

Having emigrated to the New World in the 19th century, the Cap-Corsins built massive houses on their return to Corsica – palaces surrounded by tropical gardens. Art lover Rose-Marie Carrega opens the frescoes at her Villa Gaspari-Ramelli to the public: “I want to allow everyone to benefit from this heritage”. Above the beautiful village of Rogliano, Paul Saladini opens the timeless rooms of the Palazzu Nicrosi to his guests.

Explore the vineyards at Patrimonio

Reds made from niellucciu, the grape variety of the Patrimonio appellation, and Vermentino-based whites, are popular in Nebbio. It’s known as the ‘foggy region’ because the wind envelops the parcels of this oldest Corsican AOC, between sea and mountain at the foot of Cap Corse. Thanks to the conditions, 25 of the 35 estates are organic – a record.

Rave about Erbalunga

Ten kilometres from Bastia, Erbalunga is the oldest coastal village on Cap Corse, charming visitors with its Genoese tower and houses in brown and green shale. Stop for lunch at a waterfront restaurant or at the friendly Café Jeannot.

Bastia in Corsica