The capital of Corsica, Ajaccio is a beautiful and fascinating town, with an atmosphere that is both unique and captivating. Never failing to capture visitors with its spellbinding beauty, Ajaccio is a city full of treasures that inspire interest in even the most mundane things, stimulating curiosity towards the incredible history and art of Corsica and its churches, buildings and monuments. Ajaccio is located on the western coast of the island and is one of the hottest seaside destinations in Europe, drawing beach lovers with its velvety white sand, crystal coloured Mediterranean beaches and incredible views.
Like much of Corsica, Ajaccio is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and has a uniquely diverse environment made up of verdant hills and plains, rocky mountains and sparkling blue water. Reminiscent of a Renaissance city, the town has a romantic old world feeling, where the people are kind and welcoming and the streets hide beautiful and perfectly maintained historical, cultural and architectural treasures.
The city centre of Ajaccio is like many other European centres, gifted with a unique charm that can only be found through centuries of heritage and artistic splendor. The city is filled with incredible symbols of Corsica’s grand past, including the Municipal Library, built by Napoleon’s brother and home to important texts written by religious scholars and noblemen during the French Revolution; the National Museum of Bonaparte’s House, where visitors can see how the Emperor once lived; and the striking town squares: Square del Maresciallo Foch, Square d’Austerlitz and the Square du Diamant.
A picturesque city, Ajaccio is seeped in a rich artistic and religious heritage, maintained today through two incredible churches. The first is a 16th century Cathedral, an elegant and grand church and, as the location of the baptism of Napoleon, one of the most prestigous and important religious building on the island. The second is the Church of St Erasmus, a small church named after the patron saint of fishermen and a beautiful reflection of the peasant traditions of the island.
The beautiful and unique atmosphere found today in Ajaccio is thanks mainly to the role it played in Corsica’s history and the many rulers which have left their mark on this charming city. The name Ajaccio comes from the Greek word “Good Port” and was given to the city by the Greek population who lived here many centuries ago. Ajaccio then passed into the hands of the Romans, followed by the Vandals, the Lombards and the Republic of Pisa. In subsequent centuries the town became an important centre for the city of Genoa, who, in the 16th century, began to build various defensive fortresses here. These fortifications later saved Ajaccio from numerous French invasions and reinforced Genoa’s control.
This fascinating and sometimes turbulent history continued in the 18th century when the celebrated liberal Pasquale Paoli assumed power of the capital. These celebrations were, however, short lived, as Ajaccio subsequently fell to the French following the Treaty of Versailles. Ajaccio was then controlled by Napoleon Bonaparte, who maintained a difficult relationship with the people of the city and whilst both loved and hated, left an incredible mark on the city. A mark, which combinied with the past Italian and Greek influences, has made today’s Ajaccio truly a unique city with a beautiful historical, artistic and cultural heritage.