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A Tourist Refuge: Bonifacio Citadel

In the southern tip of Corsica, the city of Bonifacio is perched dramatically on a cliff over the Mediterranean. On this spectacular site stands the Bonifacio Citadel, also known as the Haute Ville or Upper City, housing ancient Genoese tenements and attractions not to be missed on your Corsica holidays.

The Bonifacio Citadel was built in 828 A.D. upon the order of Lord Boniface, after whom the fortress was named. It was the first fortified town in Corsica, and aimed to defend the southern coast from the invading Saracens. This historic site has grown from a mere fortification to being an administrative centre for the French Foreign Legion, and today is a celebrated tourist attraction.

The Citadel is set 70 metres above the port, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The best way to get here is to travel by boat, which allows scenic views of the harbour as you make your way. It requires a short, steep climb to the actual site, which is well worth it for its charming medieval architecture, as well as for dreamy views of Bonifacio Sound and nearby Sardinia.

Explore the sights once you get to this “Italian-flavoured town.” The Rue des Empereurs once hosted the Spanish emperor Charles V and Napoleon Bonaparte. Walk in the footsteps of King Aragon’s troops down the 187 steps of Escalier du Roi d’Aragon, a stairway to the sea, open from April to September. The 1598 Grand Bastion, the entrance to the Citadel, is a must-see, and is also accessible from April to September. The restaurants, shops, and marked routes on the cliff-top are also worth exploring in this medieval town.

The city of Bonifacio is the birthplace of notable personalities such as Tommaso Maria Zigliara, a Roman Catholic cardinal; Marie Jose Nat, a film star; and Giasson Lamboni, a humanitarian. It can be reached by a plane from Marseille or bus from other Corsican cities, and draws in especially huge crowds during the summer season.

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