The Departements of Corsica
Ajaccio is the capital of the département of Corse-du-Sud.
Bastia is the capital of Haute-Corse.
Both départements were created in 1976.
The Location of Corsica
Ajaccio is the capital of Corsica, one of metropolitan France’s 22 governmental regions. It is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea
[after Sicily, Sardinia, and Cyprus].
The island is located 56 miles west of Italy [separated from Italian Tuscany by the Mer Ligurienne (Latin Mare Ligusticum,
Italian Mare Ligure)] and 105 miles south of France. It
is about 9 miles north of the island of Sardinia, and is separated from that island by the
Strait of Bonifacio.
Corsica extends a maximum of 111 miles, from north to south, and 51 miles from east to west.
It covers an area of approximately 3351 square miles.
The interior is mountainous, reaching its highest peak at Mount Cinto, which is 8892 feet above sea level.
The west coast is mostly rocky and indented.
The eastern coastal plain of Aleria is sprinkled with lagoons and swamps. The two largest rivers in Corsica are the Golo and Tavignano.
They are fed by numerous mountain streams.
The History of Corsica
Megalithic monuments indicate that Corsica had been inhabited from the 3rd millennium BC.
The recorded history shows that Greeks from Phocaea, in Asia Minor, founded the east cost town of Alalia.
By 264 BC, the Carthaginians had footholds on Corsica.
They then intervened in a dispute between the two principal cities on the Sicilian west coast, Messana and Syracuse, and so established a presence on that island.
This was the First Punic War which was fought from 259 to 163 BC..
The war was fought to establish control over the strategic islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
Rome, in responding to Carthaginian challenge, attacked Messana and forced the Carthaginians to withdraw.
In 260 a Roman fleet failed to gain complete control of Sicily.
However, it did open the way to Corsica and the Carthaginians were expelled.
Once in Corsica, the Romans established agricultural colonies along the coast.
They also formed Sardinia and Corsica into a single province of the Roman Empire.
Corsica’s economy flourished under the Romans, and Latin became the foundation of the present-day Corsican dialect.
There was a series of invasions, and partial occupations, of Corsica by the Vandals after the fall of Rome in 476 AD.
Thereafter, Corsica was successively ruled by the Byzantine Empire.
The Lombards then followed.
During the period that Corsica was controlled by the Moors, 850 to 1034, they destroyed the island's towns, drove its inhabitants inland, and left the coastal agricultural lands abandoned.In 1077, Corsica fell under the titular rule of the papacy.
The bishop of Pisa was entrusted, by the papacy, with the administration of the island.
Over the next two centuries more than 300 churches were built.
Corsica became a bone of contention between Pisa and Genoa until 1284.
From 1297 to 1434,
the contenders became Genoa and Aragon.
Between 1434 and 1453 bitter struggles, between the Genoese and Corsica's native feudal aristocracy, further decimated the population.
Subsequently, Genoa was able to reassert its authority.
A brief French occupation, from 1553 to 1559, was ended by a Corsican nationalist rebellion led by Sampiero Corso. In 1567, the Genoese rule recommenced and lasted until 1729.
Genoese rule, though by no means the worst in the island's history, was notorious for its corrupt administration of justice, thereby encouraging Corsicans to resort to the private form of vengeance known as the vendetta.
In 1729, the Corsicans again rebelled. They were led by a Swedish soldier of fortune, Neuhof, who landed a small army on Corsica and was proclaimed king. At first he fought successfully against Genoa, but, after his defeat, a civil war broke out.
He fled late in 1736.
Twice, in 1738, and again in 1743, he returned to the island but failed to reestablish his authority.
Imprisoned in London for debt, he secured his release by mortgaging his "kingdom".
In 1755, the Corsicans managed to establish their own government under Pasquale Paoli.
With Genoese control now confined to only a few coastal towns, Paoli was able to organize the rest of Corsica as an independent democratic state and gave it a remarkably liberal constitution.
During his 14 years of rule, which lasted until 1769, Paoli led the Corsicans in a great regenerative effort.
He managed to repress the vendetta, to found a
university and to set up a printing press; he was even successful in building a Corsican navy.
The Genoese continued their limited coastal rule until 1768 when, out of frustration, they ceded Corsica to France.
The French then sent a substantial army to Corsica, conquering it in 1769. In this same year, 1769, Napoleon I was born in Ajaccio as a French citizen.
Click here for Information about Napoleon.
The British subsequently held the island on two different occasions.
During the French Revolution, Paoli returned to power with the help of the British.
They set up a Corsican kingdom which was ruled by Paoli from 1794 to 1796.
In 1796, Napoleon’s father restored French rule in Corsica.
The British controlled the island a second time during the Napoleonic wars.
German and Italian troops occupied Corsica during WWII.
Once again, the people revolted against the invaders.
The island was liberated, by the Allies, in late 1943.
In 1958 Corsica was occupied by rebellious right-wing elements supporting the insurrection of the French colonists in Algeria.
Their occupation hastened the return Charles de Gaulle to power as premier and then president of France.
During the 1970s a movement to achieve greater autonomy from France became active in Corsica.
In 1976, the Front de Liberation National de la Corse [FLNC] was formed from two smaller radical groups.
In Corsica, the FLNC used bomb attacks against the property of non-Corsican settlers.
It also targeted police stations, government offices [in both Corsica and France], banks, and other such buildings.
In Corsica alone, during 1980, the FLNC claimed more than 375 bombings.
During the establishment, in 1981, of the new French socialist administration of François Mitterrand, the FLNC abstained from its terrorist activities.
However, because of its dissatisfaction with the measures taken by the socialists, it latter resumed the bombings.
In 1982, as part of the decentralization program, the French parliament created the Corsican Regional Assembly.
The assembly, which is composed of 50 elected members, controls local spending and influences Corsican education and culture.
In 1982, the number of FLNC attacks in Corsica rose.
It resumed sporadic attacks on the French mainland in 1983.
The organization has continued its activities into the new
The People of Corsica
Although politically a part of France, Corsica has had close ties with Italy.
As in Sicily, and other parts of Italy, Corsica was long noted for the practice of the vendetta, a blood feud between families or clans.
The 18th century Corsican government of
Pasquale Paoli tried to put an end to the vendetta.
Since then, blood feuds have become less common in the towns.
Unfortunately, they have not been stopped in the less accessible parts of the island, where heavy undergrowth, known as maquis, provides natural hiding places.
Modern cultural life has suffered because many of the most talented Corsicans have left the island.
Because of this migration, great effort is being devoted to conserving Corsica's cultural heritage.
Today, groups are performing traditional folk music in the towns, and traditional handicrafts are being revived.
Cultural organizations are bringing in classical and modern theater and concerts and are organizing art exhibitions and a summer music and drama festival.
There are now about a dozen newspapers and periodicals being published and radio and television programs are originating on the island.
The départemental governments have recently set up several several museums.
The Language(s) and Where Spoken
Corsu, an Italian dialect of strong Tuscan influences, is the island’s unofficial language.
It is spoken by nearly three-quarters of the inhabitants of the towns and by most of the rest of the population.
Although the island is reasonably small, the Corsu of Corse-du-Sud is distinguishable from that of Haute-Corse.
French is the official language.
It is spoken by almost all of the Corsicans, most of whom also use the Corsican dialect.
The majority of the population is Corsican-born.
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion.
The Gastronomy of Corsica
The Wine of Corsica
The Cheese of Corsica
The Cuisine of Corsica
The Economic Activity of Corsica
Agriculture dominates the island’s agriculture economy.
The island’s forests have already been greatly depleted.
However, they are still able to supply chestnuts, some lumber and cork.
Olives, grapes, wheat, and timber are produced in Haute-Corse.
The traditional farmstead is the maison haute.
It is built with thick stone-walls which are needed to insulate against the winter cold.
Stables are found on the ground floor.
The maison haute’s living quarters are on the second floor and food and supplies are stored in the attic.
Olives, citrus fruit, grapes and cork are produced in Corse-du-Sud. Animal husbandry is of particular importance; with ewe's milk, from the area, being used to make Roquefort cheese.
Sheep are raised on the rugged Niolo plateau in the north, and cheese from their milk is an important Corsican export.
Throughout the island, fruit, olive, cork trees and wheat are grown.
Tobacco is cultivated and wine is made.
Corsica's standard of living, particularly in the interior, is still somewhat below that of continental France.
The need to import fuel, machinery and food has been a significant impediment to industrial development.
Although the island’s economy revolves around tourism, other industries are important.
The major industries are food processing, fishing, wine making, mining of antimony and asbestos, quarrying of granite and marble, the preparation of tannic acid and exporting.
Corsica’s main exports are granite and marble, tannic acid, cork, cheese, wine, citrus fruit, olive oil and cigarettes.
Cereals, meat, fresh foods, and manufactured goods are the main imports.
Traditional agriculture has been hurt by imports, outdated farming methods, and other factors.
Sheep breeding is also on the decline.
With its scenery, excellent climate, and magnificent coastline, Corsica could be an outstanding tourist resort.
Corsica has outstanding tourism assets in its moderate Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery and its magnificent coastline.
The island's network of tarred roads is adequate, and a railway links Ajaccio, Bastia, and Calvi.
Corsica is connected by air and sea with continental France. Since 1957, the French government has taken the lead in large-scale investment in the Corsican economy. It has also been providing advice and subsidies.
This notwithstanding, the island's tourist industry has yet to be fully realized.