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Bonifacio

In Corsica, Bonifacio is most famous for its position in the southernmost tip of the island, sitting on a limestone outcrop with the Mediterranean surrounding it on three sides; the views are absolutely stunning. Its natural harbor forms an excellent and protected port for large and small ships, and the port area is lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, and nice boutiques. You can catch a boat from here to Sardinia and Lavezzi and Cavallo.

The port was settled in around 828 AD as a defense for Corsica against pirates, but the town was taken from Pisa in the 12th century by the Genoese. Like much of Corsica, it has remained Genoese in flavor, refusing to blend with the rest of Corsican culture. Bonifacio is not connected to the rest of the island by rail; instead, it primarily trades through sea routes, especially with Sardinia.

Once you've browsed the port, you should check out the Citadel, or VilleHaute, which rises from the port like a sleeping giant. It was built by the Genoese at the end of the 12th century, and like many of the citadels in Corsica, it was designed to provide a place of defense and refuge against the predations of the pirates that infested the Mediterranean. Within the Citadel, you'll also find the ruins of a Franciscan monastery and the Eglise Ste-Majeure, built in the 14th century.

If you love to stroll, try the cliff top. There are marked routes for you to follow so that you can catch the best views. If you would rather relax at the beach, Bonifacio's north beaches are both protected and luxurious in quality.

Bonifacio has a surprisingly large variety of geographical features, and many tours take advantage of them. Try the blue Dragon Grottos, sea caves at Sdragonatto and St-Angoine, easily visited only by boat, and Venus's Bath. You can also look at the Fazzio and Paraguano bights, the old fortifications of the city, and such unique features as the "Stairs of the King of Aragon." Or visit the sun-bathed beaches on the Southern Corsica coast, white sands right against turquoise water.

The bays around Bonifacio are lovely and a challenge to adventurous boaters. Or you can try a trip out to the quiet and private Lavezzi Islands, where you can find unspoiled beaches and no tourists at all besides you.

In the Haute Ville, the Upper Village and older part of town, Homer's Odyssey places the Laestrygonians, giants who hurled boulders at Ulysses and his fleet. When you look down into the water from the cliff edge, it's easy to believe! At the city gate, you can enter the Bastion de l'Etendard, where the ancient system of weights and levers used to raise and lower the drawbridge are still in place. You can walk through the garrison to see life-size dioramas of Bonifacio history.

Where to stay and eat

The Hotel le Genovese is the premier hotel in Bonifacio, and is both private and classy. Your room will have a marvelous view over the cliffs out to Sardinia. If you don't eat anywhere else, try Le Voilier, where you can get fish, seafood, Corsican sausage, and traditional Corsican fare.

And if you're not ready to go to bed after boating and hiking all day, you can take advantage of Bonifacio's surprisingly active night life, with the B-52 club running until 2 am, and then the Lollapalooza until the sun rises.

In early June, you can go to the Fete Millenaire de Bonifacio, where concerts, processions, and dances are a popular draw. And consider shopping at the Pierres de Cade, where you can find lovely art and utilitarian objects carved from Corsican chestnut and juniper.