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Corte

Corte, in upper Corsica, is set among spectacular cliffs and gorges near the place where the Tavignano, Restonica, and Orta rivers merge. Paoli's government was headquartered here in the 1700s, and it's also the home of the Corsican University. This university was closed by the French when they conquered Corsica in 1769, but was reopened in 1981.

Corte is surrounded by highland forests and high mountains with high-up lakes and streams. If you love to hike through mountains, Corte is a wonderful place to walk around through.

The place Gaffori in the upper town and near the 15th century chateau overlooking the river is an excellent place to eat and shop.

Things to do

The original 15th century fortifications still exist at the highest point of the cliff, with the river flowing below. Here you'll find the Citadelle, a fortress built in the Vauban style, in which is housed the Musee de la Corse, or Corsican Museum, which is dedicaterd to the island's history and ethnography.

Take a walk from here past the University to see the Palais National, which was Corsica's capitol building from 1755 to 1769, during their brief period of independence. And check out the Belvedere, left along the Citadelle's wall, for an incredible view, but only if you're not acrophobic.

Continue your walk through the pedestrian-only alleys of the Quartier de Chiostra, part of the old city. If you come down the cobblestone path to the right of the Belvedere, bear right and across at the Chapelle St-Theophile. This will take you to a tiny square on the left, where you can see a prehistoric fertility goddess carved into the wall near the potter's shop, and an open stone staircase on the opposite wall, also bad for those who are acrophobic.

When you're ready to drive around for a while instead of walk, consider taking a trip to the Gorges de la Restonica, where you can leave your car at the top of the Restonica Valley and take a two-hour hike to the Lac de Melo, 6528 feet above sea level, where you can do some high-altitude trout fishing if you like. Or not; it has to be cooked there or make that two-hour trip back down with you. If you get here in early August, you can enjoy a classical concert. Walk another hour up, and you'll find the snow-bordered Lac de Capitello. For more information on the trails, see the tourist office in town or contact the Parc Naturel Regional.

Where to eat and stay

Up in the Gorges, you can have a light meal, suitable for hiking later, in the stone shepherd's huts at the Bergeries de Grotelle. But later, when you're looking for a good dinner to restore some of the energy you've spent walking, consider theAuberge de la Restonica, where you can have generous portions of excellent Corsican food. You can also stay here in a building very like a hunting lodge, set over rushing water.

Or you can try the Hotel Dominique Colonna, where modern halls lead out to breakfast nooks over the rushing stream nearby.