The Corsican MoorDwight Peck's personal website

Corsica in the Off Season, 2007

Corsica, the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the off-season rates, late November and early December 2007.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.


We've Kangooed up from Aléria on the eastern coast to Corte, the ancient capital in the mountainous midlands of Corsica, and here is the Hotel du Nord, right in the middle of the old upper village. The off-season price is right, and the staff (who actually work in the bar just to the left but come across to help you out) are friendly.

There's a modest urban sprawl out from the lower village, but it's not too unsightly, and the old town around the Citadel is charming. The main street, almost the only one, is the Cours Paoli, named after the George Washington of Corsica.

One level up, and on one of our days in Corte we're taking a break from the great hikes in the region and marching up to see the old Citadel. That's the Cours Paoli just below us.

This is the Église de l'Annonciation, founded in the 15th century but largely baroquized a few centuries later.

Kristin at the Gates. Here's the Citadel, the medieval "Eagle's Nest" (Nid d'Aigle) surmounting it all, and later accretions running off to the right through that solemn gate.

The view across the Place d'Armes from the solemn gate

The Citadel houses, in addition to memories and the ghosts of the past, the municipal Information Office, archaeological branches of the University of Corsica, and the Musée de la Corse. The museum, opened in 1997, is a brilliant display of modern museum practice, from the spacious exhibits to its informative audio walkarounds, but most of it is built around the collections of a mid-20th century priest, Louis Doazan, who got taken by traditional Corsican culture and hoarded everything he could lay his hands on. (Not like US priests; I mean he just laid his hands on ancient farm implements, etc.)

This is a display of the time-honored costumes of the ancient Corsican religious and trade guilds, still thriving as social clubs and marching in the public festivals -- but you can guess what these remind a conscientious American of, eh? KKK. Is that a hint? An unpleasant experience, seeing these, a chill to the spine.

At the top end of the Citadel looms the Nid d'Aigle, built in 1419 by a medieval thug called Vincentello of Istria.

The battlements all around Vinny's Eagle's Nest were added later in the style of the great 17th century French military engineer Vauban, so we feel justified in checking this place off on our checklist of Vauban bastions visited.

The sole stairway up into the Nid d'Aigle.

The view from the top of the Citadel, away from the city. We're looking down into the confluence of the Restonica and Tavignano valleys -- ground level is at about 485m asl, and the top of the Citadel rises 111m above that.

Kristin reading out historical facts about Corte as I try to scribble down my notes as fast as I can.

The belvedere at the end of the Nid d'Aigle

The top of the Nid d'Aigle, with the remains of, as I recall, an ancient donjon, now past its sell-by date and fenced off.

The view down into the lower village, with the new Università de Corsica Pasquale Paoli, Corsica's only university. Mr Paoli founded a university here in the heyday of his constitutional republic in the 1760s, but it disappeared with the French invasion of 1769. Corsican separatists, blowing up post offices and from time to time French officials as well in the 1970s, demanded a replacement, and in 1981 the new Uni opened its doors and now instructs and enlightens about 3,500 students. From what we saw, they seem to be a very international student body.

The Inspiration of Vauban lives on.

From the Citadel looking north (towards the valley of the roaming pigs)

The courtyard of the Nid d'Aigle. After the independence of Algeria in 1962, the French Foreign Legion set up shop in the Citadel, probably as part of a housing overflow, but now we're just down to tourism and museums and university departments.

Mr Peck would not have made a good sentinel in a medieval watchtower, without crouching for hours on end.

Kristin imagines what being shackled to this wall must have been like, back when they did that sort of thing to people. Prior to Guantánamo Bay.

Courtyard of the Nid d'Aigle of Corte

Assembly line toilets

The light at the end of the tunnel

The upper village from the Nid d'Aigle

Glaring down upon the front gate of the Citadel and the Place d'Armes outside the solemn front gate

Kristin looking for lunch

A village square, with somebody commemorated in it. Let's go see.

Well, it must be Paoli. No, it's not. It's J.-P. Gaffori -- a son of Corte who was one of the "Protectors of the Nation" in the revolt against the Genoese in 1745 and who captured Corte in 1746. He led the conquest of most of the island but was assassinated in 1753 in an ambush organized by a Genoese agent, his brother. Let that be a lesson to us all.

According to legends (which are normally more reliable than the corporate media), Genoese troops advanced using Gaffori's own son as a human shield. Gaffori wavered, but his wife Faustina urged the Corsican patriots to think of their country first and fire away. We're told by the guidebooks that Genoese bullet holes from 1746 are still apparent on these walls.

But where's lunch?

The Place Paoli, and that's Pasquale or Pascal or whatever there in the centre of it. The restaurant Pascal Paoli is just over to the left and, trust me, rather than dine there, hang yourself, if that's your only choice.

Looking down the Cours Paoli in the Corte upper town, the Hotel du Nord about halfway along.

The first greatest reason to visit Corsica is Corsica. I grant that. But the second greatest reason to visit Corsica is Pietra. Made with flour from chestnuts!

Pigs! Free Range Pigs!

(Corsica is famous for free range pigs, wandering all about, eating up acorns and chestnuts rather than the droppings of other pigs as in US and Dutch hog farms, mixed with noxious antibiotics and growth hormones. And it's true -- Corsican dead pig products are better!)

Saint Immanuel Velikovsky. We've driven from Corte up the valley of Scala di Santa Regina (a fairly disconcerting 20km single-lane road halfway up a gorge) to the Col de Verghio (1467m). This Visitor from Elsewhere is meant to be Jeezus, by the sculptor Bonardi (surely not the same guy who makes the tinned ravioli in America), somehow defaced, literally.

More free range pigs. Kristin loves nothing so much as a pig, so we're out of the green Kangoo and off to see the piggy sights for an hour.

Kristin and a potential friend

Free range pigs ranging freely

Kristin doing her hanged wolf imitations.

Some shamanistic purpose to this, no doubt. In Oklahoma, farmers hang dead coyotes from the highway fenceposts in the belief that that marks off their territory from predators, like pissing your way around your frontiers. It's a very uncomfortable sight, in Oklahoma, a straight flat line of fenceposts three kilometres into the distance with this sort of thing hanging off them. But, well, then there's Oral Roberts.

Pigs and cows getting together for an early evening soirée.

Kristin minding the Kangoo in the forest of Niolo, or Niellu, as her admirers return from the mens' room

The lake of Calacuccia, a dammed reservoir actually

And a bit of the gorge of Santa Regina, as twilight falls down upon us.

Base map:

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 19 December 2007, revised 12 June 2012, 25 September 2014.

Corsica, 2007

Corsica, 2009