Immerse Yourself In French Culture And History At This Underrated Island

France is known worldwide for its history, culture, and landscapes, which vary from mountains to beaches. Southern France does not see as many tourists as Paris, but places like Provence and cities like Cannes on the French Riviera also receive millions of tourists. Even still, there are some underrated places in France's section of the Mediterranean Sea. Among these is the island of Corsica.

Compared to the Mediterranean islands of Spain and Greece, Corsica is among the larger islands in the Mediterranean Sea and is located north of Italy's Sardinia. Despite its distance from Paris, Corsica has significantly impacted France's national and international affairs because French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica's coastal city, Ajaccio, in 1769. Ajaccio is intriguing for history buffs as visitors to the city can see his childhood home. They can also admire the busts of the Bonaparte family and paintings from his uncle's personal collection at the Palais Fesch art museum. Additionally, they can see a statue of Bonaparte at the Place d'Austerlitz.

See the former home of Corsica's governors in Bastia

Ferries arrive at Ajaccio from Nice, Marseille, Toulon, and Porto Torres. One of the most striking monuments of Ajaccio, the Citadelle d'Ajaccio, quickly comes into view as the ferries approach the nearby docks. This citadel dates back to 1492, and the Genoese used it as protection against invaders. Though its fortifications were strengthened in the early 1500s, the French successfully overtook the area in 1553. By 1768, the French bought the entire island of Corsica from the Genoese. Today, the citadel is open year-round and offers beautiful views of the ocean.

In the northeastern region of Corsica is Bastia, which is also connected via ferry to multiple places in mainland Europe, including Marseille, Genova, and Toulon. Bastia has a citadel of its own called the Palais des Gouverneurs. As the name suggests, this bright yellow building used to serve as the home for Corsica's Genoese governors. It is located near Jardin Romieu, or Romieu Garden, which overlooks the ocean and Bastia's port. 

Get French cuisine at one of Saint-Florent's many restaurants

A 45-minute drive from Bastia is Saint-Florent, a quaint town with crystal-clear water. To get close to the water or take a swim, Saint-Florent's Ospédale, La Roya, and Olzu beaches (plage in French) are all formidable options. Lotu, a more secluded beach with white sand and cliffs, is just 20 minutes away by boat. Le Popeye goes between Saint-Florent's port and Lotu multiple times daily. Le Popeye also takes passengers slightly further than Lotu Beach to Saleccia Beach. Both are seemingly untouched and often rank among the island's best beaches. However, visiting Saint-Florent would not be complete without some French seafood. Pick from multiple restaurants, such as Le Petit Caporal, near the town's port.

For more nature, head to the center of the island. A thin river winds through rocky terrain, creating unique hiking locations such as those near the small city of Asco. Hiking The Asco trail takes visitors from the town to natural swimming areas through the valley. In Asco itself, be sure to stop by the Ascu Church (Église d'Asco) to see its beautiful steeple nestled among the picturesque mountains.