The following itinerary describes daily activities which may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, road conditions, weather conditions, flight or ferry schedules etc. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & dinners indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Cagliari – 3 nights
Day 1: Thursday 2 October, Arrive Cagliari
- Tour commences at 2pm in the foyer of the Hotel Regina Margherita, Cagliari
- Welcome Meeting
- Orientation Walk
- Welcome Dinner
Meeting Point: The tour commences at 2pm in the foyer of the Hotel Regina Margherita located in the centre of Cagliari. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.
Following a short welcome meeting we commence with an orientation walking tour of Cagliari. Situated on the Bay of Cagliari, the city is dominated by its citadel, perched high above houses that cascade down to the port. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Cagliari) D
Day 2: Friday 3 October, Cagliari
- National Archaeological Museum, Cagliari
- Fort District & Cagliari Old Town: Palazzo Regio (by special appointment), Cathedral & Bastion St Remy
This morning we begin with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum located within the citadel. The museum holds Sardinia’s major finds from the Nuragic, Phoenician and Roman periods and will therefore act as an introduction to the fascinating early history of Sardinia. A highlight are the Giganti di Mont’e Prama – Nuragic stone figures which we also view in Cabras.
This afternoon we resume our exploration of Cagliari’s fort district and old town with visits to the cathedral which has a remodelled Pisan-Romanesque façade and the Royal palace, also known as the Viceregio (or Viceroyal palace). The palace was built in the 14th century as a residence for the king’s representatives in Sardinia and was used as such by the Aragonese, the Spanish and the Savoyards, each of which left their own mark in their adaptations. The palace features fine halls adorned with fine paintings and frescoes. We also view the Bastion St Remy, an immense gateway to the Castello district, built into the city’s medieval walls in the late 19th century. From the Umberto I terrace are sweeping views over Cagliari to the sea. (Overnight Cagliari) B
Day 3: Saturday 4 October, Cagliari – Nora – Villaperuccio – Cagliari
- Ancient city of Nora
- Necropolis of Montessu, Villaperuccio
This morning we make an excursion to the ancient city of Nora, settled first by the Phoenicians and then by the Romans, who made it an administrative capital. Nora’s exposed coastal position finally necessitated its abandonment after the fall of the Empire, and the site was plundered by Arab raiders. Important remains of the ancient city have, however, survived. We will see a lovely diminutive theatre that faces the sea, the substantial remains of the baths (Terme al Mare), a patrician villa that retains its floor mosaics, and a temple that occupies the end of the peninsula upon which Nora was built.
This afternoon is dedicated to visiting one of Sardinia’s most important pre-Nuragic archaeological sites. The ancient Necropolis of Montessu, which occupies a natural rocky amphitheatre in the countryside of Villaperucio, dates to the Ozieri period (approximately 3000 BC). The site is dotted with about forty primitive tombs known as domus de janas (literally ‘fairy houses’) some of which contain wonderful relief carvings including spirals, concentric circles and symbolic bulls. (Overnight Cagliari) BL
Santa Caterina di Pittinuri – 2 nights
Day 4: Sunday 5 October, Cagliari – Parco della Giara – Barumini – Parco della Giara – Santa Caterina di Pittinuri
- Parco della Giara
- Nuraghe Su Nuraxi di Barumini
- Village of Tuilli incl. Chiesa di San Pietro
This morning we drive to the Giara Plateau (also known as Giara di Gesturi), a high steep-sided basaltic plateau located in the southern-central part of the island. It is home to over 350 plant species notably the Cork Oak, and the Cavallino della Giara (Giara Horse), one of the last living wild horses in Europe, probably introduced during the Nuraghic or Punic periods. Characteristic for their small size, dark mantle or dark bay, manes and very long tails, they are adapted to the particular environment of the Giara, with plenty of food and water during winter and spring and shortage of the same during summer and autumn. We take a ranger-led walking tour of the park and enjoy a lunch with selected local products.
We next drive to Barumini where we visit what is arguably Sardinia’s most impressive nuraghe, the Nuraghe Su Nuraxi. The main tower, constructed around 1300 BC, was once much higher, a three-storey structure of over ten metres in height. It is, however, not just the massive circular stone defensive tower that makes this site most impressive. Excavations that took six years to complete revealed a large settlement composed of a myriad of smaller circular structures. This village, typical of the early settlement pattern of the indigenes of Sardinia, was still inhabited during the Roman period, although it had suffered some destruction. It shows the perseverance of Nuraghic culture under the Romans.
We then visit the small village of Tuilli which features distinctive stone manor houses built for the landowners of the ancient Spanish nobility. Within the village lies the Chiesa di San Pietro which houses an exquisite retable by the Maestro di Castelsardo (c.1500), a work considered to be one of the greatest artistic expressions of the Renaissance in Sardinia.
From Tuilli we continue our journey north to our hotel located in the coastal town of Santa Caterina di Pittinuri. (Overnight Santa Caterina di Pittinuri) BLD
Day 5: Monday 6 October, Santa Caterina di Pittinuri – Tharros – Cabras – Santa Caterina di Pittinuri
- Ancient site of Tharros
- Byzantine church of San Giovanni di Sinis
- Lunch at Agriturismo Pinuccia, Cabras
- Museo Civico Giovanni Marongiu of Cabras incl. the Giganti di Mont’e Prama
This morning we drive to the site of the Phoenician port of Tharros, which is situated at the tip of the Sinis Peninsula separating the great Gulf of Oristano from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Tharros, originally a Nuraghic settlement and then a strategic depot for the Phoenicians sailing into the Western Mediterranean, became an important Roman port after it was taken during the First Punic War (238 BC). We visit Tharros not so much for its monuments but for its magnificent, commanding site, which gives a vivid awareness of the role of maritime trade in Sardinia’s coastal history. One of the most impressive structures on the site is the San Giovanni tower; its profile dominates a hill at the end of the peninsula. This medieval structure defended the peninsula from incursions from the sea.
San Giovanni di Sinis is a fine 10th- to 11th century church that was built around a much earlier Byzantine Greek-cross plan sanctuary of the 6th century. This is purportedly Sardinia’s oldest extant church. It fell into disuse for centuries and functioned at times as a stable. It has now been restored, however, and is one of the most important pilgrimage centres of the island. The church was once surrounded by a village of thatched fishermen’s huts, most of which have now disappeared.
Next we drive through the Cabras wetlands, one of the most important of their type in Europe. Connected to the sea, these tidal wetlands are often noted as the nesting grounds for the greatest number of birds and variety of species in Europe. They also are extremely rich in fish. Fisherman have lived here since the Middle Ages, and have supplied a large part of inland Sardinia for centuries; their traditional reed boats are of medieval origin. Most famous among the fish they catch is the Grey Mullett (il muggine), which features in a number of local dishes. Locals also dry and cure the mullett’s roe pouch and then grate or slice it to create produce botargo, a tasty condiment somewhat akin in taste and function to anchovies. Lunch will be served at Agriturismo Pinuccia, where Mrs Pinuccia and her family prepare homemade dishes using ingredients from their farm and fish sourced from the Cabras wetlands and the Gulf of Oristano.
Nearby is the archaeological site of Mont’e Prama where in 1974 Sardinian farmers discovered a stone head while ploughing their fields. This discovery uncovered what would become one of the most important Iron Age finds in the western Mediterranean. Over the course of decades over 5000 limestone fragments were harvested and reassembled into 28 stone giants (16 boxers, 6 archers and 6 warriors) rising up to two metres in height. They have highly stylised features such as triangular faces, T-shaped eyebrows and noses, and distinctive eyes represented by large, round concentric circles. The giants currently reside in the Museo Archaeological Nazionale which we visit in Cagliari, and the Municipal Museum of Giovanni Marongiu of Cabras. (Overnight Santa Caterina di Pittinuri) BLD
Alghero – 2 nights
Day 6: Tuesday 7 October, Oristano – Santa Cristina – Bosa – Alghero
- Sacred well and nuraghe, Santa Cristina
- Pilgrim church of Santa Cristina
- Malaspina Castle and frescoes of the Palatine Chapel of ‘Nostra Signora di Sos Regnos Altos’
- San Pietro di Bosa
- Spectacular west coast drive from Bosa to Alghero
This morning we drive first to Santa Cristina, one of the richest Nuraghic sites in Sardinia. Santa Cristina is an excellent example of the endurance of Nuraghic culture (1500-1200 BC), even after the coast was settled by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and then after the island became a province of Rome. Of particular significance to the importance of the site and continuity of ancient habitation is the extraordinary late Bronze Age temple well (11th to 9th centuries BC). Finely dressed masonry forms a keyhole entrance from which you descend to view a perfectly formed corbelled beehive vault. The vast number of nuraghe on the site shows that it had a large population that survived Roman rule.
Adjacent to the archaeological site is the 12th-century church of Santa Cristina, which is surrounded by muristenes (pilgrims’ huts originally built for Camaldolesi monks). The church is the focus of the feasts of Santa Cristina and San Raffaele Arcangelo that attract many pilgrims.
The picturesque town of Bosa occupies the left bank of Sardinia’s only navigable river, the Temo; the Romans created a riverine port here, and the Piedmontese established a thriving artisanal industry producing coral jewellery. Old tanneries, functioning until after WWII, form a UNESCO World Heritage site on the opposite bank of the river. The town’s extant built environment, arguably the finest in Sardinia, owes much to a branch of the Tuscan Malaspina family, who in the 11th century established a powerful feudatory here and built the large (partly ruined) castle above the town. Defended by seven great towers, the castle is approached by narrow, steep medieval streets that run between transverse alleyways that curve, following the contours of the castle hill. Small, attractive houses line these medieval streets. Within the citadel is the small church of Nostra Signora de Regnos Altos. This 14th century church has interesting frescoes in a rustic Tuscan style, executed between 1350 and 1370.
Across the river from the historic centre is the Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece, the church of San Pietro di Bosa. This church, built, according to an interior inscription, by Bishop Constantino de Castra (1062-1073), has Romanesque, Gothic and late Medieval elements. The nave is in the Lombard Romanesque style. In the late 12th century an apse was appended and the church’s powerful tower constructed. Other French Gothic elements were added along the side façade by the Cistercians who took over the church. Its west façade, attributed to the architect Anselmo da Como, is beautifully proportioned. It is articulated by three great blind arches, and has circular widows with quatrefoil cusps, and an interesting lintel sculpture of SS. Peter and Paul, the Virgin and Child and St Anne in which Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic elements mix.
Following free time for lunch and our tour of Bosa, we drive north along the spectacular west coast of Sardinia to Alghero. There will be numerous stops for people to take in, and photograph, the beautiful scenery. (Overnight Alghero) B
Day 7: Wednesday 8 October, Alghero – Monte D’Accoddi – Capo Caccia – Alghero
- Prehistoric Altar of Monte d’Accoddi
- Capo Caccia
- Palmavera Nuraghe (exterior only)
- Afternoon at leisure in Alghero
This morning we drive to Monte d’Accoddi, where we see the fascinating remains of what was a ziggurat-like Copper-Age temple (2450-1850 BC), more reminiscent of structures in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Central America than anything in Europe. The structure held an altar, and near the ramp leading to it stands a menhir, and there are other surrounding structures. Some scholars postulate that this was a sacred site as early as 5,000 BC.
Next, we enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in Sardinia. We shall drive to the long peninsula, the Capo Caccia, whose western coast features very high cliffs that drop precipitously to the almost unbelievably clear waters of the Tyrrhenian. On our way back to Alghero, we pass the Palmavera Nuraghe, with a walled enceinte dominated by a high tower.
Old Alghero, one of Sardinia’s most picturesque medieval towns, sits between its towered sea walls and the modern town, whose wealth is derived largely from fishing for lobster and sardines, and for its coral jewellery. It was founded in the 13th century by the Genoese and withstood Aragonese attacks for thirty years in the 14th century. Eventually it fell, and after a number of revolts the Sardinian population was expelled and replaced by Catalans. The citizenry therefore now speaks a Catalan dialect and the town is considered a mirror of Barcelona by the Spaniards.
This afternoon is at leisure for you to explore Alghero including its fortress sea walls and towers, the polychrome domed church of San Michele and the church of St. Francis whose pointed Aragonese tower dominates the city. You may also wish to take a ferry from Alghero’s harbour to visit Neptune’s Caves which feature a fine stalactites and stalagmites. This evening we celebrate our final night in Sardinia by dining together at a local restaurant (Overnight Alghero) BD
Bonifacio – 2 nights
Day 8: Thursday 9 October, Alghero – Codrongianos – Arzachena – Santa Teresa di Gallura – Bonifacio
- Santissima Trinità di Saccargia, Codrongianos
- Lunch at agritursimo Tenuta Pilastru
- Arzachena Archaeological Park including the Giant’s tomb of Coddu Vecchiu & Nuraghe La Prisgiona
- Ferry from Sta Teresa di Gallura to Bonifacio (Corsica)
This morning we depart Alghero and begin with a visit to the Pisan Romanesque church of Santissima Trinità di Saccargia which was completed in 1116 on the ruins of a pre-existing monastery. The central apse was frescoed by an unknown artist from Italy at the end of the 12th century. They are the only surviving examples of Romanesque wall painting in Sardinia and include Madonna praying with the Apostles and five scenes from the passion of Christ.
We continue east across to the countryside of the Costa Smeralda for lunch at agriturismo, Tenuta Pilastru, which offers traditional Gallura dishes. We then visit the nuragic sites near Arzachena, including the ‘giant tomb’ of Coddu Vecchiu dating from the Bronze Age. The site, which consists of a stele, a circle of stone megaliths and a gallery grave, is one of the largest Nuragic Giants’ graves on the island. So far, over three hundred such monuments have been discovered in Sardinia. Despite the imaginative name, the sites were not the burial site of any giant; they were giant community burial chambers. Nuraghe La Prisgiona, located nearby, consists of a nuraghe and a village comprising around 90-100 buildings, spread across 5 hectares.
This afternoon we make the crossing from Santa Teresa di Gallura to Bonifacio in Corsica, a one-hour ferry trip. So close are the islands that each can easily be seen from the other. In the past, however, when communications were slow and distances consequently much greater, they followed very different political and cultural paths. (Overnight Bonifacio) BL
Day 9: Friday 10 October, Bonifacio
- Orientation Tour of Bonifacio
- Cruise, including Island of Lavezzi (weather permitting)
Today we begin with an orientation tour of the small cliff-top fortress town of Bonifacio. Perched on high limestone cliffs forming a promontory between the sea and a deep, narrow inlet, the city is said to take its name from its founder, Bonifacio, Marquis of Tuscany, who visited the site whilst returning from a campaign in North Africa in 828 AD. For three centuries it was a centre for fishing and piracy. It was at times controlled by Pisa, but came under Genoese control in 1195. Migrants arrived from Liguria and the city became a republic with its own coinage. Genoese control was loose and the city at this time constructed massive walls to guard its (nominal) independence. The city fell to the French in 1553 but was recaptured by the Genoese. Many of the powerful fortifications that dominate it were constructed in the 17th century. Although it became a French possession in the 18th century, Bonifacio retained its Italian cultural orientation and this distinguishes it from much of the rest of Corsica today.
This afternoon we explore by boat the rugged, picturesque coast of South Corsica including the island of Lavezzi. The coast you will see is one of the most photographed in the Mediterranean, due to the powerful contrast between the brilliantly coloured sea and the jagged white cliffs that rise vertically from it. Following the earlier creation of marine reserves (1980s), in 1992 the French and Italian governments declared the sea between Corsica and Sardinia a marine park. This was in part due to the unique marine environment in this isolated region. On the Lavezzi isles, for example, there are endemic species that can only be found elsewhere in Australia and South Africa. (Overnight Bonifacio) BL
Sartène – 2 nights
Day 10: Saturday 11 October, Bonifacio – Sainte-Lucie de Tallano – Sartène
- Scenic Col de Bavella (Bavella Pass: 1218m)
- Oil mill, Sainte-Lucie de Tallano
This morning we drive north-east along the coast road and then turn inland to traverse the incredible Col de Bavella. Corsica, although smaller than Sardinia, has much higher mountains. The most dramatic examples in the southern part of the island are the pinnacles called the Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles) that lie at the foot of the Bavella massif (2,134 m.) The ‘needles’ resemble the Dolomites and the views of them from the road are quite startling. We shall have a short walk so that you can explore the Col’s unique flora. There are Laricio pines that have been known to live as long as eight hundred years and these great trees provided wood for Corsican shipbuilding.
Driving south-west to Sartène, we will stop at the lovely mountain village of Ste-Lucie de Tallano to visit an oil mill. Sartène, in which we stay for the next two nights, is a typical Corsican mountain-side town. It looks down on the Rizzanese river valley. It is characteristic of the inaccessible settlements set up inland by indigenes who, like their Sardinian counterparts, fled the foreign powers that dominated Corsica’s coasts. In the past it was famous for its vendettas; one of these, the Colomba Carabelli vendetta, is said to have forced a curate to remain shut up in his home for nine years for fear of reprisal. Such vendettas inspired the novel, Columba by Prosper Mérimée, who saw Sartène as the quintessential Corsican town. Another distinctive feature of the town is its Easter procession in which a penitent in chains drags a huge cross through the town. Such processions, rare in modern Europe, reflect the isolation of Corsica and the endurance of its traditional culture. (Overnight Sartène) BLD
Day 11: Sunday 12 October, Sartène – Cucuruzzu – Capula – Levie – Sartène
- Fortresses of Cucuruzzu and Capula
- Musée de L’Alta Rocca, Levie
We begin today by visiting two fortresses, set in a forest of holm oaks and chaos granitic, one from Prehistory and the other from the Middle Ages. Cucuruzzu is a vast Prehistoric citadel of the second millennium BC that covers an area of some 1,200 square metres. It is built of huge stones that must have required many people, and extraordinary ingenuity, to transport and set them in place. The citadel has a fireplace and an inner stairway that leads to upper levels. Nearby is the ruined medieval Capula castle. This site was inhabited during Prehistoric times, and the medieval castle was built on an earlier Roman citadel. It was destroyed by Giudice della Rocca, Count of Corsica and a client of Pisa, in 1259.
We next drive to Levie, which has one of the most important archaeological museums in Corsica. We will have lunchtime at leisure at Levie before exploring the museum; one of its most important exhibits is the statue, the Dame de Bonifacio. The museum also boasts a fascinating ancient pottery collection, of ‘cardial ware’, so-named for the incisions made with the sharp edges of cardium cockle shells. Much of the landscape you will travel through today is made up of sublime mountains and deep, verdant valleys. (Overnight Sartène) B
Ajaccio – 2 nights
Day 12: Monday 13 October, Sartène – Megalithes de Cauria – Filitosa – Ajaccio
- Menhirs and Dolmen, Megalithes de Cauria
- Megalithic site of Filitosa
Today we explore the important prehistoric culture of Southern Corsica, an area that was more densely populated than the rest of the island. The region boasts some five hundred Prehistoric sites! At Cauria we explore the development of ancient megaliths: dolmen and menhirs erected over three periods between 3500 and 1000 BC. In a wood on the barren Plateau of Cauria we will see some of the most significant groups of aligned menhirs in Europe. It also has important dolmens, stone structures that miraculously survived the depredations of the Christians, who identified them with paganism. Perhaps it was the inaccessibility of the site that preserved its treasures.
Following a light lunch we visit Filitosa, Corsica’s most important prehistoric site. Filitosa was inhabited from the 9th millennium BC until the 3rd century BC, when Corsica came under Roman control. Archaeological finds from a number of different periods include wooden implements from the Mesolithic Age, flint tools, ceramics, megaliths and grindstones from the Neolithic period, and axes, stone-built towers and carved menhir-statues from the Bronze Age. The most significant finds, however, are 16 sculpted granite menhir statues, three prehistoric towers and an area of stone houses. The original, plain megaliths date back to around 4,000 BC. In around 1,200 BC many of them were re-carved with representations of human faces, armour and weapons including swords, daggers and helmets. The stone towers and houses date back to around 1,200 BC. The exact function of the towers is uncertain, but most archaeologists believe they were either simple watchtowers, strongholds for storing valuables or harvests, or meeting spaces for religious rites. We also visit the museum which displays a variety of archaeological finds and information about the site.
In the afternoon we continue our journey north to the city of Napoleon’s birth, Ajaccio. (Overnight Ajaccio) BL
Day 13: Tuesday 14 October, Ajaccio
- Cathédrale Ste-Marie
- Maison Bonaparte
- Afternoon at leisure
We begin our orientation walk with a visit to Ajaccio’s cathedral which dates from the 16th century. Within lies the Virgin of the Sacred Heart painted by Eugène Delacroix in 1821.
We also visit the Maison Bonaparte, owned by the family from 1682, which now houses a museum of the Bonaparte family. On the first floor is the room in which Napoleon was born. There is also a 16 metre long gallery which was the first ballroom in Ajaccio. Napoleon moved the capital of Corsica from Bastia to Ajaccio in 1811. The city was most probably founded (1492) by the Genoese who populated it with their fellow citizens from other, less healthy, parts of the island; indigenes were banned from living there until 1592.
The afternoon is free for you to explore Ajaccio at leisure. (Overnight Ajaccio) B
Piana - 2 nights
Day 14: Wednesday 15 October, Ajaccio – Piana
- Palais Fesch – Musée des Beaux-Arts
- Scenic coastal drive to Piana
This morning we take a guided tour of the Palais Fesch – Musée des Beaux-Arts which was established by Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839). This outstanding art museum holds the largest French collection of Italian paintings outside the Louvre and includes Botticelli’s Vierge à l’Enfant Soutenu par un Ange, Titian’s Man with a Glove, Paolo Veronese’s Leda and the Swan and Poussin’s idas à la source du Fleuve Pactole.
In the mid-afternoon we drive north along the coast to Piana where we spend the next two nights. Piana is a beautiful small village on a plateau overlooking the magnificent Golfe de Porto. (Overnight Piana) BD
Day 15: Thursday 16 October, Piana – Les Calanches – Porto – Scandola – Piana
- Gulf of Porto: Les Calanches de Piana: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Cruise to Scandola Nature Reserve (weather permitting): UNESCO World Heritage Site (weather permitting)
This morning we drive north along the magnificent ocean road with views of the extraordinary rock formations called Les Calanches de Piana, to the seaport of Porto. Here we board a vessel for a three-hour cruise to visit Scandola, a promontory that has become a bio-marine reserve due to its utterly unique flora and fauna. Like the island of Lavezzi in the south, this isolated peninsula, which can only be reached by sea, has given birth to and preserved species that are not to be found elsewhere in the Mediterranean. There are osprey, puffins, cormorant and in the waters that are also part of the reserve, coral and a seaweed that is so hard it forms rigid plates on the sea’s surface. The Scandola Nature Reserve is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. (Overnight Piana) BD
Bastia – 2 nights
Day 16: Friday 17 October, Piana – Calacuccia – Scala di Sta Regina – Restonica Valley – Corte – Ponte Leccia – Bastia
- Scenic Calacuccia Pass (Scala di Sta Regina)
- Lunch in the Restonica Valley
- Corte: visit of the old town and its Citadel and belvedere
Today we return to Porto and then turn inland and drive across to Corsica’s east coast. We will drive through some of the island’s most dramatic mountain scenery, especially at the Calacuccia Pass (Scala di Sta Regina). We stop regularly to view the magnificent panoramas along the way, and there will be a short walk along a shepherd’s trail. Today you will gain a vivid impression of the contrast between Corsica’s coastal regions that were prey to constant seaborne invasion and plunder, and its mountainous inland to which the Corsicans retreated for safety, and there preserved a distinctive culture that was hidden by isolation.
One distinctive culinary delight is chestnut cake, for this fruit has been cultivated throughout Corsica’s inland regions. Evisa, which is famed for its chestnuts, is a delightful small village located between the Gorges de Spelunca and the Forêt d’Aïtone. The latter is a large forest of Corsican Laricio pine, fir, larch and Maritime pine. It was famous for its plant extracts and the wood from the forest served the shipyards of Genoa. Mountain passes were vital to movement through this alpine landscape. One of the most awesome of these is the Scala di Sta Regina, where the road is more like a narrow shelf hanging above deep gorges than a major thoroughfare. Without this pass, however, access to the small town of Calacuccia would have been almost impossible. One particularly beautiful human intervention in this wild landscape is a group of old bridges built by the Genoese, who needed access to Corsica’s alpine trees in order to build their great fleets. The most famous of these bridges, which we see, is the Ponte Novu over the Golo River. It was on this bridge in 1769 that the Corsican forces led by Pascal Paoli lost a key battle to the French, bringing to an end a brief period in which the Corsicans, having ousted the Genoese, savoured a rare independence (1735-1769).
We then reach the Restonica Valley where we partake in a lunch at a local restaurant along the river. The Restonica River flows through splendid, partly forested, gorges with many pools and waterfalls.
After lunch we drive to the historic town of Corte, former capital of the Corsican independent state. Situated amidst breathtaking natural beauty, with rugged mountains encircling it at the meeting point of multiple rivers, the stronghold of Corte is both awe-inspiring and intimidating. With its central position on the island, it is the historical and cultural capital of Corsica and still stands at the heart of Corsican identity. In 1755, when Pascal Paoli declared it the capital of the short-lived Corsican republic, the majority of the population resided within its hilltop citadel. The upper town was ravaged by the French just 14 years later, leading to the displacement of many, including Napoléon’s mother, pregnant with the future emperor at the time. We will explore the old town and walk up to the citadel and its belvedere, offering extensive views across the river valleys and mountains as well as the rooftops of Corte.
We continue our journey to the north-east, eventually reaching the coast and Bastia, our final destination for the day. (Overnight Bastia) BLD
Day 17: Saturday 18 October, Bastia – Murato – Lucciana – Bastia
- Orientation tour of Bastia: Fortress, Ste Marie Church, Ste Croix Brotherhood Oratory, Palace of the Governors, Romieu Garden, Market Square, St Jean Baptiste, Immaculate Conception Brotherhood Oratory
- Farewell Lunch at La Ferme Campo di Monte
- San Michele de Murato
- Roman archaeological site of Mariana & Pisan church, La Canonica
Today we begin with an orientation tour of Bastia. Bastia is now Corsica’s second city but it was not until the 15th century that the small Roman port of Mantinon became more than a place of shipment of wines from the region. It was at that time a loading area attached to the village of Cardo. The Genoese built a bastion (It. Bastiglia, hence Bastia) to defend the city, which prospered under the aegis of this great maritime republic. One distinctive feature of Bastia is its confraternities that were formed in the 17th century. They are congregations of artisans or men dedicated to good works, who built elaborate Baroque stuccoed and painted chapels like the confraternity houses of Palermo. The confraternities process through the city during festivals. One such group, the Confraternity of Saint-Roch, the saint of the plague, was particularly active given the constant threat of epidemic suffered by many Mediterranean ports.
We begin at Bastia’s Genoese fortress and walk to the cathedral of Sainte-Marie (1604-19) and thence to the Oratory of the Confraternity of Sainte-Croix, a beautiful small Rococo chapel where the Christ des Miracles, a processional statue of the protector of fishermen, is held. We shall visit the Place Donjon and the Palais des Gouvernateurs, residence from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century of the Genoese governors (closed for restoration). Here you will gain a magnificent view down upon the old port. Below the citadel are the Romieu gardens, with a proliferation of palms, pines, laurels and succulents. In the lower town we visit the market square with a fine fountain, and Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Corsica’s largest church. It is a masterpiece of Baroque stucco work and trompe l’oeil decoration. We also visit the equally richly decorated Baroque Oratory of the Brotherhood of the Immaculate Conception and Place Saint-Nicholas with its imposing statue of Napoleon.
Midday we depart Bastia for the small village of Murato to enjoy our farewell meal at La Ferme de Campo di Monte. The farm is owned by Pauline Juillard who is renowned throughout the island for her delicious Corsican cuisine based on her grandmother’s recipes.
After lunch we drive to San Michele de Murato, just north of Murato. This 13th-century polychrome church, constructed from white limestone and green serpentine, is a masterpiece of Pisan Romanesque architecture. It is dominated by a powerful bell tower that rises over a tall, arched entrance. Blind arcades articulate and enliven its walls and there are interesting sculptural details such as distinctive capitals and consoles.
Our last visit today is the ancient Roman port colony of Mariana which was founded around 100 BC by the Roman general Caius Marius. Its strategic location made it possible to secure a new commercial outlet to Rome. The buried remains of this ancient city are located around the Romanesque church of La Canonica. Saint Devota, patron saint of Corsica and Monaco is said to have been martyred here in 303 AD. The new award-winning Archaeological Museum of Mariana, which we visit, was funded by Prince Rainer III of Monaco with the aim to renew the historical links between Lucciana and Monaco. (Overnight Bastia) BL
Day 18: Sunday 19 October, Bastia. Tour Ends.
- Tour concludes in the morning
- At leisure/Check out
Our tour ends in Bastia after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to Bastia Airport. B