By Anne the 16.11.2022
U Salgetu is rather hidden and only really reveals itself to visitors at the last bend of a narrow road which winds through the first foothills of the southern Castagniccia from the Casaluna Valley. The village faces the direction of the setting sun and has an incredible and harmonious array of slate-roofed, stone houses set at the foot of the mythical San Petrone mountain. The village was created at a time when the inhabitants built high up so that they could watch over the valley and band together to defend their homes.
The architecture is exceptional. Both massive and airy. Entering the pedestrianised old village you cross bridges and pass under arches - sottu a loghja – and find yourself in the heart of Saliceto with its narrow, cobbled alleys, a place of immense beauty. Every wall has a tale to tell. The village is crossed by two rivers, A Casella and U Piracciu, which give a constant soothing background noise.
Water is everywhere in the village, it even runs under the choir of the church of the Annunziata which spans one of the two rivers, an audacious architectural approach that is probably unique in Corsica. This life blood of the village flows under the baroque stucco altar and the beautifully crafted wooden sacristy. This rare architectural splendour is being restored, but the building remains open to visitors and for those who wish to pray during the day.
You can tell from the façades that the history of U Salgetu is just as rich as that of Rustinu and Castagniccia. The stone from which the tower was built, was also used for the houses and other places of worship. A menhir serves as a pillar for one of the doors of the church. The ancient, time-worn niches and lintels that adorn the houses of ‘I caporali’, the leading families of the time, are like the pages of a book that tell the story of a bygone life. Some of the walls date back to the mid-fifteenth century.
Saliceto, whose name comes from willow - salge – a tree which commonly grows along the rivers is the village where Christophe Saliceti was born. He was a politician during the French Revolution, a deputy of the National Convention who voted for the death of king Louis XVI. A one-time supporter of Pasquale Paoli (who was born in neighbouring Morosaglia), he later became his opponent. He helped set Napoleon Bonaparte on the road to greatness by appointing him to the command of the artillery during the siege of Toulon in 1792 against the allies of the Anglo-Neapolitan coalition which challenged the then young Republic.
This battle led to the young artillery captain being promoted to brigadier general, and opened the way for his triumphant march towards a successful Italian campaign, and then his rise to the pinnacle of the Empire. Saliceti was later rewarded by becoming Minister of Police to Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples and brother of Napoleon.
U Salgetu certainly honours its past, but it also lives in the present. The cultivation of chestnuts was once a way of life here and the ruins of a mill are still visible along the stream. But now, in the cellars of the village, charcuterie is produced and matured in the air of Castagniccia: prizutti, lonzi, coppe and salciccie. Breeders, butchers and shepherds have taken over.
At 762 metres above sea level, winters can be harsh. But the fresh and healthy air which flows down from the San Petrone mountain is invigorating in summer, and in the evenings, the village square comes alive with spirted games of cards.
The municipal swimming pool, one of the first dug in the region, remains a favoured meeting place for the Salgitinchi and the inhabitants of surrounding villages, San Lorenzo, Gavignano, Castineta.
Take time to enjoy a break at the foot of A Teppa, watched over by a spectacular granite ‘King Kong’ rock.
At the foot of the San Petrone mountain
U Salgetu is located in the Rustinu area, on the southern slope of the region of Castagnicca, dominated by the 1767m high San Petrone mountain. Hike to the summit for breath-taking views. You can see all the way to Italy and Tuscany. The most accessible route for families is via Bocca di u Pratu. From Saliceto there are more sporty trails that will inspire runners.
‘King Kong’ watches
Roccapina has its lion. Saliceto has a gorilla. The village was developed over several centuries at the foot of the spectacular A Teppa cliff. The mineral facade contrasts beautifully with the green and wooded scenery which surrounds it.
And, carved by time into the rockface, ‘King Kong’ watches over the tranquility of the Salgitinchi.
Colomba to Paoli
Close to U Salgetu, the village of Castinetu also has exceptional architecture, typical of the Rustinu Valley. It was here that in the early 2000s that a FR3 TV movie crew filmed Colomba, based on a book by Prosper Mérimée published in 1840 on the theme of a vendetta featuring a revenge-seeking heroine. The atmosphere may have changed, but the setting is intact. The location was chosen over that of Fozzà, a village in Vighjanu where you can still see the tomb of Colomba.
From U Salgetu, Castinetu is on the road to Merusaglia , village of the Babbu di patria, Pasquale Paoli, whose birthplace houses a museum dedicated to him, and a chapel where his ashes are held after their return from London in 1889, an expedition led by Canon Saliceti.
For Corsicans, all roads lead here.