Let's take a brief plunge into the past to (re) discover the fascinating link between Napoleon and the town of Ajaccio ... but not only! Napoleon Bonaparte, a name that resonates in the annals of history, left his lasting mark on the world ... and on Ajaccio, where he was born on August 15, 1769. The town of Ajaccio, with its winding streets and colorful shuttered houses, shaped Napoleon's childhood, and his early experiences in the narrow streets of the old town certainly had an impact on his imagination.
Even after conquering the world, Napoleon never forgot his hometown, and always kept Corsica tucked away in a special spot in his heart. In addition to the monuments, squares and museums dedicated to him, every year on August 15 the town celebrates the emperor's birth with great pomp: parades, shows and historical re-enactments attract visitors from all over the world, creating a timeless link between Napoleon and Ajaccio.
1. The Maison Bonaparte
Napoleon was born here, and today it's a museum dedicated to his legacy. Visitors from all over the world come to discover the emperor's memorabilia and learn more about his early years.
Living room, bedroom, dining room as well as some authentic furniture.
Good to know:this fully immersive tour is perfect for young and old alike. A surprise awaits visitors at the end of the tour.
The Palais Fesch, Musée des Beaux-Arts, houses three major collections: Italian painting, the Napoleonic collection and Corsican painters, but it is best known for its collection of Italian primitives, the largest after that of the Louvre!
Thanks in particular to the generous bequest of Cardinal Joseph Fesch, the uncle of the illustrious Emperor Napoleon I, Ajaccio has inherited some 1,500 works of art from the Cardinal's collections, as well as a selection of furniture that once belonged to the prelate.
A must-see is the majestic statue of Napoleon I sculpted by the talented Maximilien Laboureur. A sumptuous visit to a museum renovated just a few years ago.
Adjacent to the Palais Fesch, the Chapelle Impériale houses the coffins of Cardinal Fesch, Letizia Bonaparte and Prince Charles-Lucien Bonaparte, which were transported from Rome. A visit not to be missed.
A symbol of the domination of the Republic of Genoa, the Cathedral is also a key site in Napoleonic history. The future Emperor was baptized here in 1771, and members of the Bonaparte family were buried here long before the Imperial Chapel was built. Today, high masses are celebrated here, notably on March 18, when the Madonuccia is celebrated.
Good to know: Napoleon's grandparents and great-grandparents are buried under the dome at the back of the nave.
5. The Place d'Austerlitz, known as the "Casone", and the Napoleon grotto
In the Place d'Austerlitz, known as "du Casone", you'll find an imposing monument erected in 1938 featuring a sculpture of Napoleon Bonaparte, flanked by two majestic eagles, while a sloping stele recalls the emperor's victories and achievements.
Good to know: located at the end of the Cours Grandval, you can get there on foot, by bus or by bike. To get there, take a pleasant stroll in the shade of the plane trees along the so-called "foreigners' quarter".
Not to be missed: nestled near the stele is the "Napoleon grotto". According to legend, this is where the child, who was to become Emperor, would play...
6. Place De Gaulle
On Place De Gaulle, commonly known as Place du Diamant, discover the monumental statue of Emperor Napoleon perched on a horse, surrounded by his four brothers.
Good to know: A place where families come together for a snack, a children's paradise with merry-go-rounds, bikes and scooters!
Also known as the Place des Palmiers, a majestic statue of Napoleon, dressed as a Roman Consul, is enthroned here. Made of marble, it was created by Maximilien Laboureur.
What to see: Light shows are regularly installed at the foot of the statue, to the delight of walkers. Literary festivals and flea markets are also held in the square.
8. The Salon Napoléonien and the medal room
Located on the premises of Ajaccio's Town Hall, the Salon Napoléonien and the Salle des Médailles are an important place of remembrance. Portraits and busts of the family by artists of the First and Second Empires are on display. In the Medal Room, medals, as well as gold, silver, and bronze coins, are on public display. Admire some priceless objects such as snuffboxes and travel kits.
Unusual: discover the teaspoon used by a dying Napoleon.
9. In Bastia, the statue of Napoleon on Place Saint Nicolas
Surprising as it may seem, given that the Emperor is less popular in Upper Corsica than in Southern Corsica, there is a statue of Napoleon on Place Saint Nicolas in Bastia! Why not, you may say, since a statue of Pasquale Paoli, Father of the Corsican Nation, can be found in Ajaccio! The majestic statue on Place Saint Nicolas depicts Napoleon 1st as Jupiter, king of the Olympian gods, whose symbols are the eagle and the great scepter. It stands eight meters high and was sculpted in Carrara marble by Florentine artist Lorenzo Bartolini. It was sold to the town of Bastia in 1852 and solemnly inaugurated on June 15, 1854.
A side note: for some years now, the imposing statue of Napoleon 1st has been adorned, in a friendly and respectful manner, with a bandana in the colors of Bastia Sporting Club, the legendary Corsican soccer team that once won the 81 French Cup and was a finalist in the Europeean Cup in 78!
10. In Corte, the home of Charles and Letizia, Napoleon's parents
Also in Corte, you'll find traces of the Bonaparte family in the house of Charles and Letizia, future parents of Napoleon. The house, where their first son Joseph was born, is located on Place du Poilu, in the upper town near the entrance to the Citadel.
To see: the plaque on the façade explains that: "In this house was born Joseph Napoleon Bonaparte King of Naples and Spain on January 7, 1768, died in Florence (Italy) on July 28, 1844...". Charles came to Corte to study law at the University of Corsica, and was introduced to Pasquale Paoli, General of the Corsican Nation, who gave him a warm welcome ...
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