Waking in Bastia, I have a breathtaking view of the islands of Elba and Capraia from my hotel room in the citadel. Breakfast gives me the strength to tear myself away: cake made with chestnut flour, pressed citrus fruits, local jams and honeys. It’s all served on the terrace overlooking the old port, its whitewashed houses and the church of St. John, punctuated by boom of boats leaving for Italy.
Having left the hotel, I start in Place du Donjon, facing the museum and the Palais des Gouverneurs and its Genoese-influenced façade. Bastia is a true city of art and history and reveals its most precious treasures. On my left, a narrow street lined with small shops leads me to the church of Santa Maria where the Silver Virgin is an object of much local pride. Below, the Chapel of the Black Christ is a resplendent example of Baroque architecture.
At the museum, an event is being prepared focused on the “Creazione” festival. Three days ago, Corsican creators from all over the island presented their handmade knives, clothes, leather goods, jewellery and head-turning other designs to the public.
Next on the list is the Jardin Romieu, a haven of peace at the heart of the city with abundant greenery and the fragrant flowers of early summer.
A few minutes later, I’m on the old port where fishermen are unloading their latest catch.
I continue my journey past the church of St. John the Baptist and its two steeples (this is a must-see with its majestic organ) and on to the market square and its stalls that awaken my senses: charcuterie, fritelles, migliacci and cheeses.
My visit continues on Rue Napoléon, where Corsican designer boutiques compete with the greatest in jewellery, clothes and home decoration. While the ‘Made in Corsica’ range is becoming more and more skilled, it’s impossible not to mention the timeless, old-fashioned stores that have been here for centuries, and give this major city artery an additional charm.
It’s noon by the time I take a break in Place Saint Nicolas, lined by restaurants and cafes. Here all generations come together in the shade of the plane trees. I’m tempted by a light lunch that smells of Corsica: roast rack of lamb with herbs and vegetables, brocciu ice cream and canistrelli, all washed down with an AOC Patrimonio wine.
In the early afternoon, a shopping trip is essential along Cours Paoli and Rue César Campinchi, main shopping streets of the city.
My Bastia getaway ends in Erbalunga, gateway to Cap Corse: restaurants, cafes and stalls delight passers-by, while a Genoese tower seems to watch over the village and its cobbled streets.
If I had any energy left, I’d take a stroll on the old port, where the locals come together at dusk.
Watch the video “dolce vita en pays bastiais” by the Bastia Tourist Office