By Anne the 27/10/2022
The inhabitants of this rural village in the Prunelli Valley have always benefited from the arterial waterways which serve both the economy and local life. Traces of the rich activity of yesteryear are evident on several walking routes and heritage trails.
Take the road towards the village of Bastelica and follow some of the tributaries of the Prunelli. Monticchi, Vignola, Ese, so many channels and streams which cry out to be explored as you cross bridges to discover the riches of nature and a host of pretty villages. Continue driving to the plateau of Ese or go on foot to the foothills of Punta Scaldasole to discover the source of the rivers.
The river Prunelli is born from a majestic waterfall, at the point where the crystal-clear waters of Lake Vitalaca flow into the valley.
For thousands of years the river has wound its way beneath the shadow of mountainous ridges.
And in times gone by, the river fed canals which drove the mills.
The Bastelica Heritage Trail, the 16h route to join I chjassi di a memoria, offers curious walkers the chance to discover more about the daily life of millers and the fullers who produced cloth that fueled the local economy and ensured that the river was always a hive of activity.
Further up the valley, and bearing slightly off the heritage trail, you’ll spot old buildings buried deep in the ground bearing witness to forgotten trades. These are coolers where snow and ice were once stored, first for local business and later for the benefit of the whole Ajaccian region.
Returning to the village, steps lead you to the invigorating waters of the drinking fountains, fed by many sources. When life in these winding alleys was in full swing, each family maintained a garden with a few goats, a vegetable garden close to home and further outside the village there were the cultural gardens. In Bastelica, the lands were irrigated by the Volta Canal. A colossal building, it was built at a time when machines did not exist and delivered water from the Ortola waterfall to the southern part of the village and the church square. It provided enough water to ensure the production of fruit and vegetables to fill cellars to last throughout the winter months.
Follow the yellow markings from the washhouse to the waterfalls. Walkers will find themselves stepping back in time to discover the remains of this now inactive canal. Though the lower part is dry, the closer you get to the source, the more abundant the water becomes.
In the past, some of the inhabitants were tasked with its maintenance, and when needed, they activated the locks to distribute water to the different districts. In winter, the water was directed to the chestnut groves where it could permeate the ground, be stored and then returned to the inhabitants of the village during the summer.
In recent years, a few enthusiasts have tried to maintain the canal but today like those vegetable gardens, it is largely forgotten and no longer productive, harking back to a time when the local economy was more significant, and when the village bustled with life as much in winter as in the summer season.
Strolling through the alleys, following the discovery routes and simply observing allows you to understand the culture that is so essential to the island, its heritage and its terroir. At the end of your walk, relax at a café or restaurant, take the time to share your experiences and listen to the locals, it’s a brilliant way to expand your discovery through their anecdotes and stories which, like the waters of the village, never fail to flow.
Via the Genoese bridges
Not far from the village of Bastelica, heading in the direction of Cauro, is the 15th century Genoese bridge of Zipitoli, classified as a historical monument. People have crossed this bridge over the river Ese for hundreds of years and it’s a true work of art. In summer months this is an ideal place to cool off while enjoying the pools. Its single arch reflects light in the water to form an almost perfect circle. Cross it to follow several hiking routes.
It is impossible to miss the impressive waterfall of Carnavalli while crossing the Campitrosu bridge. With a ten metre drop from a steep cliff nestled in the forest, it can be approached by a small path that starts right next to the bridge. Take courage and dip a toe or dive into the magnificent pool which has formed at its foot throughout the centuries.
Along the canal
From the top of the village of Bastelica, take a short hike following the path of the Volta Canal, the old irrigation system of the village gardens which is no longer in operation. The path joins the waterfalls of Ortola and continues onward, towards the sheepfolds of Verdanesem, where there are beautiful, perched pools which are perfect both for swimming and enjoying eyepopping panoramas.
The trail includes a short challenging climb, but it’s relatively accessible even for families with minimal equipment.
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