What is obvious when you arrive at Corte is the citadel, majestic in the landscape and attracting visitors like a magnet. It’s the symbol and pride of the town.
I decided to go up there, passing through the Paoli square where the statue of Pascal Paoli called ‘Babbu di a Patria’ (Father of the Corsican Nation) proudly sits, and then along a paved alley, slightly slippery from the rain.
The climb to the upper town is steep, but the lively atmosphere en route is worth experiencing: bars and restaurants terraces, stalls groaning with crafts and souvenirs, people selling canistrelli (biscuits), ambruciate, migliacci and fougasses. Everything here is to be savoured.
It was the statue of General Gaffory, his finger pointed towards the enemy troops, that greeted me as I approached the end of the climb. He was secretary to the ephemeral King of Corsica, Theodore de Neuhoff. The facade of the Gaffory residence, just behind the statue and riddled with bullet holes, still testifies to the violence of the past fighting between the Corsicans and the Genoese.
I walked towards the entrance of the citadel, where a large door opens into the inner courtyard of a building housing the Tourist Office, the FRAC, a few classrooms of the University of Corsica, and the island’s renowned Museum of Anthropology.
The museum is full of treasures: a reconstruction of the General Terrier Plan of Corsica (a social, economic and geographical inventory of the island launched by the French monarchy in the last quarter of the 18th century, and displayed beneath a sheet of glass), a history of the beginnings of the island’s tourism, gastronomy, agriculture, hunting and fishing traditions, crafts and brotherhoods. There’s plenty to keep you busy here.
At the time I visited, there was an additional temporary exhibition on Corsica’s American palaces. It traced the history of the adventurous Corsicans who departed to make their fortunes in the Americas. On their return, they built splendid homes on Cap Corse, which today represent some of the island’s richest heritage.