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Clear turquoise waters lap against brilliant white sands on the densely-populated arc of Ajaccio on Corsica. Lying on the west coast of the Mediterranean island, Ajaccio is the capital of the island and also its largest city – a beautiful port lined with palm trees and bright pastel buildings, with dark, wooded hills forming the perfect backdrop behind.
Ajaccio's centre is something of a cultural hub, while outlying beaches like Cargese and Porticcio offer visitors outstanding natural beauty and the perfect place to unwind.
Ajaccio is filled with historic attractions including villas, religious buildings and monuments – particularly monuments to Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born in the city in 1769. There are clubs and bars on the Route des Sanguinaires, and a casino on the Boulevard Pascal Rossini. There's no shortage of natural beauty around the city either, with beaches and coves within easy reach.
Within walking distance of the port is the citadel, built in the late 1400s when the town itself was established. Its watch tower and defensive walls fascinated a young Napoleon Bonaparte, who supposedly visited the citadel often in his youth to witness the changing of the guard. Although the interior of the citadel is in current use by the armed forces, and so not accessible to the public, visitors can get great views of the historical complex by strolling down the Quai Napoléon and the Boulevard Danielle Casanova in the Old Town.
Musée du Capitellu
Before leaving the boulevard, visitors might want to take a closer look at number 18 – a Genoese-period building housing the Musée du Capitellu, a small privately-run museum which charts the history of the city, from its beginnings right up to the present day, via the possessions of one of the city's foremost families. Furniture, porcelain, silverware and paintings feature in the collection, as well as Italian works from dating back to the 1500s and a small collection of Napoleonic memorabilia. However visitors to the museum are often the most taken with the curator himself, Mr Ottavi-Sampolo, whose passion for the history of Ajaccio tends to be the museum's chief attraction.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts at the Palais Fesch is an impressive sight from the outset; a broad cream-coloured building in a large white courtyard on the Rue de Cardinal Fesch. No trip to the island would be complete without a visit to the museum, which is second only to the Louvre for the amount of Italian paintings in its collection. Amongst the collection in the Palais are the Portrait of the Gloved Man by Titian, and Mother and Child Supported by an Angel by Boticelli.
You'll find some shops on the Rue Fesch specialising in jewellery that features locally harvested red coral. Visitors will find necklaces, earrings, pendants and watches all using the rich crimson coral, which has traditionally been collected around Corsica, Sicily and the Greek islands for thousands of years. For foodies there are some long-established boulangerie and delicatessens, and the weekend farmer's market on the Square Campinchi offers a great choice of local meats, cheeses and fresh produce, as well as clothing and handicrafts.
Many restaurants in Ajaccio have a great reputation, with diners often citing the quality of their gourmet food, friendly atmospheres and great service. Some restaurants are equally well-known for their owners, some of whom are just as passionate about serenading and entertaining their guests as they are about serving good food. Many quality eateries can be found on the Route des Sanguinaires, the main coastal strip which is home to many of Ajaccio's bars and restaurants.
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