orange-door-old-town-Bastia
Travel

Bastia, the beautiful Genoese

At 6:30 am, we disembarked at the port of Bastia, Corsica, after a night traveling by boat from Toulon. 

The city awakens. Behind the channel of the harbour, the sun is pointing to the horizon and warming up the magnificent St Nicolas’ Square with its orange light. We are a few steps away from the old town and the market place. What better place to start our stay?

Saint-Nicolas-square-Bastia

Bastia, “the beautiful Genoese” is the gateway to Corsica. I know it well. I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. It is where my father was born and grew up in the popular district of Lupino, a few steps from the Mediterranean Sea.
We arrive at the market square. It is still early; the merchants are just starting to set up their stalls. We will come back a little later and take the opportunity to walk around a bit. At the corner of the square stands the church of Saint Jean Baptiste – the church where my parents got married, where I was baptized and where I got married. Its imposing facade, which recalls the Genoese domination of the island for nearly 5 centuries, dominates the old port.  

Saint-Jean-Basptiste-Bastia-church

We walk through the narrow streets that go down from the square to the port. The old buildings, the coloured facades, the laundry hanging in the windows, everything here reminds me of Italy. “On dirait le Sud…. “(« it looks like the South », famous French song by Nino Ferrer). Facing the old port stands the citadel that dominates the city. The citadel was built in 1378, when the Genoese governor at the time left the castle of Bigulia, further south, to settle in a stronghold overlooking a small fishing port, the current old port.

old-port-Bastia

The walls were then built, in which the Genoese citizens settled and where the governors’ palace was built. This new district was called “Terra Nova” (new land) and in contrast, the old city, around the port, became “Terre vecchia” (old land).
The citadel of Bastia contains some treasures such as St. Mary’s Cathedral and its silver statue of the Virgin which weighs over 500kg, the Governors’ Palace, or the oratory of St. Cross where you can see a black Christ found at sea by fishermen in 1428.

Market-day-Bastia

The market has finally opened and the city is starting to come alive. I stop in front of each stall. There are exclusively local products and specialties. I have not yet had my breakfast, and am beginning to feel hungry. Delicatessen, cheese, doughnuts, honey, olive oil… everything makes you want to eat. We don’t come here every day so we make the most of it!

corsican-delicatessen-Bastia-market

I stop in front of a baker’s stall. It will soon be Easter. I see myself as a child on this same square, at the same time of year with my grandmother. We are buying “campanile”. These are orange blossom scented buns topped with an egg that are made in Corsica for Easter.  We end the festivities with fritelles: sweet fritters filled with brocciu (fresh Corsican cheese).

Bastia-market-cheese-fritters

A few streets further on, a stop is necessary to visit the sumptuous oratory of St. Roch, covered with red and gold silk damask.
All that’s left for us to do is relax facing the sea to enjoy our breakfast. What a great way to start our holidays in Corsica!

Stairs-old-town-Bastia

Must-see sights:
St Nicolas square
The market place (Sunday mornings and the 2nd Friday of the month)
The Church of Saint John the Baptist
The citadel
The governor’s palace
St. Mary’s Cathedral
The oratory of St. Croix
The oratories of St Roch and the Immaculate Conception
The old port
The Romieu Garden


Good addresses:
The market, place du marché
Cap Corse Mattei store (traditional aperitif drink)
Gloria concept store (highlighting various Corsican creators and craftsmen)
A biscutteria (manufacture and sale of traditional cookies)
U muntagnolu (delicatessen, Corsican specialities)
Léoncini : bakery
Boutique Casanera : Organic Corsican cosmetics

Restaurant: L’EPICA


 

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