From Cala Lunga we headed for Bonifacio in Corsica about 12 miles across the Straits. This we managed to proper sail there in about 3 hours, arriving mid afternoon. The marina office, the Capitanerie, was closed for the weekend when we arrived but there were plenty of free berths, again the advantage of starting our season early.
Bonifacio was not originally in our sailing plan, but after advice from our new friends in Olbia we decided to add it in and spend all day Sunday there. And we are glad we did because it was an unexpected gem.
Bonifacio is a fantastic natural harbour which has been in use since they invented the boat. It is an awesome natural cleft in the cliff parallel to the coast and is approximately … metres wide over its entire length. Over the centuries it has been fortified and the citadel stands massively over the port and the town is plainly visible from miles away.
The walk up to the citadel is steep but well worth the climb. The path leads you up to a saddle in the headland and to the left is a coast walk and to the right the old town, we went left first and the views were simply fantastic. The town is built right on the edge of the cliffs and many of these have been worn away by the sea so the buildings are perched very precariously on rock over hangs. The sea below is crystal clear and coloured every blue green shade you can imagine.
The promentory was first fortified in 828AD by Count Bonifacio, a Tuscan nobleman who secured the harbour as a base against the Saracens who regularly raided the islands. Over the years these fortifications have been reinforced and what is now visible are the remains of the old Genoese walls in places buried within the newer Bastion built to withstand new fangled cannons!
The old town is accessed through the original Genoese Gate in the original town wall which is part of what is now know as the Bastion d’Etenard, the Bastion of the Standard. The Bastion itself is worth the 2.50 euro per person and will give you the entire history of the town on display panels. Really interesting and well presented!
The old town itself is quite small and many of the buildings are of Genoese origin, 15th century or thereabouts. They are all 3 or 4 storeys high and tower over the narrow streets like canyon walls. It was busy, but not crowded and walking around the town was very relaxing.
We really enjoyed Bonifacio, especially as our visit was completely ‘last minute’. Our thanks to Claire and Jayne for their glowing recommendation.