The fjord of the Mediterranean
Dubbed the "Island of Beauty", Corsica offers every traveller many natural oases to relax and have fun... an ideal destination.
It is precisely in the extreme south of the island where, between the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, rises a majestic cliff of white stone carved by the wind and the sea, on which the ancient city of Boniface rises.
The legendary Mouths of Boniface is the fascinating and feared Straight of the Tyrrhenian Sea, just eleven kilometres wide, which separates Corsica from Sardinia. They do not exceed a depth of one hundred meters and are known for the intensity of the wind and the strength of the waves that often make it difficult for boats and ferries to dock.
Today, Boniface´s wealth lies above all in the splendid stretch of coast on which it is built: a fjord about a hundred meters wide that plunges for a kilometre and a half on the cliffs of white rock. A citadel that dominates the turquoise background of the Straight of Boniface from its 70 metres high rises above it. The view from the top of the fortress is impressive. From the port, a staircase goes up towards the citadel: the Montée Saint-Roch that connects Rue Saint Erasme with Porte de Gènes.
A steep path that goes from the foot of Mont Saint-Roch to the picturesque viewpoint of Place du
Marché. Bonifacio Fjord, by the way, is embellished by ghostly figures created by the combined action of wind and sea on the limestone cliffs. If we look to the left of Mont Saint-Roch, for example, a fantastic rocky outcrop seems to have been forgotten by erosion: the so-called Grain of Sand.
Address: Place du Marché
Cheese to love life
In addition to offering all its visitors the opportunity to discover unforgettable places, Corsica can also be proud of its great culinary tradition. And being an incurable (and justified) glutton, you can´t miss the typical Corsican dessert par excellence: the "fiadone with brocciu".
"Brocciu" is a typical Corsican cheese and is at the base of the recipe for one of the most famous desserts in this region: "Fiadone". The term brocciu derives from the Corsican dialect which, in turn, adapts, in its language, to the French brousse, which designates a fresh cheese made with sheep´s or goat´s milk. This cheese, a registered trademark throughout the territory, is called "casgiu
Nacional", that is, national cheese, and is generally consumed at the end of meals. In addition to being the main ingredient of the typical dessert, it serves many other recipes of the island´s gastronomy, such as polenta, tortillas, cannelloni, vegetable dishes. It is also delicious on its own or accompanied by citrus fruit jams.
It is a cheese very similar to ricotta (cottage cheese). Since 1983, it has been included in the DOC product categories as the only cheese in Corsica.
Fiadone is a sponge cake with a very particular consistency. The brocciu gives it a very fresh flavour, thanks to the lemon aroma. Suppose you want to bring a little internationality to your kitchen. In that case, this is the best dessert, quick and straightforward to prepare and cook, with some
reminiscences also derived from the Italian gastronomic culture.
The origin of this dessert is probably due to the typical Italian flans present in gastronomy since the 16th century. It is the family´s quintessential dessert and is consumed mainly on Easter or New Year holidays. Still, today it can be enjoyed at any time and is found in all patisseries and bakeries in the region.
Sorba confectionery has been a family business for four generations. Since 1921, it has invited you to discover its Corsican and Bonifácio specialities, from doughnuts and brocciu cakes to orange blossom pies.
Address: Patisserie Sorba, Rue Saint-Dominique 24
For those who see so much, one eye is enough.
An old Corsican legend about Saint Lucia, dating back to the fourth century AD, tells that the young martyr, from a noble Sicilian family, obtained a cure for her mother thanks to her prayers. The latter was suffering from an incurable disease.
Entirely dedicated to prayer, Lucia performs many miracles. The Blessed Virgin returns her sight and gives her beautiful, luminous eyes to reward her for her devotion. Dedicated to Christian worship, Lucia, to drive away suitors and not be distracted, took out her eyes and threw them into the sea.
The shell operculum, called Bolma rough, found on the beaches, represents the eyes of Saint Lucia.
This mollusc, very widespread throughout the Mediterranean, in addition to the shell that inhabits it, secretes an operculum that it uses as an "entrance door" when it is completely removed, for defence, inside the body. Using one draws the evil eye and brings good luck.
When the mollusc dies, the operculum is detached and carried by ocean currents, often found on the coast, along with the shells of other shells, partially ´worked´ by the sea.
This small pendant contains sacred and pagan symbols. It is one of the most popular typical sailor talismans, once very common along with many objects made from coral. It is a gift from nature and a sign of belonging and recognition for people from the sea.
His resemblance to an "eye" led him to associate himself with Saint Lucia, the patroness of the eyes. According to Catholic tradition, she protected against eye diseases, especially cataracts. It is related to the power of a protective "good eye", capable of combating any other evil eye.
Other names also know Saint Lucia´s eye: "Eye of Naxos" in Greece, "Eye of Shiva" in India, "cat´s eye" in Australia and New Zealand, and "mermaid coin" in South Africa.
Address: La Boutique du Corailleur, Place Montepagano 3
The Boniface Fjord is dotted with ghostly figures carved into the limestone cliffs by the combined action of wind and sea.
Fruit of the whims of nature, El Gouvernail de la Corse is one of them.
An unusual viewpoint over the strait located next to the Navy Cemetery at the peninsula´s tip, this military site is a long 168-step tunnel carved into the cliff. This staircase leads to an underground room just 10 m above the sea. It offers the unique view of the "Bouches de Bonifacio".
Below, the famous rock that fishermen called the rudder because of its shape, which resembles the stern of a ship.
It is a small rock that barely emerges from the water, on the eastern exit of the fjord, clearly visible from the sea as it leaves the port towards Sardinia. One can imagine Corsica as a huge ship commanded by this limestone rudder with a bit of imagination.
Built in 1880 by French military engineers, the rudder monitored the entrance to the port and the Strait of Bonifácio. It was equipped with a powerful projector capable of illuminating the strait, at night, all the way to the coast of Sardinia.
It is located just to the right of the helm of Corsica, the Saint-Antoine cave or Napoleon´s cave, a mandatory stop for souvenir photos. Its name is due to the shape of its opening, which resembles the bicorn, a military hat worn by officers and by Napoleon Bonaparte himself.
Looking slightly to the east, you´ll also see the "Grotte du Sdragonato" (small dragon tree in Corsica), famous for the fractured vault, whose contours resemble the shape of the island. The sun´s rays penetrate the cave through this crack illuminate the algae at the bottom of the sea, giving the water an almost glowing green colour.
Address: Quartier Saint François
Looking for relics
Many. Very many. It is difficult to find a convent, a basilica or other place of worship that does not have its fragment of ´lignum Crucis´, sometimes almost microscopic. So much so that phrases like: "If we put together all the pieces of the cross of Christ in the world, there would be many crosses!"
Or similar, they are pretty standard, just like so many other familiar places. In his work ´Traité des
reliques´, Juan Calvino said that if we put all these pieces of the Cross together, they could form the cargo of a ship. And this even though the Gospels say that a man carried this load!
Most of the most important fragments that exist and are considered authentic are found in Rome.
All fragments found in Italy amounts to almost a third of all known components. Among those from Rome, we can cite the three great pieces preserved in the Holy Cross of Jerusalem and in the Cross of Justin, which contain two, a magnificent part of sixth-century goldsmith recently restored and displayed in the treasury of St. Peter´s Basilica in the Vatican.
The church of Sainte Croix de Bonifacio, located on rue Saint Dominique, houses a golden reliquary said to contain a fragment of the true Cross. The brotherhood of the same name kindly guards this precious treasure. It belongs to the five Bonifacian brotherhoods. From the 14th century onwards, its primary function was the management of the civil hospices on Rue Saint Dominique, known as the house of mercy.
In this church, we can see a shrine that represents the discovery of the Cross of Calvary by Saint Helena. As tradition dictates, it parades in processions on May 3rd for the Feast of Invention and on September 14th for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. On the occasion of the processions, the hermitage of Santa Cruz must be accompanied by the head of the city´s magistrates.
The Brotherhood of the Holy Cross comes from the Brotherhood of Espírito Santo, active during the crusades. Since the 14th century, the Confrérie Sainte Croix, or Santa Cruggi, has been entrusted with the management of a civil hospice to care for the city´s sick.
Address: Rue Saint Dominique 15
Down to the well
Athlete or not, descending this ladder, you will discover an extraordinary landscape and work your legs!
Among the beauties of Boniface, we cannot forget one of the most spectacular buildings in the world, the staircase of the King of Aragon.
It is a staircase of 187 steps carved into the rock that leads from the top of the city to the sea to the well of St. Bartolomeo. This well is a natural underground swimming pool fed by meteoric water, inaccessible today but used as a source of supply for the local population.
The ladder has a 45-degree incline and extends over 65 meters above sea level.
The majesty of this structure leaves you speechless, whatever your vantage point, whether looking from the top of the cliff or step 187 or looking from the sea, between the mouth of Boniface.
However, I cannot deny that climbing this ladder is a difficult task. The steps are very high and sometimes slippery, and the biggest problem is, without a doubt, the incline and unevenness, which put everyone to the test, especially those who suffer from vertigo. In any case, its beauty and mystery are worth any effort.
A legend, handed down from generation to generation in Boniface, revolves around this famous staircase.
In the 15th century, the king of Aragon, Alfonso V, then king of Sardinia, also wanted to take Corsica. Supported by a Count of Corsica, Vincentello d´Istria, named viceroy of the island, managed to conquer Corsica, except for Calvi and Boniface. Alfonso V, therefore, drew up a plan to besiege the city, and in 1420 he ordered his troops to build this stairway to guarantee the water supply and have direct access to the sea. According to legend, the construction took place in just one night.
Legend has it that that night the city was saved thanks to the patriotism of the citizens of Boniface. Indeed, as the King of Aragon and his troops tried to attack the city by climbing the stairs, the women, who commanded a patrol led by Margherita Bobbia, heard suspicious noises and raised the alarm.
Then the inhabitants of Boniface rose in defence of the city, and Afonso V and his troops were forced to withdraw, surrendering for good.
Thanks to the loyalty and goodwill of the women of Boniface, the siege was unsuccessful, and the city strengthened its reputation as an inaccessible citadel.
The legend is always more convincing than the reality, as it is rather unlikely that such a massive building could be erected in a single night.
The natural pool of water has always existed. Since prehistoric times man has improved this ladder to reach the spring more easily. Since 1909, the staircase has taken the name of King Aragon. It has become a symbol of Boniface and one of the most picturesque places on the island.
Address: Place Carrega 7
Once in the upper city, it is possible to visit the "Bastion de l´Etendard". It is the most representative building in Bonifacio. Some might think it´s a castle, but in reality, it´s the imposing fortress that dominates the harbour entrance, an exciting example of defensive architecture. Precisely one of the functions of the bastion was to protect access to the gate of the Gênes, then the only entrance to the city.
The Bastion de l´Etendard, built in the 13th century by the Genoese, is Bonifacio´s identity.
Destroyed in the 16th century by bombardments by the Franco-Turkish army, commanded by Dragut, the bastion was rebuilt in the process, respecting the line of the Genoese fortress. However, it adapted to new siege techniques thanks to the much more solid "à la Vauban" fortifications, with walls between seven and ten meters thick.
Visiting the bulwark of the standard leads to the Memorial, the garden of Roman remains with ruins of 12th-century fortifications. It is the highest point in the upper city. Various species of Mediterranean flora mingle and the panorama that dominates the cliffs.
The Memorial, located within the bastion, includes vaulted underground rooms through the corridors that lead to the fortress. There, the Memorial reconstructs the city´s history through four events taken from Boniface´s history, such as the visit of Emperor Charles V, the sinking of the Sémillante ship or Napoleon Bonaparte´s expedition to La Maddalena.
Some scenes of life in Boniface are reconstructed without forgetting the skeleton of the Lady of Boniface, a young woman who lived 8,500 years ago in the region and who has witnessed the human presence since the Neolithic.
Address: Rue du Corps de Garde 8
La Marine c’est belle
La Marine c’est belle
More precisely, the port district, "La Marine", played a role of great importance in maritime trade with Genoa, Sardinia, Marseilles, Tunisia, Syria, etc.
The Marina extends over 500 meters in length. Visiting there is very pleasant, especially in summer, when there is a lot of entertainment.
Like all commercial ports, its history was relatively turbulent due to a military conflict between Pisa and Genoa.
These two republics fought fiercely for the citadel, a strategic military site and a port complex unrivalled in Corsica. Initially, Pisa owned the area until the end of the 12th century.
The island´s strategic position has always aroused envy since ancient times. More than the privateers, the island was of interest for the supply of ships. If today we can enjoy this port, it was not always like this.
Before 1900, the harbour´s bottom was just a beach where fishers could pull their nets to the ground. Until the late 19th century, the first docks were built. A "mobile defence" was the origin of the project. To a lesser degree compared to the upper city, the Marina has also been equipped with a defensive system (gate and tower, layered gate, perimeter wall), the entire complex will be demolished later. Furthermore, for safety reasons, the walls of the buildings along the Marina were necessarily contiguous, with only one opening to the sea.
In 1990, the Marina underwent a general refurbishment with, on the seaside, an uninterrupted set of terraces with cafes and restaurants. A "pedestrian" lane was created on the quay´s edge, and some tree plantations, which did not exist before, came to decorate the complex. However, this remodelling, appreciated by most merchants, will have radically changed the life of the community in this district.
Today, the significant challenges of tomorrow for the port of Boniface are to continue to promote its exceptional image (the leading port in the Mediterranean in terms of assistance) and improve, through a significant works policy, its navigation capacity.
Some inhabitants criticize this restructuring and attack its openly tourist concept, while for others this tour has become mandatory. Judge yourself! Strolling along its pier and watching the ships sparkle is a pleasant experience.
Address: Quai Jérôme Comparetti
The eternal backwater
In Boniface, there is a long white wall on the outskirts of the current inhabited centre. Columns flank the only opening, and the architrave has a vaguely neoclassical style.
An inexperienced eye could mistake the buildings in the background for cabins. But it´s about tombs and funeral chapels. And on the architrave, the inscription "Cimetière Marin, because this is the marine cemetery of Boniface.
A place that seems to have absolutely nothing macabre. By definition, such a place immediately suggests the dead and the afterlife. And one would ask: why visit him? However, those who went there were surprised to find it enjoyable.
The Cimetière Marin stands facing the sea, caressed by the breeze from the Strait of Bonifácio. A solemn place and at the same time simple. Chapels really look like villages. Small villages surrounded by an unreal silence, only broken by the whisper of the waves.
Best time of day to see this? Well, you have to be brave enough to step into a marine graveyard when the sun sets behind the horizon, the shadows lengthen, and the sky turns red and dark blue.
Generally, the marine cemetery is kept off the familiar paths with things to see in Bonifácio. But if you like private places and, above all, if you´re not superstitious, the Cimetière Marin offers you a haven of peace and tranquillity and gives you a panorama you don´t see every day.
Address: Quartier Saint François
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