Ajaccio is a charming small town on the west coast of Corsica.
Ajaccio is French, and the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte,
but the people (and the food) are Corsican first.....
If you are lucky enough to be the cruise ship docked at the single pier, the top picture is your early morning view. If you docked the previous evening - then the picture beside is your first view of Ajaccio.
There seems to be room for only one ship, and others must tender. Either way, when you touch land you are here on the waterfront street in the center of town.
Ajaccio is the capital of Corsica and has a population of about 70,000.
There is not a lot to see, so after you have explored the old town explore the local food, wine and beer! Corsica pork is wonderful with the pigs fed chestnuts and figs (more about pigs later), and the local wine and beer is worth trying.
The picture beside shows a ship at the single pier and another in the bay to tender.
The walk begins at the cruise pier, and follows the shore as you can see it in the photo beside to a park area that is a daily market, where it is shaded with lots of trees. This is one of my favourite Mediterranean markets, with local delicacies - meats, cheese, fruit and vegetables. At the top end of the block long market is a fountain and one of the many statues of Napoleon to be found around the city.
The map beside adds a couple of routes you may want to take to discover the oldest part of Ajaccio.
The blue line takes you to the birthplace in 1769 of Napoleon Bonaparte. Walk down Rue Bonaparte opposite the statue. Turn right at Rue Saint Charles (the second narrow alley on the right) and across from a small treed square look up to see the sign. This house is a museum, and the rooms will give you a snapshot of homes in the late 1700's.
Back at the market area, turn into the narrow opening that is Rue des Glacis, past restaurant tables (the next passage towards the ocean after Rue Napoleon). At the end of this first opening area there are two choices - the red line ahead to the right (still Rue des Glacis) or the orange line on the map to the left called Rue des Anciens Fosses. I translated this and it appears to mean Street of Ancient Ditches..... which raises more questions than answers.
I enjoy these tiny passages!
Whatever route you followed through the old town, you will come out on the street in front of the Citadel, the old fort that protected the city in the Middle Ages. Today it is just a wall at street level that shows the outline of the fort. Walk on this street to your right to the end of the Citadel, and there is a small viewpoint where you can see the height of the original fort wall.
At the end of a long block by the sea, turn right to see the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio. This was completed in 1593, and is where Napoleon was baptised.
After admiring the cathedral, walk back to the edge of the ocean, and walk along the sidewalk under the palm trees. Ajaccio has the healthiest and loveliest palm trees that I have seen in any city! They were perfectly trimmed and the fronds were deep green and lush.
You will now pass the Casino, a one story building. The roof forms part of the large square, La Place General de Gaulle, which is why you can see the man in the photo admiring the view.
Walk along the sea past a small traffic circle and continue until there is a split in the street. Cross the street here, and take the street on the right and in a few steps turn right, away from the sea.
At the end of the block, turn left onto Cours General Leclerc, and in a few steps you will come to what was the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. This was built in the late 1800's by the British who came for the winter warmth each year. It is now the national school of music.
After a quick look, retrace your steps on Cours General Leclerc. This street was popular with the wealthy citizens in the 1700 and 1800's, and there are some older mansions, now mostly serving other purposes - apartments or hotels, but still showing their grandeur. There is a lovely garden facing the street in front of a government building (beside) - if you can go in and walk about it, do so.
Farther down the street you come to La Place General de Gaulle. The square is attractive, with lots of benches where you can enjoy the view. Near the sea side of the square is another statue of Napoleon, this time on horseback.
Continuing down the street you come to the market square again. From the Napoleon statue, turn down the street to your left, Rue Cardinal Fesch. This is a touristy shopping street, with restaurants and bars and interesting stores to browse.
This was an amusing moment on my Ajaccio visit. Near the market end of this street is a t-shirt store. Outside is this fierce-looking very plump grumpy-looking (and armed) pig, and the sign says, "Les plus beaux t-shirts de Corse..." Some tourists were a bit offended - imagine advertising plus-sized shirts with this very large pig! However, 'plus' in French means more or most, so the sign actually says, "The most beautiful t-shirts of Corsica"...... I hope the pig is still there - have your picture taken with it!
Pigs and boars run wild in Corsica. If you take a tour inland, you may be stopped when a group of the animals cross the road in front of you. While most islands are proud of the seafood served, Corsicans are especially proud of the pork. The pigs feed on chestnuts and figs, so the meat is very tasty.
About 2 1/2 blocks up Rue Cardinal Fesch look to your left for a red sign that says 'Restaurant da Mamma'. Below the sign is a curved archway that will take you into an alley called Passage de la Guinguetta. It leads you to the street above. The street above is not very interesting - but I really like these dark alleys! This one has interesting graffiti. Come back down the alley, cross the street and you will see another alley ahead and to your right leading to the waterfront - and have gelato at the store beside this archway before heading to your ship.
A couple of options.....
To extend your walk, see the blue line extension on the map at the top and continue to walk up Cours General Leclerc to Place d'Austerlitz. At the very top of the street is a park, another statue of Napoleon and a view over the town.
Another option is to take the hop on hop off bus from the waterfront area by the market. It will take you on much the same route as the walk above - up Cours General Leclerc to Place d'Austerlitz and by the cathedral. It then extends out along the coast, which is a pleasant drive on a nice day.
I hope you enjoy Ajaccio. After your walk, try the local food and the Corsican wine and beer!