Corsica, France

Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus. It consists largely of high mountains and is located west of the Apennine Peninsula, north of Sardinia and south-east of the Côte d'Azur. The island is a French local authority with special status. It is much closer to Italy than to mainland France and is culturally and linguistically shaped by it.

It has an area of 8,760 km² and around 343,701 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2020). The capital and administrative center is the port city of Ajaccio. Other larger cities by the sea are Bastia and Calvi as well as the university town of Corte in the interior of the island. Corsica is also called Île de Beauté (island of beauty) in French.



Ajaccio (Aiacciu)
Bastia (Bastìa)
Bonifacio (Bunifaziu)
Cargèse (Carghjese)
Corte (Corti)
Saint-Florent (San Fiurenzu)


Sightseeing features

Cap Corse (also known as the finger of Corsica) has beautiful cliffs and is known as "Corsica in miniature". Partly beautiful by bike (east side near Bastia busy), motorcyclists also get their money's worth through the many winding roads along the coast. Hotels: reserve or register in advance. Among other things, beautiful also Nonza with its Genoese tower enthroned on a mountain spur.

Calvi: citadel, old town with harbor and a long sandy beach. Camping in the pine forest just behind this beach.

On the west coast is the La Scandola nature reserve, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Europe. In the nature reserve, which extends over large parts of the bay, many seabirds such as seagulls, cormorants and the rare white-tailed eagle find an ideal nesting and breeding area. Large parts of the La Girolata peninsula are covered by natural forests. Eucalyptus forests line the beaches. Around the bays and caves of the rugged coasts, an underwater animal world that can hardly be found anywhere else has survived. The sanctuary itself is not accessible from the countryside, but the nearby village of Girolata is a lovely walking/touring destination. The particularly winding west coast road between Calvi and Ajaccio opens up this sometimes steep but scenically simply breathtaking region. This applies in particular to the Gulf of Porto (for more information on Girolata, see this article).

Located between Levie and Sainte Lucie de Tallano, the Castellu di Cucuruzzu is a Torrean site from the Iron Age and Bronze Age. The facility is located at an altitude of around 700m on the Levie highlands, which can be found in southern Corsica. The structure was built between the 9th and 4th centuries BC. used. The approximately 1200 square meter complex was discovered in 1959 during aerial photographs and is now open to visitors. You can use a laminated rental guide to explore the facility on a thematic circular route (admission €4, duration of the short circular hike of two to a maximum of three kilometers around two to a maximum of three hours, guides are also available in German at the entrance). The archaeological site of Castellu d'Arraggiu north of Porto-Vecchio is the best preserved site of the Torre culture in Corsica after the Castellu di Cucuruzzu.

In the south of the island, the Bavella Pass (1218 m) is definitely worth a crossing. A rugged mountain massif towers over the pass, also known as the "Corian Dolomites". Hiking opportunities from the top of the pass. However, the pass is heavily frequented in the high season (larger car park is available; parking fee for the season 4 €, whether the space is then sufficient is not known). For a shorter hike of 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours (maximum 4 hours) you can climb south to the "Cumpuleddu" rock arch at the 1407m high Calanca Murata. A little south there are also vantage points with a view of the east coast.

Distributed across the island are the historic Genoese bridges. The scenically particularly attractive (Genoese bridge near Ota is well known. In the south of the island, however, the "pointy" Genoese viaduct Pont Génois de Spina Cavallu is also worth seeing. directly at the T 50).


What to do

Corsica is a hiking and climbing paradise. In addition to the famous GR 20, a demanding long-distance hiking trail that runs through the island in a north-south axis and follows the main ridge of the mountains, there are countless hiking trails to important and less important destinations. The numerous 2000s also offer alpine skiers the opportunity to practice their sport at three smaller stations (Ghisoni-Capanelle, Col de Vergio, Val d'Ese).

If you want to get a taste of high mountain air on a day hike, you can hike on the GR 20 from the Col de Vergio to the Lac de Nino. The mountain lake is located at an altitude of 1750m in a wide high valley in the middle of the "Corsican Alps". At 1470m, the Col de Vergio is the highest road pass on the island.

The mountain hike from the head of the Restonica valley up to the two mountain lakes Lac de Capitello and Lac de Melo is also attractive. For more information, see the Corte article

On Corsica's coasts you can actually still find the lonely beaches that you only suspect on postcards. In the east there are mostly endless sandy beaches that slope gently into the water. The further south one travels the east coast, the steeper the coastline, which now increasingly consists of separate bays. The rocks that surround the sandy bays are home to many aquatic life, so there's plenty to see while snorkeling and scuba diving. The west coast is very steep, here you will find small bays, some with pebble, some with sandy beaches, some can only be reached by boat. Such boats depart, for example, from Saint Florent in the north-west.


Getting here

The Corsica traveler can reach the island either by boat or by plane.

By boat
There are several ferry routes that connect the mainland with Corsica. Ports of departure are:
on the Italian mainland in Genoa, Savona, Livorno as well as on the island of Sardinia and
on mainland France in Marseille, Nice and Toulon.

The following ferry companies go to Corsica:
Corsica Ferries: e.g. from Savona to Bastia & Calvi (3-6 h & night crossings); from Livorno to Bastia (4 hrs & night crossings); from Nice to Bastia, Calvi & Ajaccio (4-5 h); from Toulon to Bastia & Ajaccio (5-6 h & night crossings)
Moby Lines: in high season from Genova and Livorno in low season from Livorno to Bastia; via Sardinia (from Santa Teresa to Bonifacio)
More information in the topic article Ferries between Corsica and the mainland.

By train and ferry from Germany
From south-west Germany (Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim and Karlsruhe) you can quickly reach Marseille with the TGV express train (arrival in Marseille in the evening). The night ferry can be taken from here to Ajaccio on Corsica. Depending on the travel time, an overnight stay in Marseille is required. Since the city was allowed to bear the title "European Capital of Culture" in 2013, the city center with its sights has been "spruced up" again and is popular with visitors. Therefore, a day's stay is a good idea anyway.

By plane
The island has four airports:
1 Ajaccio (IATA: AJA)
2 Bastia (IATA: BIA)
3 Calvi Airport (IATA: CLY)
4 Figari Airport (IATA: FSC) (near Porto-Vecchio)

In the season from April to September there are direct flights with Germanwings from Berlin, Dortmund, Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart, with Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Bastia. Out of season changes are required in Paris or Lyon. However, there are only a few ways to get to the cities from there, apart from bus, taxi or rental car.

For travelers from southwest Germany, the flight with Volotea from Strasbourg is possible. From June 2022 there will be a seasonal direct connection from Lübeck Airport to Bastia from northern Germany with Lübeck Air.

An overview of various airlines that fly to the island can be found in the French Wikivoyage article.


Get around

On the street
Roads in Corsica, apart from the well-developed routes in the Bastia and Ajaccio areas and the Bastia-Corte and Bastia-Bonifacio trunk roads, are generally narrow and very winding as they closely adapt to the mountainous landscape. The traffic is therefore much slower than you are used to on the mainland. An inexperienced driver should assume a maximum speed of 40 km/h in the hinterland away from the main roads, with average speeds of around 30 km/h.

Basically, the traffic in Corsica is dominated by private cars. Anyone planning many activities on the island, such as day hikes from different starting points, will find it difficult to get by without a rental car. Car rental companies (“locations des voitures”) can be found at all airports, in the larger cities and occasionally in the interior of the country. All major international chains are represented at the airports. The rental prices are comparatively high; Because of the difficult road conditions, landlords charge a "Corsica surcharge" of EUR 5 to 10 per rental day and insurance companies sometimes have higher deductibles than on the mainland. If you want to rent a car in Corsica, you should compare prices online in good time and book early.

Attention - animals on the road: In the area of the Col de Vergio it is z. It is possible, for example, that a wild domestic pig looks aimlessly into the headlights in the dark. Cows grazing freely along the edge of the color ridge are particularly common on the smaller roads throughout the island. In October 2017, despite heavy traffic, cows could be found grazing on a roundabout near Bastia. In the mountains it sometimes happens that a whole herd of goats settles down on the asphalt, which is still warm from the day. The animals then leave their warm place only somewhat reluctantly. But there's usually time on vacation, and such a beastly traffic experience adds some variety to the series of curves.

Keyword "cycling holidays in Corsica": There is no infrastructure for cycling in Corsica. If you want to go on a classic cycling holiday in Corsica, you have to use the road network. In the high season in the summer months in particular, the supra-regional roads are more heavily loaded with motor vehicle traffic. But even in the off-season, the main roads "T XY" are still heavily used by motor vehicles. Only the secondary road network is reasonably suitable for cyclists in the off-season in terms of traffic volume. But in order to reach these roads with less traffic, longer distances on the main roads usually have to be covered first. Neither Ajaccio nor Bastia have an inner-city cycling infrastructure. Against this background, Corsica is only recommended for a cycling holiday for road cyclists who have no problem with a lot of car traffic. In the off-season, this target group finds an attractive training ground on the island's winding mountain roads. If you are a cyclist and are used to mostly traffic-free, Central European cycle routes / river cycle paths, you will not find any real relaxation in Corsica.

By bus
Buses seldom go inland because of the narrow streets. In metropolitan areas, such as around Bastia or Ajaccio, the network is dense and the buses run frequently. Bastia Airport is served by the 'Les Rapides Bleus' shuttle line to the city center and various suburban stops, and Ajaccio has a city bus network that extends far into the suburbs. Timetables for other buses are often difficult to obtain. The only cross-Corsica information site, Corsica Bus, is privately operated. Those arriving in Bastia can get information from the Tourist Info (coming from the ferry on the right hand side on the large square - Place St. Nicolas).

By train
There is a small narrow-gauge railway network on the island, operated by the Chemins de Fer de la Corse across the interior of the island. It connects Bastia well with Ajaccio, Ile Rousse and Calvi. The two routes Calvi-Bastia and Ajaccio-Bastia meet inland at Ponte Leccia. There are transfer options. All routes are only single track, so that relatively few trains can run. On the long-distance routes beyond the suburbs of Bastia, a train can be expected every 90 minutes or so. Since there is no strict cycle, travelers absolutely need an up-to-date timetable. It is available either in all train stations (which are practically all manned) or online. The route passes through seemingly untouched areas and offers views unavailable to the road traveler. This alone makes it interesting as a purely tourist railway. But it shouldn’t be underestimated as a means of transport either: Deutsche Bahn offers a cheap weekly ticket (“Carte Zoom”) that allows unlimited travel for a week for EUR 50. This makes it possible to organize a hiking holiday without a car by taking the train from village to village and undertaking day trips from there.



Good food and drink play an important role on an island that combines French and Italian influences with its own unique cuisine. Even the simplest of restaurants tend to offer convincing plats du jour (daily specials) that are reasonably priced. The highly aromatic cheese, which is mostly made by hand in the mountains, is already famous from Asterix. The Corsican red wines are usually quite strong, you can taste them at the numerous wineries. The best restaurants can usually be found away from the big tourist centers in small mountain towns

Beer has been brewed on the freedom-loving island since 1995. The Pietra brewery brews beer to which chestnut flour is added before fermentation. Those who want chestnut beer should order Pietra ambrée, Colomba is a wheat beer with Maccia herbs and Serena is a blond beer.
The soft drink Corsica Cola is said to be based on a centuries-old recipe that the Coca Cola Company is said to have later used for their drink. After all, Corsica Cola is bottled by its supposed imitator.
In the supermarkets you can find pastries baked with chestnut flour. A jam-like, sweet spread can also be purchased, which also partly consists of chestnut concentrate.
Charcuterie Corse (slaughterhouse and sausages): Smoked hams are well-known, which are refined with wild herbs, such as the lean Lonzu and the streaky Coppa.
Cheese: There are countless types of cheese made from goat's or sheep's milk. Goat's cheese often tastes and smells harsher, while sheep's cheese is generally milder. Pieces of cheese that are still soft and sealed are often very salty. There is also brocciu, a semi-hard cream cheese that is best enjoyed in the morning.
Honey: Hundreds of types of honey of all flavors are obtained from the flower nectar of the herbs and trees of the scrubland (maquis). A special experience is a honey tasting at a relevant weekly market stall in the larger cities.
Fruit: A tasty liqueur is prepared from the fruit of the strawberry tree (arbutus unedo), a maquis tree.



There's a lot going on in Corsica when it comes to partying. From bars to clubs, the island's vibrant nightlife doesn't need to hide from big brother Ibiza. And otherwise there is still the Zaza.



The Corsican separatist underground organization FLNC (Frontu di Liberazione Naziunalista Corsu) carried out attacks until a few years ago, but these only hit government institutions. The last major attack was the assassination of the then Corsican Prefect Claude Erignac on February 6, 1998 by Yvan Colonna (2014 Laydown of Arms proclamation). In 2019, however, explosive attacks were again carried out against buildings or explosive devices were found as part of the Corsican conflict. The security situation is nevertheless comparable to that in Germany / Central Europe.



The island's climate is typically Mediterranean with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The mean annual temperature in Bastia is 14.9 °C, in July 23.0 °C, in January 7.9 °C, and although sub-zero temperatures occur, they do not last long and snow rarely falls. However, the mountains are covered with snow for half of the year. It rains plentifully enough, 630 mm a year, and only summer is dry. In the mountains, however, heat thunderstorms and heavy precipitation can also be expected in mid and late summer from midday onwards. Even smaller streams can then suddenly swell.



Outdoor - Corsica: Mare a Mare & Sentier de la Transhumance, author Véronique Kämper, Conrad Stein Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86686-392-7, price: €16.90. With the three "Mare a Mare" trails (North, Centre, Sud) and the Sentier de la Transhumance, this hiking guide describes four multi-day tours through the Corsican mountains. It first gives general tips for the hike (regarding requirements, travel time and risk of forest fires) and then provides detailed route descriptions with maps at a scale of 1:115,000. For each stage you get information about the condition of the path and sections without shade, about accommodation at the destination and information about alternative routes and sights along the way.
Outdoor - Corsica: Mare e Monti & Mare e Monti Sud, author Erik Van de Perre, Conrad Stein Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86686-317-0, price: €14.90. The Mare e Monti Nord runs in 11 stages over 128 kilometers through the mountainous northwest. The highlights also include crossing the Spelunca Gorge with its well-preserved Genoese bridges and encountering the enchanted ghost town of U Tassu. The Mare e Monti Sud, like its counterpart in the north, oscillates back and forth between the mountains and the sea. The 66.2 km long hiking trail is divided into 5 stages. It offers spectacular views of the island's highest peaks and the sea. In addition to precise directions, the author provides important information on the preparation and implementation of the trip, as well as detailed information on accommodation and sights along the hiking trails.
Outdoor - Trans-Corsica GR20, author Erik Van de Perre, Conrad Stein Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86686-397-2, price: €14.90. The fascinating mountains of Corsica make the GR 20 long-distance hiking trail one of the most exciting trekking routes in Europe. This hiking guide provides all the important information about the almost 200 km long path. The author presents both the northern GR20 section from Calenzana to Vizzavona (9 stages) and the southern part from Vizzavona to Conca (7 stages). Its detailed descriptions provide important information about the route. Information on accommodation and catering options, map sketches and elevation profiles complete the description.
Instructions for use for Corsica, author Jenny Hoch, Piper Verlag, ISBN 978-3-49227-640-5, price: €14.99. The author has been traveling in Corsica for 33 years and in her book she tells of her experiences with the Corsican people, their history, traditions and culinary specialities.



Corsica rises as an imposing mountain landscape in places from 2500 m below sea level. 24 km from the west coast, the island reaches its highest point in the massif of Monte Cinto (2706 m). The terrain morphology allows unique views and gave Corsica the nickname "mountains in the sea". Due to the numerous bays, especially on the west side of the island, Corsica has over 1000 km of coastline. A third of it consists of beaches, the rest is rocky.



Corsica is located between 43° 01′ and 41° 22′ north latitude and 9° 34′ and 8° 33′ east longitude. The island is bounded by the Ligurian Sea to the north, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the east and south, and the western Mediterranean Sea to the west. From north (Cap Corse) to south (Capo Pertusato) the island measures 183 km, from east (Alistro) to west (Capo Rosso) 83 km.

The distance to France (Nice) is 180 km, the Italian peninsula is 83 km (Livorno) and the Italian island of Sardinia in the south is only 12 km away.



For the most part, the island consists of a high mountain range in the west and a low mountain range in the east. About 86% of the island is mountainous and only 14% coastal lowland. Only the east coast has a flat strip that is up to 10 km wide in some places. Corsica has an average elevation of 568 m (Sardinia: 344 m, Sicily: 441 m). Corsica has more than 50 mountains higher than 2000 m.

The basement in the west has a main ridge that is more than 2000 m high and mostly ridge-shaped with an S-shaped course, running from north-west to south-east, and shows typical high-mountain character. From the main ridge, which also forms the watershed, numerous steep side ridges and side valleys run down to the bay-rich west coast. The main ridge is crossed along its entire length by the long-distance hiking trail GR 20 (in the Regional Nature Park of Corsica).

Immediately in the main ridge are the two highest mountains on the island:
Mount Cinto (2706 m)
Mount Rotondo (2622 m).

Also worth mentioning are the rugged rock towers of the Aiguilles de Bavella, which are also known as the Corsican Dolomites, although unlike the Dolomites they are made of granite. The main ridge is crossed by a total of four mountain passes (Col de Bavella, Col de Verde, Col de Vergio, Col de Vizzavona), of which the Col de Vergio is the highest at 1470 m and the Col de Vizzavona (1163 m) is the highest busiest. Further pass roads open up the side foothills at an altitude of over 1000 m.

Towards the south, the notch height of the relief decreases significantly. At the southern end near Bonifacio one finds large areas of sedimented dolomite limestone, which was probably formed by secondary dolomitization of limestone mud of marine origin. The karst limestone cliffs of Bonifacio are impressively marked by both the tides and storms.



Like the Alps, Corsica was formed in the Tertiary and consists of two-thirds of a crystalline granite base, mainly in the west and south; one therefore speaks of the “crystalline Corsica”. The north-east, "Alpine Corsica", consists mainly of slates formed from marine sediments and alluvium. The boundary between them runs roughly along a line from Saint-Florent in the north through Corte in the center of the island to Sari-Solenzara in the south-east. The rocks of the main ridge consist mainly of Variscan granites and volcanic rocks, such as rhyolite and quartz porphyry, from the Carboniferous to Permian. The "alpine" slate mountains to the east remain well below 2000 m with their summit heights and thus have the character of a low mountain range. It consists of submarine deposited and later folded slate (argillaceous slate, luster slate, metamorphic ophiolites), whose formation dates back to the violent land mass movements during the uplift of the Alps in the geological epoch of the Eocene. In places, the slate has finely distributed pyrite inclusions. The glossy slate cover is less clastic and contains numerous radiolarite deposits.

In the far north-east there are also isolated young volcanic rocks of the Corsican Magma Province, to which the Tuscan Magma Province (incl. Elba) adjoins further to the east.

Corsica was heavily glaciated at the peak of the last Pleistocene Ice Age, 30,000 to 20,000 years ago. Remnants of this period are cirques in the mountains, which form partly water-filled cirque lakes, and numerous valleys with terminal moraines formed by glaciers. In the tongue areas of the former glaciers there are still extensive heaps of rubble and scree, through which meltwater often flows well into the summer months.

The section of coast in the west between Porto and Piana, known as the “Calanche de Piana” and for its tafoni weathering, is geologically interesting. The scientific name Tafone was borrowed from the Corsican language.



Altitude levels

Mediterranean Level (0-900/1000m)
Eumediterranean olive-carob forest (Olea europaea ssp. sylvestris-Ceratonia siliqua), fragmentary.
Deep Mediterranean sclerophyllous forest with holm oak and cork oak, locally pine, Aleppo pine on calcareous sites, secondarily deep Mediterranean macchie.
High Mediterranean holm oak pine forest, high Mediterranean maquis.

Submediterranean stage
Lower high to sub-Mediterranean transition zone (600-1100 m) with sweet chestnut (anthropogenic, mostly in Selven) and regular holm oak, small areas of downy oak and sessile oak forest.
Medium to high level (900-1400/1800 m) with black pine forest.

Mediterranean-montane level (1100–1800 m)
Deeper beech forest.
Higher Silver Fir Forest.

Forest-free high montane level (1600–2000 m)
Subalpine shady sides with green alder bushes.
High montane sunny side with dwarf juniper Salzmanns broom Etna barberry heath.

Alpine (north sides) to culminal (sun sides) level (2000–2700 m)
Bushes, grassy heaths, rubble and rock communities.



Macchie, called Macchia in Corsican, is an evergreen scrub forest that covers around half of the island. This type of vegetation is typical of Mediterranean winter rain climates and is particularly characteristic of the island. The plants often have leathery leaves and are hairy underneath to keep evaporation to a minimum. Oily and strongly scented plants are also typical of the maquis.

Already at the end of winter, the macchia blooms in bright colors, and an intense scent emanates from the island, which can also be perceived from the sea. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have said that he could recognize his home island by that alone. Important plants are lavender, broom, cistus, myrtle, heather and strawberry tree. In the hot summer months, the vegetation dries up in many areas, giving the landscape a steppe-like appearance.

Every year there are forest fires in midsummer, which are mostly due to arson or negligence. Shepherds intentionally set fires to upgrade the "worthless" maquis to pasture. In the past, arson was also a means of building speculators, who devalued the maquis as nature and then received building permits more easily. A small proportion of these fires are caused by self-ignition of dried vegetation (fire as an environmental factor). To extinguish larger forest fires, special fire-fighting aircraft are used, which take up seawater from the sea in the coastal area in order to throw it directly over the sources of the fire inland. In some places, this can lead to salination of the topsoil and make it more difficult for vegetation to reappear.



The garrigue is often confused with the maquis. However, the vegetation is lower and usually only reaches a height of up to one meter; other plants can also be found. Rock roses, spurge species, various brooms, rosemary, thyme, real lavender, sage and geophytes such as orchids, asphodel and merendera can be found on particularly thin soils.


Trees and crops

The most important productive forest trees in Corsica are Laricio pine (31%), holm oak (21%), maritime pine (29%), beech (15%), cork oak (4%) and silver fir (1%).

The Laricio pine, also known as the Corsican black pine (Pinus nigra ssp. laricio), can reach a height of up to 50 meters and an age of almost a thousand years. The tree is widespread in Corsica in the higher mountains from about 800 to 1800 m. The Corsican black pine is very undemanding. It naturally grows very slowly on the barren, rocky soils of the high altitudes. It survives longer periods of frost without any problems.

The sweet chestnut, also known as the sweet chestnut, covers an area of around 15,000 hectares in the Castagniccia area alone, and 40,000 hectares are planted with sweet chestnuts on the entire island. The planting of sweet chestnut trees near settlements was significantly promoted by the Genoese throughout the island in order to alleviate the famines that were common at the time. For this purpose, numerous fresher holm and downy oak sites were cleared and converted into the still characteristic Mediterranean chestnut landscape. In addition to cattle breeding (sheep, goats), chestnuts were a main source of food for the Corsicans - hence the name "bread tree".

The cork oak is widespread in the south of the island around Porto-Vecchio and Figari. There are also smaller deposits in the north, for example near Saint Florent. Every 10 to 20 years the tree can be peeled to obtain natural cork.

Eucalyptus, which grows quickly and evaporates a lot of water, was often planted in the swamp areas drained to combat malaria. Eucalyptus grows up to 40 m tall and has a silvery gray bark, the dead parts of which usually hang down from the trunk in vertical shreds and strips. The leaves are long and crescent-shaped and, like the fruit of the tree, give off a spicy scent. A plantation with some stately trees is located on the Gulf of Porto on the west coast, the local grove houses, among other things, the local "Camping Municipal d'Ota Porto".

As far as the soil conditions allow, other plants that can be found in the entire Mediterranean area, such as cypresses, olive trees, oleanders, plane trees, mimosas and date palms, thrive up to a height of about 400 meters. Important agricultural crops at this elevation consist of citrus trees (lemons, oranges, clementines, limes), fig trees, almond and peach trees, and grapevines.



Corsica is home to several endemic animal species, i.e. those found exclusively on this island.

Among the amphibians, the Corsican mountain newt, the Corsican fire salamander and the Corsican lizard should be mentioned as endemic species, all of which are mainly found at medium and high altitudes.

The lower elevations are the distribution center of species that can also be found elsewhere in the Mediterranean: Sardinian water frog, green toad, Tyrrhenian tree frog and Italian water frog.

The reptile species of Corsica, which mainly inhabit the lower altitudes, include the Greek tortoise, the European pond turtle, the European half-fingered gecko, and the wall lizard. Depending on the relief, the Tyrrhenian mountain lizard can also be found near the sea, for example on the west coast, which is very rugged in places. In general, it tends to inhabit the higher altitudes and is the only lizard that can still be found regularly on the summits above 2500 m. Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard, Yellow-green Wrath Snake and the Grass Snake, which occurs here as a separate subspecies, can be found at almost every altitude on the island, only the summits are not inhabited. The European leaf finger and pygmy keeled lizard are very rare in Corsica, both species that can only occupy refugee habitats.

Since Corsica is an important stopover point for European bird migration, large flocks of waterfowl and shorebirds can be observed in the lagoons of the east coast between October and March, including very rare species such as curlew, snipe, garganey, redshank, scoter duck and little tern, but also flamingos. Most species are protected by the EC Birds Directive and may not be hunted on Corsica either. The Curlew has also been observed as a breeding bird in places in Corsica.

Birds of prey can often be seen, for example osprey (on the west coast, for example in the nature reserve La Scandola), golden eagle and bearded vulture (especially in the high mountains), red kite, common buzzard, short-toed eagle and kestrel. The only bird species that only occurs in Corsica, i.e. it is endemic, is the Corsican nuthatch.

Animals in water
The coastal waters are rich in fish, about 300 brackish and saltwater species are known here. Trout and eel can be found in the flowing waters, some of which are used. This causes problems especially for the originally native Mediterranean brown trout, which can only be found more frequently in a few river systems on the island. Another special feature of the fresh waters of Corsica are freshwater shrimp, which are often found in places in the lower reaches of smaller rivers.

The wild mammals are not very species-rich due to the island location, the mountainous topography and the intensive hunting. Today's dominant mammal in Corsica is the wild boar. The European mouflon, which was wiped out throughout Europe due to heavy hunting and was only able to survive on Corsica and Sardinia, has become rare. Only two populations have survived in Corsica, in the Monte Cinto massif north of Calacuccia and around the Col de Bavella between Zonza and Solenzara. Mouflons were reintroduced near Venaco, on the Monte Rotondo massif, to gradually repopulate the entire main ridge of the Corsican high mountains.

The Corsican dwarf deer was exterminated in Corsica and could only survive as a subspecies in Sardinia. In the meantime, Sardinian animals have been resettled on the neighboring island to the north. In the macchie and garrigue landscapes, one encounters the extremely rare Corsican hare, weasel, red fox and Corsican wildcat, whose species affiliation has not yet been clarified. Sperm whales and various types of dolphins are particularly common in Cap Corse and the Strait of Bonifacio when they cross from one Mediterranean basin to another.

Notable arachnids include the European black widow and the tarantula.

Insects and malaria
Among the large group of insects found in Corsica there is also the European praying mantis.

Over 60 species of butterflies and skipper butterflies have been identified on this island. At least four of these species are endemic to the Tyrrhenian Islands, i.e. only found in Corsica and Sardinia: Corsican Swallowtail, Euchloe insularis (a species of white butterfly), Corsican Fritillary and Corsican Forest Porter. The Corsican meadowbird also has populations on Elba and surrounding islands, as well as in coastal areas of Tuscany. However, the subspecies elbana represented there is sometimes classified as a separate species, in which case the nominate form corinna is a true Tyrrhenian endemic. The lesser tortoiseshell subspecies ichnusa, which is found at high altitudes, is easily recognized by the absence of black spots on the upper surface of the forewings. This taxon is also sometimes to be assessed as a species.

Up until the 1950s, malaria was still a major problem in Corsica, particularly along the extensive brackish expanses of the east coast. This coastal plain, which is actually interesting for agriculture because it is productive, was traditionally never densely populated because the Corsicans feared pirates in the past. But the disease, which is mainly transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, was also an impediment from which the Corsicans traditionally retreated to higher altitudes during midsummer. From 1944, the American Air Force fought the malaria mosquito in the Stabiacco estuary delta near Porto-Vecchio by spraying DDT, which made the settlement of the former Algerian French (pieds-noirs) and the reclamation of the coastal plain and later tourism possible. Up until 1973, however, malaria kept burgeoning, and today the island is considered malaria-free.



Origin of the name

Besides Κύρνος (Kyrnos), the Greeks also called the island Κορσίς (Korsis). As a nickname they gave her the name Kalliste, the most beautiful.


Prehistory and antiquity

The Corsican indigenous people, hunters and gatherers, were settled around 6000 BC. supplanted by immigrating Neolithics of the Impresso culture. In the south of the island developed around 3000 BC. A multi-phase megalithic culture (Filitosa), which also erected numerous menhirs and around 1800 BC. was replaced by the culture of the Torreans, who built torres, nuragic tower structures of their own type.

In the 6th century B.C. First Punic-Carthaginian settlers arrived on the island, then Greeks (Phocaeans), who arrived around 565 BC. founded a settlement called Alalia, today's Aleria. The dominant sea powers of this period, Carthage and the Etruscans, defeated around 540 BC. the Greeks together in the naval battle off Alalia. Thereafter Alalia was ruled until the 3rd century BC. ruled by the Etruscans. After Carthage briefly regained supremacy, Alalia was conquered in 259 BC. Conquered by the Romans in the First Punic War. With the founding of the province of Sardinia et Corsica in 227 BC. Corsica became part of the Roman Empire for around 650 years and – permanently – of the Romance language and culture.


Middle Ages

Even in the final phase of the existence of the Western Roman Empire, battles between Vandals and Goths for the island began in the 5th century, from which the Vandal king Geiseric emerged victorious. After the conquest of Italy by the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), Corsica became part of the Exarchate of Carthage in 536. In the centuries that followed, the island was disputed among the regional powers, but the Byzantines, Lombards, Saracens, Franks, the Margraves of Tuscia (Tuscany, from 828) and the maritime republics of Pisa (from around 1050) and Genoa (from 1284) always succeeded only to cling to the shores of the island. Above all, the raids by Saracen pirates meant that a large part of the population of Corsica withdrew inland and the island gradually became impoverished. Over time, a feudal system was formed. In addition, the Catholic Church gained political authority.


Aspirations for independence and connection to France

In 1729, years of uprisings against Genoese rule began on the island. On April 15, 1736, Corsican rebels made the German adventurer Baron Theodor von Neuhoff (1694-1756) king in the monastery of Alesani (in Castagniccia). However, the Kingdom of Corsica barely lasted a year.

In 1755 state independence was again proclaimed. Under the leadership of Pasquale Paoli, revered as "Babbu di a Patria" (Father of the Fatherland), the Corsicans adopted a democratic constitution. This was the first constitution of the Age of Enlightenment, long before the constitutions of the United States (1776) and France (1791). Genoa then sold the island to France, which defeated Corsican troops at the Battle of Ponte Novu in 1769. Corsica has been French territory ever since, apart from a brief interval during the French Revolution, when the island fell under English sovereignty. Nonetheless, Corsican striving for independence impressed many intellectuals of the time, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Founding Fathers of the United States.

The Corsican town of Ajaccio is the birthplace of the later French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), whose parents belonged to the lower Corsican nobility. The French occupiers offered the Corsican nobles the opportunity to acquire French aristocratic titles, provided they could fully prove their origin. To comply, the Bonapartes traveled to mainland France and had the young Napoleon educated there.


From the 19th century to the Second World War

With the introduction of compulsory education (1882, loi Ferry), the construction of the railway (1888-1894) and other administrative measures, French domination of Corsica was consolidated, and the French language began to supplant Corsican through the influence of schools and administration . At the same time, bitter poverty pushed many Corsicans to emigrate, which reached its peak around 1900. In particular, the Quartier du Panier at the Old Port of Marseille developed into a center of the Corsican diaspora, where the language and culture of the island and the close family ties of their villages lived on.

Within this, between the two world wars, the Corsican mafia developed, which was active in the arms and drug trade and exerted considerable influence on local politics by serving as a militia to various political groups. These activities peaked in the 1930s, but remained virulent even after World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, Corsican mafia networks even influenced French national politics.

Corsicans benefited in many functions from the expansion of the French colonial empire, on the one hand as soldiers and colonial officials, on the other hand by appearing in the colonies as traders and businessmen. Many Corsicans settled in French North Africa.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Corsican writers and intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s defined Corsican as an independent language for the first time and no longer as an Italian dialect, as was customary before, in order to ward off the attempts at appropriation by Italian fascism, in particular by Benito Mussolini, who declared Corsica an integral part of Italy in 1936. Your identity should be Corsican, not Italian. This attitude was expressed on November 30, 1938 in the "Oath of Bastia", with which the politician Jean-Louis Ferracci in front of 20,000 Corsicans swore that Corsica belonged to France and rejected Italian claims.

During World War II, Corsica was occupied by German troops on November 11, 1942 in response to Allied troops landing in North Africa. In April 1943, associations of Free France, the Forces françaises libres (FFL), began arming the island's population, who were to fight as partisans against the occupying forces. On September 8, 1943 units under the command of General Henri Giraud landed in Corsica. The Corsican partisans and the FFL soldiers together liberated the island by October 4, 1943. The memory of the Corsican contribution to the Resistance is still alive in Corsica.


From 1945 to the turn of the millennium

After 1945, the economically backward island was able to benefit to a modest extent from the French economic miracle, the Trente Glorieuses, which also increased the immigration of mainland French, while even more Corsicans than before left the island as migrant workers.

The threatened end of the French colonial empire led to economic fears among many Corsicans in the 1950s, so that Algiers' putsch against Algeria's independence in May 1958 was met with sympathy on the island. On May 24, 1958, Corsica was occupied by a parachute battalion as part of Opération Résurrection. Many Corsicans pinned their hopes on Charles de Gaulle, who, however, disappointed them by agreeing, after the creation of the Fifth French Republic, with the support of the majority of French, to the end of the Algerian War and Algerian independence (1962). After that, around 16,000 Algerian French (Pieds-noirs) were settled, mainly along the east coast of Corsica, so that many Corsicans feared becoming a minority on their island. At the same time, the restrictive language policy of the French state (suppression of all dialects and regional languages) pushed Corsican further out of public life on the island.

Concerns about identity, prosperity and influence led to an upsurge in Corsican nationalism, which was initially directed against a possible preference for the pieds-noirs. From 1964, and increasingly from 1968, there were attacks on their property. In the early 1970s, several parties formed as the political arm of the national movement. One of them, the Front régionaliste corse, published the book Main basse sur une île in 1971, in which Corsica's economic situation was compared to that of a colony and Corsican socialism was called for. Initiatives to preserve and revitalize the Corsican language and culture emerged within the framework of the Riacquistu ("reappropriation") movement and promoted awareness of cultural autonomy.

In the general economic crisis of the 1970s (cf. oil crisis), some Corsican nationalists became radicalized. The occupation of a Pied-noir winery near Aléria in 1975 was considered a beacon. Among other things, the nationalists demanded the reopening of the Corsican university, which had existed under Pasquale Paoli (see above) in the 18th century; In 1981 the goal was realized. There were also decentralization measures by the French state, such as the founding of the Collectivité régionale with the establishment of a regional parliament (1982), but the French government rejected calls for official bilingualism, autonomy or even independence out of concern for French unity. Some supporters of Corsican independence, notably the Frontu di Liberazione Naziunalista Corsu (FLNC), founded on May 5, 1976, attempted to enforce independence with bombings and murder; see also Corsican Conflict.

Meanwhile, tourism in Corsica increased noticeably. The island has become a popular tourist destination for the mainland French, Italians and Germans in particular because of its unspoilt landscape. The development of tourism and the construction of second homes by French and foreigners met with rejection from parts of the island's population. The violence escalated in the 1990s, when armed groups fought each other and mafia networks tried to gain influence. In February 1998, the island's prefect, Claude Erignac, was assassinated in Ajaccio. This bloody deed startled the French public; the impression had been created that the French state had lost control of Corsica.


Since 2000

In 2000, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin agreed to greater autonomy for the island as part of the "Matignon Process" designed to resolve tensions in Corsica. Meanwhile, the Gaullist opposition in the French National Assembly feared that other regions (e.g. Brittany, the Basque Country, Alsace) might make similar claims and ultimately endanger the existence of the French Republic (cf. Minorities in France). The proposed autonomy of Corsica included greater protection of the Corsican language as a key identification factor, yet in the referendum held on July 6, 2003 on the Mediterranean island, nearly 51% of the population voted against. Although the outcome of the survey was not binding, the government stopped the project. Jospin was mainly blamed for the failure – he had legitimized their violence through negotiations with representatives of the independence movement and thus discredited the reform.

The armed groups are largely inactive today. However, in recent years, following the setbacks of the 2000s, they have regained popularity, partly out of disappointment at the corruption of Corsican politicians. In the regional elections in November 2015, an alliance of moderate and radical Corsican nationalists who campaigned for autonomy or state independence won a majority in the regional parliament, the Assemblée de Corse. In France's 2017 general election, Corsican nationalists won three of the four parliamentary seats representing Corsica in the French National Assembly.

Corsica has long suffered from mafia-like organized crime. A case in point is the so-called Petit Bar gang, named after a pub in Ajaccio - an informal group of criminals, nationalists, businessmen and politicians who, from the 2000s onwards, made big bucks from extortion, drug dealing, contract killings and the like. Police investigations were hampered by political interference. Only when a new special unit in Marseille took over the investigation could the group be broken up in 2020.

In 2017, southern France and Corsica were hit by devastating forest fires.

From April to May 2018, the island suffered from a garbage crisis. In previous years, the volume of waste had increased significantly without appropriate administrative measures being taken to process the waste. In mid-April, the two largest landfills threatened to overflow. In the weeks that followed, rubbish piled up on the streets of the island's towns and cities. A temporary improvement came when the two congested landfills reopened. The problem has not yet been finally resolved.

After the violent death of the Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna, who was imprisoned for life in Arles and demonstrably involved in the assassination of Prefect Erignac in 1998, riots broke out on the island in spring 2022. On the occasion of Colonna's funeral, the President of the Corsican Regional Council ordered mourning flags to be displayed; the French President, Emmanuel Macron, reprimanded this.



French is the predominant language in Corsica in almost all areas of everyday life. In addition, around 60,000 to 100,000 inhabitants of Corsica also speak Corsican. The French state does not collect statistics on the number of speakers of the languages spoken in France, since the constitution has made French the (sole) language of the indivisible republic. Information on speakers of other languages is based on estimates.

The official name of most cities, towns, mountains and other geographic points of Corsica is Italian. The French state thus fulfilled a condition for the sale of the island by the Republic of Genoa to France in 1768. Most of the names are pronounced French, but unlike many place names in Alsace, no specific French spelling was specified. In many places there is also a name in Corsican that can be used in public signage as an addition to the official name.

After the number of native speakers of Corsican has dwindled since the 19th century, the promotion of Corsican in education, which began in the 1980s as part of the regionalization of the French state, is beginning to bear fruit: in the 2020/21 school year, 62 percent of Corsican primary schools offered bilingual French -Corsican branch attended by 45% of the students. 98 percent of all students in the first year of the subsequent collège (lower secondary school) chose Corsican as their subject, of which 30 percent in the bilingual French-Corsican stream; in the second year, 58 percent continued to learn Corsican. In the first year of the Lycée (upper secondary level), 20 percent of the students still took the regional language, in the second and third years 15 percent. The fact that in the bilingual stream, Corsican is used as a language of instruction alongside French, is seen as a challenge for language teaching, although many Corsican pupils do not speak Corsican as their mother tongue and must first learn it as a foreign language. At the University of Corti, Corsican is a compulsory minor in all majors. The strong regional identity of the Corsican, which distinguishes Corsica from other language regions in France, can also be beneficial in future development. UNESCO therefore only classifies Corsican as potentially endangered ("vulnerable").



Christianity in Corsica is shaped by the Catholic Church. 92 percent of the Corsicans belong to it. The diocese of Ajaccio covers the entire island. Only 230 families belong to the United Protestant Church of France in Corsica.



Corsica was considered a bastion of conservative parties, especially Gaullism, in the 20th century. The reasons given for this are the deep anchoring of the population in a rural, traditional way of life and social structure as well as the strong role of the Catholic Church. In all presidential elections between 1965 and 2012, the conservative candidates in Corsica won the majority of the votes. For the first time from 2010 to 2015, the island was governed by a left-wing alliance. An exception was previously u. a. the city council of Bastia, governed for decades by mayors of the political left.

Since the 1970s, Corsican nationalism, in its various forms, has gained influence. The nationalists are demanding that real estate speculation be curbed, the Corsican be exempted from inheritance tax, funds for the promotion of the Corsican language and greater economic development for the island.

In national elections, the Front National (now Rassemblement National) was the last to gain ground; in the 2017 presidential election, its top candidate, Marine Le Pen, won the most votes in both Corsican departments. This is explained by the Corsicans' reluctance to immigrate; but the party, which is strictly against regional self-determination rights and the recognition of regional languages, hardly plays a role in the Corsican regional elections.

In the 2015 regional elections, for the first time a Corsican nationalist group (Pé a Corsica) was the strongest group in the Assemblée de Corse, the regional parliament, with 35 percent. The parties Femu a Corsica (FaC, moderate autonomists) and Corsica libera (CL, separatists) had entered into an electoral alliance. The lawyer and former mayor of Bastia, Gilles Simeoni (FaC), has also headed the regional government, the Conseil exécutif, since 2016. The nationally dominant struggle between the Front National (FN), the Parti socialiste (PS) and Les Républicains (LR) played a minor role in Corsica.


Regional elections

Results 2017
Composition of the regional parliament Assemblée de Corse as of 2017:

government majority
the Femu a Corsica FaC party (autonomist, founded in 2017, chaired by Gilles Simeoni): 18 seats
the Corsica Libera CL party (independentist, founded in 2009, chaired by Jean-Guy Talamoni): 13 seats
the Partitu di a nazione corsa/Parti de la nation corse PNC (autonomous, founded in 2002, chaired by Jean-Christophe Angelini): 10 seats;

Divers droite DVD (dissidents from conservative parties, including Laurent Marcangeli, formerly Les Républicains, now Comité central bonapartiste, central-republican): 10 seats
the party La République en marche LREM (liberal governing party at State level): 6 seats
the Les Républicains LR party (state-level conservative opposition party): 6 seats.

Results 2021
Composition of the Regional Parliament Assemblée de Corse since 2021:

government majority
the party Femu a Corsica FaC (autonomist, leading candidate Jean Biancucci), list name Fà populu inseme: 32 seats;

the parties Comité central bonapartiste CCB (central-state republican), Les Républicains LR (conservative nationwide opposition party), Horizons (right-wing liberal, supporter of La République en marche at national level), united in the Un soffiu novu/Un nouveau souffle pour la list Corse, led by Laurent Marcangeli (CCB): 17 seats
the Partitu di a nazione corsa PNC (independentist) and Corsica libera (autonomist) parties, united in the Avanzemu list, led by Jean-Christophe Angelini (PNC): 8 seats
the Core in fronte party in the homonymous list (founded in 2018 by several nationalist groups, moderately independentist, aspiring to Corsican independence after a graduated autonomy process), led by Paul-Félix Benedetti: 6 seats.


The Corsican Coat of Arms

The Corsican coat of arms shows a Moorish head with curly hair and a white headband. This coat of arms is also a symbol of freedom for the Corsican, but it is not certain who is depicted. There are numerous legends about its origin and importance.

According to legend, a Moorish ruler kidnapped a young Corsican woman to Spain in the 13th century. Her Corsican fiancé followed to rescue her, whereupon the Moor sent one of his bravest followers to fight against him. However, the Corsican cut off the Moor's head and held it up in a sign of triumph.

Another possible explanation refers to Pascal Paoli: Similar to the neighboring island of Sardinia, the coat of arms originally showed a blindfolded head of a Moor. Paoli put the bandage on his forehead and also removed the earring that the Moor was wearing, because both were considered a sign of slavery, from which the Corsicans had freed themselves through his reforms.


Economy and Infrastructure

There is no major industry worth mentioning on Corsica. The manufacturing industry is essentially limited to agricultural products, construction and services. Most of the products made on the island, such as the traditional local pocket knives, are sold to tourists on the spot. In comparison with the gross domestic product of the European Union, expressed in purchasing power standards, Corsica achieved an index of 85.8 in 2006 (EU-27: 100). In 2017, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. A special feature of Corsica is the high proportion of unpaid social security contributions: while the proportion in France is 3.8%, in Corsica it is 14.4% (2020).



Despite the ideal natural potential, Corsica is little developed for tourism. Parts of the Corsican population fear that mass tourism would endanger the independence of Corsican culture. According to Corsican tradition, the beaches are generally accessible everywhere; there are hardly any larger hotel complexes in foreign ownership. On the east coast there are numerous naturist resorts and beaches south of Phare d'Alistro and south of Porto-Vecchio. In 1995, 73 percent of all tourists visiting Corsica were mainland French. 38 percent of all houses and apartments are used as second homes; this is very high compared to the French average.



Road traffic
The roads in Corsica vary greatly in width and quality. There are well-developed trunk roads between the larger cities, which are marked as routes territoriales. Otherwise, in the rocky area of the west coast and in the mountains, there are sometimes narrow roads in poor condition that can only be used in one lane. In some cases, it is not possible to drive on with mobile homes. The traffic situation on the flat east coast is somewhat better. In 2016, the degree of motorization (cars per 1000 inhabitants) was 558.

The rail network of Corsica is a single-track, non-electrified meter gauge network with a route length of 231 km. It used to have three routes, now there are two:
Bastia–Ajaccio railway line
Railway line Ponte-Leccia-Calvi
Railway line Casamozza–Porto-Vecchio (since 1943/1953 without traffic)

The routes belong to the Collectivité de Corse (Corsican Community) as infrastructure manager. The only railway company on the island are the Chemins de fer de la Corse (CFC). Passenger traffic is offered on all routes, freight traffic is of secondary importance. Route endpoints are Bastia on the east coast, Ajaccio on the west coast and Calvi on the north coast of the island. The length of the network is 232 km. Outstanding structures are the Vecchio bridge by Gustave Eiffel, a cultural monument, and the almost 4 km long Vizzavona tunnel.

air traffic
Corsica has airports in the following cities:
Aéroport de Bastia-Poretta (IATA code BIA), 20 km from Bastia
Aéroport de Campo dell'Oro (IATA code AJA), 12 km from Ajaccio
Aéroport de Figari (IATA code FSC), 24 km from Porto-Vecchio
Aéroport de Sainte Catherine (IATA code CLY), 7 km from Calvi

ship traffic
The ferry ports of Ajaccio, Porto-Vecchio, Propriano and Bonifacio serve southern Corsica, while those in Bastia, Calvi and L'Île-Rousse mainly connect northern Corsica with mainland Europe.

There are car ferry connections, for example, from Marseille, Nice and Toulon in France and from Sardinia, Savona Vado, Livorno and Genoa in Italy. The main shipping companies are Moby Lines and Corsica Ferries.



Strong AM and FM transmitters are installed in Ajaccio and Bastia to broadcast France Bleu RCFM (Radio Corse Frequency Mora), the local program of the state radio station Radio France. Some of the program contributions are in Corsican.

Ajaccio: 97.0MHz (4kW), 100.5MHz (10kW), 1404kHz (20kW)
Bastia: 101.7MHz (10kW), 1494kHz (20kW).

On other frequencies, Radio France broadcasts the nationwide national programs France Inter, France Culture, France Musique, France Info.

From Cervione broadcasts the ADECEC (Association pour le Développement des Etudes Archéologiques, Historiques, Linguistiques et Naturalistes du Centre-Est de la Corse - "Association for the Development of Archaeological, Historical, Linguistic and Natural Studies of Central-Eastern Corsica") with the station Voce Nustrale, a program exclusively in Corsican on VHF 105.1 and 95.1 MHz.

In addition, there are other local radio stations, some of which are commercial, and national broadcasters that broadcast their programs on Corsica or can be received here from the mainland.

Since 2016, the sponsored top-level domain .corsica has been reserved for individuals, institutions or companies who wish to demonstrate their association with Corsica. The TLD is managed by the Collectivité Territoriale de Corse, the Corsican local authority.