Ancient Corsica Tour
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BastiaSalut les amis (hello friends)! It is our third day in Corsica, this wonderful island halfway between France and Italy. Dominated in the past by the Romans in the past and from the Middle Ages by the governors of Pisa and Genoa, Corsica was finally sold to France in 1768. But in our opinion, geographical distances and historical dominations have no importance here: Corsicans are simply Corsicans, completely different from all other people in the world. And their island is unique!

U NativuWe arrived in Corsica last Sunday: a very fast and comfortable ferry carried us and our brave Twingo car from Livorno (Tuscany) to Bastia in only 1:45 hour. After a terrifying drive along our first Corsican road (we'll tell you better another time on this subject) we reached our hotel in San Martino di Lota and had our first delicious Corsican dinner: a selection of ham and salami, huge ravioli filled with herbs and cheese, lamb with a tasty sauce, a fantastic soft flan made with chestnut flour and olives, a pie of grilled spinach and béchamel, and a bottle of red wine - Corsican of course.

Casa di l'UrcuNext day, Monday, we drove back to Bastia (same dreadful road), where we looked for a computer shop, because the French phone plugs are completely different from ours and we needed one to connect our computer to the net and send this diary. Then we left Bastia and went to Patrimonio, a village well known for its wine caves. There we visited our first Corsican megalith, the statue-menhir U Nativu. In Corsica there are many human-shaped standing stones and some of them are very expressive indeed. Diego had some problems to photograph U Nativu, because it is in a shelter, closed by a gate. But considering all the stupid modern carvings on the statue, the shelter is a necessity. We ate an apple and went on. We passed Saint Florent, a lovely village by the sea and reached the Agriati desert, a remote and uninhabitated area between Bastia and Calvi. Hills and mountains covered by brushwood and littered with mortar bombs (the site used to be a military shooting area). As always, there in the middle of nowhere was what we were seeking: a magnificent dolmen, one of the very few in northern Corsica. It is locally known as Casa di l'Urcu (the Ogre's House). A legend tells that an ogre lived there. He was hated by the local people. When they came to kill him he tried to escape death offering the recipe of the brocciu (the traditional Corsican soft cheese). But he was murdered anyway. The dolmen is on a rocky platform with extensive views all around. Nearby there is also a megalithic cist, surrounded by a kerb and an alignment of stones. A magnificent site that was well worth the long and demanding walk in the prickly brushwood...

PieveNext day (Tuesday) we went south, looking for other statue-menhirs found in the Nebbio, the region south of Saint Florent. At Santo Pietro di Tenda we stopped for a while to help an old lady with her car's flat tyre. Madame Monique Rossi was so thankful that she gave us a bottle of white wine as a present. A little further, at Sorio village, we met another very friendly and helpful Corsican, Laurent Agostini, owner of the local bar: he looked for information on a statue-menhir we were looking for calling a friend of him, he offered us a drink and he refused to be paid. And our guides say that the people of the Nebbio region are "violent, interferring and partisan"! Our next stop was in Pieve, where three statue-menhirs found in the mountains around were put in front of the church. There they stand like silent sentinels, from left to right, the statue-menhirs of Murtola (once over 3m high), Murellu and Buccentone.

San MicheleDown the same road, not far from the Murato village, we stopped at one of the most interesting churches of Corsica: San Michele, a Romanesque jewel built in green serpentine and white limestone, with a tall tower supported by two pillars. This is an extraordinary building dating back to 1280: the striped decoration is an influence of the Pisan architectural style of that time (similar churches can be also found in Sardinia). Splendid sculptures decorate the windows, the façade and the cornice under the roof. They represent animals, stars, naked human figures holding sticks, hay stacks and a mermaid with two tails (a motif we also noticed on some churches in Brittany). Other decorations of cut hands, scissors and hands holding parchments represent law and punishment: in the past, churches were also used as tribunals. San Michele is situated in high position, with splendid views towards the bay of Saint Florent and the mountains of Nebbio region.

In the evening, we arrived in Corte, at the centre of the island. This is the town of Corsican patriots such as Gian Pietro Gaffori and here the national hero Pasquale Paoli funded an university and a Corsican independent government. We had another delicious dinner and tasted the brocciu for the first time: dear Ogre, thank you for having shared that recipe with the Corsicans!
A bientôt!

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