Ancient Corsica Tour
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Pagliaju alignmentAround the small and beautiful town of Sartène are the best stone alignments of Corsica. Nothing comparable to Carnac in Brittany, of course, but they are impressive sites anyway. We started the "alignments day" with Pagliaju: 258 menhirs grouped in seven lines, six aligned in a north-south direction and only one in the east-west way. Many stones are prostrate, but the total impression is still outstanding (panoramic view). Three stones are statue-menhirs, armed with swords (Pagliaju I being the best preserved).
Not far from this site is also the lesser known alignment of Apazzu, where one of the statue-menhirs inclines a bit its head on the right shoulder.

Fontanaccia dolmenIt was midday and the sun was beating down, but we reached the nearby area of Cauria, where within a short distance are three of the most interesting prehistoric sites of Corsica, a kind of exhibition of all different prehistoric monuments of the island: the Stantari statue-menhirs, the Renaju alignment and the Fontanaccia dolmen. The Stantari (the Petrified in Corsican) are a group of almost thirty stones aligned north-south in two lines. Among the eleven of them still standing (panoramic view) there are some of the best carved statue-menhirs of Corsica: they are Cauria II, Cauria IV and V and Cauria VII. The stone alignment of Renaju now looks like a chaotic bunch of monoliths (panoramic view), but an older avenue of small stones (dating to the end of 5th millennium BC) is still visible and the site is nevertheless very evocative. The third monument is the Fontanaccia dolmen, the most beautiful of Corsica. It is a huge monument (its chamber covers almost 4 square metres) and stands in splendid position on a knoll (panoramic view), not far from the stone alignments.

Sleeping pigWhile we were taking our photos, an astonishing stick insect jumped around. Let's wander from the point and spend a couple of words about Corsican animals: we met a lot of nice cats, dogs, cows and bulls, goats and sheep, horses and donkeys. There is also a large number of wild pigs, usually roaming or sleeping (!!) in the middle of the road. We also met dozens of buzzards, jays and bee-eaters and every night listened to the calls of the scops owl. We were often surrounded by colourful butterflies and annoying flies and wasps and saw the biggest spider of our life (a black and yellow monster). And while wandering in the brushwood and among rocks we have blessed God that there are no adders in Corsica!
The last monument of the day was the Cardiccia dolmen, the biggest of Corsica. Half hidden in a grove, it was not easy to find, but our friend Pierre-Jacques at the Sartène museum had given us very useful indications to reach it. You'll never guess what was, in the middle of nowhere, that pointed us to the right direction...
But we haven't always been so lucky in getting info to reach the megalithic sites and during our megalithic tour we have learnt very well how to get lost in the maquis.

Cucuruzzu fortified settlementNext day we drove towards the Alta Rocca, a beautiful area overlooked by the porphyry pinnacles of the Bavella mountains. At Levie we visited the local museum where you can find many interesting objects (flints, arrowheads, stone ornaments, pottery sherds) from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, along with the almost intact skeleton of the oldest Corsican found as yet. "La Dame de Bonifacio" (The Lady of Bonifacio) died around 6570 BC of septicaemia due to a molar infection. She was 35 year-old, had suffered several diseases and her body was probably covered with red ochre when she was buried. At the Levie museum is also displayed the skeleton of a rat-rabbit (Prolagus sardus), a small Corsican rodent now extinct.
After the visit of the museum we went to Cucuruzzu. There is a well signaled path to get there and it is possible to listen to an audiocassette when visiting the site. A good way to understand a little more about the site and the environment around (beautiful woods, old chestnut and pine trees, tracks of wild boars and foxes). Cucuruzzu is a Bronze Age fortified settlement, where natural rocks and man-made walls are perfectly integrated, creating an impressive and efficient stronghold (panoramic view). The guided walk goes also to Capula, a medieval village with a broken statue-menhir at its entrance.

Araghju fortified settlementWe spent the night in Zonza, a village on the mountains and next morning we drove to Pacciunituli, where several standing stones were found. Two of them are still in situ, while others are scattered around or within the surrounding walls.
It was time to get down to the plain, towards Porto Vecchio, where we visited two other beautiful fortified prehistoric villages, Tappa and Araghju. On the way we stopped at Carbini, where the high church tower survived to San Quilico church building, destroyed by the soldiers of the Pope in the 14th century because the site was said to be the centre of orgiastic rites (of course it was only a pretext to destroy a Christian group not aligned with the Catholic Church: all the followers were murdered). Tappa, on a rocky knoll dominating the plain, is reachable by a easy walk. It is much more hard to get to Araghju, but the very steep walk is worth the effort (panoramic view). This Bronze Age fortress, as Tappa and Cucuruzzu, has various cells and recesses within the walls and a bigger circular building called "torre" (tower) as the nuraghi in Sardinia. On the right side of the entrance there is a kind of guard cell. Extensive views towards the bay of Porto Vecchio.
After such a climb (and descent) we were exhausted and drove along the east coast towards Bastia, stopping in an old hotel at Solenzara.

Punic braceletNext day it was time to go to Bastia and the ferry. But on our way we visited other little Corsican beauties. First of all, the Aleria museum: a Roman town was found in that area and the museum displays, in a rather chaotic way, the spectacular objects found there, coming from all the ancient Mediterranean civilizations, Etruscans, Punics, Phoenicians, Greeks... Among the most beautiful findings, a punic bracelet with a nice little bearded face, a plate with cuttlefish coming from Apulia and another with two beautiful elephants from Naples, sherds and vases of multicolour Roman glass and two ancient Greek animal-shaped cups (a mule and a dog).
Further on, we visited our last Romanesque little churches: Santa Cristina di Campoloro and its beautiful frescoes
dated back to 1450, the Canonica and its curious carved bestiary over the portal and San Parteo with another curious bas-relief on one of its portals.
Arrived at Bastia we rested a little looking at the locals and the tourists in the big Saint-Nicholas square and then we had to say goodbye to Corsica and take the ferry home.
Our Ancient Corsica Tour is over. But before putting down the pen (well, the keyboard) and saying goodbye to everybody till our next tour (and holiday!), join us for a toast to Corsica, real île de beauté (Island of Beauty)!

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