Round Cap Corse Drive
Bastia, chief town of the département of Haute-Corse and Corsica's principal port, lies at the northern end of the east coast, at the base of the Cap Corse peninsula. Founded by the Genoese in 1380 and protected by a mighty bastion, Bastia was capital of Corsica until 1811, when, on Napoleon's orders, this distinction was transferred to his birthplace, Ajaccio.
Place St Nicolas
The central feature of the town of Bastia is the Place St-Nicolas, a large square shaded by plane-trees and palms with a marble statue of Napoleon. The square is bounded on the east side by the quay along the Bassin St-Nicolas. To the north is the New Harbor, to the south the old town.
The Terra Vecchia, the old fishing village, is a maze of narrow lanes and tall, closely packed houses in Bastia. The former Cathedral of St-Jean-Baptiste (16th century) with its twin towers dominates the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. The chapels of the Immaculate Conception (1611) and St-Roch (1604) are sumptuously decorated. On a spur of rock to the south of the picturesque Old Harbor is the Genoese Citadel, within the walls of which are the palace of the Genoese governor and many old houses.
The building of the Genoese Citadel began in 1378 and was completed about 1530 with the construction of the bell tower at the entrance. The inner courtyard is surrounded by two-storied galleries. Also within the Citadel are the church of Ste-Marie (begun around 1495, consecrated in the early 17th C) and the chapel of Ste-Croix, built in 1547 to house a wonderworking crucifix, the "Christ des Miracles", recovered from the sea by fishermen in 1428. Here too are the interesting Museum of Corsican Ethnography, with material on the history of the island, and a Military Museum. The Citadel quarter is known as the Terra Nuova, the new town, as opposed to the Terra Vecchia, the old town.
St Joseph's Procession
In Bastia, the annual St Joseph's Procession is held in March.
Some 20km/12mi south of Bastia is the hilly region of Castagniccia (named after the chestnut- trees which grow here). The chief place in Castagniccia is Piedicroce d'Orezza, a good base from which to climb Monte San Pietro (1,766 m/5,794ft; about 2-1/2 hours).
The Cap Corse peninsula (40km/25mi long, 12-15km/7.5-9mi across), the northernmost tip of Corsica and one of the most beautiful parts of the island, is occupied for its entire length by the Serra, a range of hills which reaches its highest point in Monte Stello (1,305 m/4,282ft). On both sides of the hills are fertile valleys in which vines, fruit and olives are grown. On the Corse driving tour, the road runs via Ste-Lucie, from which there is a fine view of Bastia with its citadel and harbor, and San Martino di Lota (alt. 183 m/600ft) to Miomo, with an imposing Genoese tower.
At Erbalunga are the ruins of a castle and a watch tower. Beyond this is the little port of Marine de Sisco. The chapel of St-Michel, on a crag 7km/4-1/2mi inland (fine view), dates from the 11th C. To follow the Corse driving tour, or to see other sights in the area, follow the road north past the church of Ste-Catherine (12th and 15th century).After passing the Tour de Losse, another old Genoese tower, the road comes to Marine de Porticciolo and Santa Severa, at the mouth of the Luri valley. From here a road (D180) cuts across the peninsula by way of Luri to the Col de Ste-Lucie (407 m/1,335ft), with a ruined medieval tower known as the Tower of Seneca, in which the philosopher is said to have been confined in 43-49 A.D.. The road then runs on to Pino, which has the ruins of a Franciscan friary (1486).The road along the east coast continues from Santa Severa to Macinaggio, where Napoleon landed in 1793, and then turns inland into the hills.
Col de la Serra
From the Col de la Serra (362 m/1,188ft), flanked on the left by two old watch towers and on the right by a windmill, there is a fine view of the west coast. To the east is the island of Elba, to the north Cap Corse, with the little island of La Giraglia off the point. At Centuri the road returns to the coast.
From Centuri the road continues down the west coast of the peninsula to Nonza, picturesquely situated on a crag rearing steeply up from the sea, with a ruined tower. To the east is Monte Stello (1,305 m/4,282ft).While on the Corse driving tour, at the Col de San Bernardino we join the road from St-Florent (D81), and turn left into it. It winds its way up through the villages of Patrimonio and Barbaggio to the Col de Teghime (548 m/1,798ft), from which there are superb views of the two seas and of inland Corsica to the south. The direct road to Bastia, the starting point of the trip round Cap Corse, runs down from the pass with many bends and magnificent views. The circuit of the island continues to St-Florent.