Corsica: Places to Explore



Described as the "most Corsican of all Corsican towns" by French novelist Prosper Mérimée, Sartène, founded in the 16th century, has survived pirate raids and bloody feuding among the town's families. The word "vendetta" is believed to have originated here as the result of a 19th-century family feud so serious that French troops were brought in to serve as a peacekeeping buffer force. Centuries of fighting have left the town with a somewhat eerie and menacing atmosphere. Perhaps adding to this is the annual Good Friday catenacciu (enchaining) procession, in which an anonymous penitent, dragging ankle chains, lugs a heavy cross through the village streets.

Surrounded by ancient ramparts, Vieux Sartène (Old Sartène) begins at place de la Libération, the main square. To one side is the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), in the former Genoese governor's palace. Slip into the Middle Ages through the tunnel under the Town Hall to place du Maggiu and the ancient Santa Anna quarter, a warren of narrow, cobbled streets lined with granite houses. Scarcely 100 yards from the Hôtel de Ville, down a steep and winding street, is a 12th-century tour de guet (watchtower). Sartène is a key link to Corsica's prehistory, thanks to its proximity to Pianu de Levie's dolmens and megalithic statues.

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