Most arrive to Bastia by ferry. You have to work to get here, but once you do, you discover an atmospheric old port town, not quite French, but quite Corsican. The dynamic, baroque cultural resort sprawls out across a hillside. Tenement buildings jumble into the scene, creating an atmosphere so poetic and postcard worthy, you might never want to get back on that ferry. Despite a history dating back to Roman times, Bastia came alive under the Genoese, which explains its Italian titles and influences. Once you arrive to Bastia, you will need to know all of the details, the who, what, when, where and how to appreciate all of its details
Where It Begins
A trip through Bastia, Corsica most always begins at the Vieux Port. This is where many of the ferries arrive, mostly from the company Corsica Ferries. It is the number one Mediterranean port and the second French port for traffic. Ferries arrive from Marseilles, Nice, Toulon, Genoa, Livorno, Savone and La Spezia. Once you land, go explore the Vieux Port. While most of its buildings took a beating during World War II, the area creates interest for what it is, the launching point to and from Corsica.
When To Visit
Bastia has its appeals in cooler months, but in the summer, visitors have more activities at their disposal. For example, Le Manguier, a tour company utilizing a former French navy tug boat, takes visitors to the Italian islands of Elba and Capraia. Windsurfing and sailing lessons are also offered from Bastia throughout the warmer months of the year.
Where It Takes Place
Bastiaâ€™s scene takes place in the Place St. Nicolas. Opening up to the sea, the square covers in trees and cafes. It is the main focus of town life, where people come out to drink, eat and be merry. If you are into people watching as you travel, Bastiaâ€™s Place St. Nicolas is a good spot to do so.
Where to Get Lost
The old quarter of Bastia, Terra Vecchio is a good place to get lost while wandering about the major sights in the city. The oldest part of the city holds the Palais des Gouvereurs, in other words the Governorâ€™s Palace. Looking out on a cobbled square, the Palace was built in 1530. It served as the seat of the Genoese governor of Corsica for over two centuries. Today, the Palace functions as the MusÃ©e dâ€™Histoire de Bastia, appropriately a museum detailing the history of the city. Also in Bastiaâ€™s Terra Vecchio is the Church of St. Jean Baptiste. The twin campaniles of the church are hard to miss, right at the south end of Palace du MarchÃ©. Constructed in 1636, the church was later restored in the 18th century.
Where To Walk
Bastiaâ€™s Jardin Roumieu provides a garden space, refreshing for a port city. The gardens clutch the hillside, hanging on for dear life. Created in 1870, the gardens were intended to be a place to walk. Jardin Roumieu was also thought to provide travelers and locals with a link between the restored Citadel and the renovated Old Port.
What to Drink
While in Corsica, you must drink the townâ€™s local drink of choice, the Cap Corse aperitif. Produced in Bastia, the fortified wine with a cinchona base can be found throughout the city, including for purchase at some of the townâ€™s shops like Cap Corse Mattei. The shop has become one of Bastiaâ€™s institutions, open since 1872. Cap Corse hails solely from the tip of the Cap in Corsica.
Written by: Suzy Guese