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Corsica, birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte, is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. Distinct in language (an Italian dialect) and topography, Corsica’s landscape is rich with palms, vineyards, olive and orange groves, forests of chestnut and native pines, and icy lakes and mountain streams bursting with trout. Over this island garden of Eden wafts the scent of myrtle, a scent so heady that Napoleon claimed he could smell it from the sea.

The relationship between Corsica and France continues to be a little edgy. From the 11th-13th century, Corsica was a colony of the Tuscan republic of Pisa. In 1769 Corsica was ‘sold’ to Louis XIV by the Genoese, for the price of 40 million francs. Of course, no-one bothered to consult the Corcicans, who had been happily enjoying some 15 years of independence under the leadership of Pasquale Paoli. The resentment felt by Corsica continues to be felt in the form of a thriving separatist movement - which sometimes flares up into violence, and tends to keep tourist numbers down. The benefit for the more adventurous is that Corsica has preserved its distinct and wild Mediterranean beauty above all other areas. Aside from its unspoiled countryside, it retains some beautiful Romanesque churches, and, in Filitosa, a group of megalithic stone warriors.

Corsica is the rugged mountainous island lying southeast of the French mainland, with the Ligurian Sea flowing in between. Touted as the beautiful island (Île de beauté), Corsica is known for its dramatic and diverse landscape. The island is home to a chain of craggy peaks, a wide spread of green, oak and pine forests; angry rapids at one end; and serene, white beaches at the other. This assortment of natural sights is one of the main draws of the island that attracts over two million visitors annually (almost eight times that of the Corsica population).

The unique culture of the island is another notable feature. Corsica has a distinct culture of its own that comprises of both French and Italian elements as the island is closer to mainland Italy than France. Technically a territorial collectivity that enjoys greater power than other regions of France, it is considered as a French Region.  The Corsican language is evidence of the island’s relation to Italy, as it has notable similarities with the Italian tongue. The Corsican language is also spoken in northern Sardinia, Italy, as both islands were part of the larger Sardinian Empire. This language is kept alive by over 65% of the population today. However, the French language has also permeated the Corsican lifestyle ever since the acquisition and now almost the entire population speaks and understands French as well (although many do not consider it their native language). Corsica also has a strong Mediterranean flavour that has been influenced by almost everyone from the passing Greeks to the Genoese. This influence can be best tasted in the local cuisine that boasts great seafood dishes, as well as tasty Corsican pork.

Part of the greater Metropolitan France area, Corsica is seen as one of the lesser developed regions in here. However, the island seems to be making progress on the tourism front, with a good mix of resorts and unspoilt natural beauty. Hence, it is no surprise that Corsica is popular amongst adventure-lovers (who usually head straight for the challenging and scenic hiking trails) and beach-goers (who populate the shimmering white, 1000km coastline). This, coupled with the great Mediterranean climate and distinctive culture, makes Corsica a must-see French destination.

The island of Corsica has been inhabited since the Mesolithic era and it has seen several great empires since then. The island was once a part of the Carthaginian, Greek, Etruscan and even the Roman empires; when it became incorporated into the Sardinia province. A host of invaders- Visgoths, Saracens, Lombards and Franks-had a shot at conquering this strategically located Mediterranean island when the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century AD. Such temporal sovereignty was commonplace in Corsica well till well into the 14th century when the Genoese took over the island. It was stated that the fiercely independent Corsican population was seen constantly revolting against the Genoese rulers until the 18th century. The 1729 revolution proved to be a fruitful one, as Corsica managed to overthrow the Genoese to officially become the independent Corsica Republic  in 1755. The celebrated Black Moor figure with a white bandanna over the forehead became the national emblem, signifying the island’s liberation. The Republic quickly announced the city of Corte as its capital and even built a university on their land. However, this hard-fought independence was short-lived, as the Genoese, who still had control over the surrounding Mediterranean islands, ceded Corsica to France in 1768. The island has been part of France since (except for 1794-1796 when the English took over and 1940-1943 during the Axis occupation). Its most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte, went on to expand France's geostrategic dominion over Europe, stretching from North Africa to Russia. 

However, Corsica’s pursuit for greater independence has yet to halt, as the island only recently signed a referendum in 2003 to merge both the Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud departments, in a bid to increase their autonomy. Unfortunately, the referendum was rejected based on a small vote margin.

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