Despite its name, Bastia is Corsica’s most Italianised town. Located on the eastern side of the island, this enchanting town actually faces the country which influenced it and the region of Tuscany. Ruled for many centuries by various Italian powers, Corsica today still maintains a strong connection with its Mediterranean neighbours and Bastia, in particular, remains infused with the spirit of its past Italian rulers. Today Bastia continues to reflect some of Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance cities largely through the colour and style of its traditional clothing, cuisine and buildings.
A jewel of art and culture, Bastia is a bright and vibrant town full of life and history. Hidden in the charming streets and alleys of the town are unique but striking symbols of the local architecture including St. Nicholas Square, the Church of St. Marie, the grand and very important Church of St. Jean Baptiste, the beautiful Baroque Chapel of St. Coix, the Oratory of St. Roch and finally the magnificent Romanesque Cathedral, the crowning glory of the town.
The centre of Bastia, whilst surrounded by ancient architecture and churches, has a very modern and chic atmosphere. The main street, Rue Napoleon, is always alive, day or night, buzzing with locals relaxing after work in the many bars and cafes, picturesque shops and stylish restaurants.
Like much of Corsica, Bastia is blessed with many breathtaking beaches. A holiday hot spot, these beaches are endless stretches of pristine sand and warm water. Close to an Ornithological reserve, Bastia’s seaside also is surrounded by secluded bays and coves and striking scenery.
Historically, Bastia dates back to the 14th century and was first ruled by the Republic of Genoa. In 1378 Genoa built a watch tower, which began the creation of the town as we know it today. Bastia remained under the Italians until the 18th century when the French took over following the Treaty of Versailles. Despite this, Bastia remains closely linked the Italian culture which influenced it for so many centuries and the traditions and customs it left behind.
Bastia’s old quarter is Terra Vecchia, with haphazard old streets, Baroque churches and high stone tenements. Place St Nicholas, a charming area, open to the sea, lined with cafes and trees, and the main focus of the town. The two main shopping areas are Boulevard Paoli and Rue Cesar-Campinchi.
Nouveau Port in contrast is modern and bland, although it does have bars and restaurants, and a large number of pizzerias evidencing a strong Italian influence.
Rue Napoleon is a narrow street with ancient shops and the 17th century, chapels of Oratoire de St Roch and the Oratoire de L’Imaculee Conception. The church of St Jean Babtiste built in 1636, dominates the square, and is surrounded by the oldest part of Bastia, a maze of alleys, vaulted passageways and seven storey houses.
The run down Vieux Port is charming, with high houses leaning towards the sea, a marina crowded with boats and to the south the rock supporting the Citadelle. The Quai des Martyrs has vibrant bars and cafes, with live music and excellent restaurants.
The core of old Bastia is the affluent Terra Nova, with apartments and historic buildings including the Eglise Ste-Marie built in 1458, housing a silver statue of the Virgin which is carried through the town during the festival of the Assumption.