Stage 2: Bastia to Ajaccio
In May took place the first Abyss festival for submarine image in Ajaccio. The theme of the inaugural edition was the protection of the sea and its resources, which has become a global concern. More than ten hours of films were shown in Ajaccio’s Congress Hall, among them some of the greatest works by famous directors like Jacques Perrin, Yann Arthus Bertrand, Ruppert Murray or Luc Besson. Abyss was also a place for meetings and exchanges with all those involved in the protection of the sea, around the projection of films Ocean Planet for the Good Planet foundation and White Paradise for the Maud Fontenoy foundation. Maud Fontenoy came to talk with the public about the preservation of seas and oceans. Conferences on sharks in the Mediterranean, an exhibition on shipwrecks and meetings with members of the Corsicamare Osservazione maritime observatory were other key moments in this edition. Prizes were awarded to amateur underwater filmmakers and photographers. Abyss also offered to amateur divers the opportunity to shoot a protected plane wreck, the P40 Curtiss resting 11 metres underwater in the military waters of the Aspretto naval air base.
In 1966, the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice ended in Ajaccio on a victory by Italian Michele Dancelli. Raymond Poulidor left the island with a fragile leader’s jersey that Jacques Anquetil took away from him on the last day. The stage could be reminiscent of the Race to the Sun with hills resembling those of the Nice hinterland. Ajaccio is also the birthplace of several riders who marked the history of Corsican cycling, two of them taking part in the Tour de France.
Pierre Bordigoni, founder of the AC Ajaccio club and of the Tour of Corsica, rode the 1910 Tour for team Armor but could not finish the race.
In 1919, the brave independent rider Napoleon Paoli, an Ajaccio-born bicycle retailer based in Antibes, decide to participate in the world’s greatest cycling race. He reached Cherbourg outside the time limit as the finish line had been dismounted while the Tour officials were fast asleep.
Paoli did not lose faith and he entered the Tour the following year but was hardly more fortunate – he crashed into a donkey and was later held by falling rocks in the Pyrenees. More recently, Dominique Bozzi – better known as Doumé – was the first Corsican after WWII to become professional in 1995 alongside Luc Leblanc in team Le Groupement one year after earning a silver medal in the 100-km team event at the world championships. Bozzi was instrumental in helping the Tour make its first visit to Corsica.
The Sanguinaires archipelago is a heaven for sea birds and dolphins. In the summer, boat tours are organisers from the Tino Rossi harbour. Several travel books evoke the beauty and majesty of the site. Alphonse Daudet wrote one of his letters about it: "Imagine a wild and blood-red island with a lighthouse at one end and old Genoese tower at the other...another beautiful place I have found for dreaming and for being alone".
The present house was the second residence in Ajaccio of the Bonaparte family, who came from Italy in the late 15th century. The house kept being enlarged through the years.
In 1764, Charles-Marie Bonaparte, a lawyer for the Corsican Higher Council, married Letizia Ramolino, the daughter of an renowned Ajaccio family. The couple settled on the first level of the house in which the rest of the family was still living. Their oldest son, Joseph, was born in Corte, but Napoleon, Lucien, Louis, Jerome and their three sisters were all born in this rather luxurious house.
In 1793, the Bonaparte family, who supported the Republic, were forced out of Corsica, then ruled by Pascal Paoli and his English allies. The house was plundered while their rural properties were ravaged. Letizia was allowed back in 1797 and, thanks to important compensation, she embellished the house with a new apartment and new furniture. On return from Egypt in 1799, general Bonaparte visited the house for the last time.
The building was constructed on request by cardinal Fesch, the uncle of Napoleon, in order to shelter an Institute for Arts and Science. A great art collector, Fesch gave his native town more than 1,000 pictures. The Fesch museum is the second largest museum in France for Italian painting.
Now the Corsican prefecture, the palace was built in 1826 on plans by architect Alfonse-Henri de Gisors (1796-1866). Its construction was part of the extension and embellishment scheme presented by Napoeloen Bonaparte to turn his birthplace into a wealthy modern town.
The construction of the Cathedral of the Assumption, started in 1577, was completed in 1593 under bishop Giulio Giustiniani, whose armouries feature on top of the portal in Carrara marble. The Emperor was baptised in the cathedral on July 21, 1771.