Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 20th – Beautiful Bonifacio

There can't be many cruise calls that look as stunning from the sea as Bonifacio. This Corsican port is crammed together onto a narrow peninsula sticking out to sea, at the top of 200-feet high vertical limestone cliffs. With those tall higgledy-piggledy houses rising straight from the cliff edge, it doesn't look quite real – like something from a fantasy film maybe.

With the natural defences of the cliffs augmented by a huge set of city walls on the landward side, this place was clearly built with defence in mind by the Genoese who ran the show in Corsica for 500 years or so. As you walked up the steep slopes to get up to the Citadel, it wasn't difficult to see why those defences saw off attacks from the Saracens, from the Spanish and the French amongst others – by the end of a thigh-burning 10-minute climb up there, we were exhausted and dripping in sweat.

But, the climb is definitely worth it, because Bonifacio has an agreeably historic and laid-back atmosphere within its network of narrow streets – an atmosphere that wasn't too busy with tourists at this late stage of the season. As you wander around the town, you'll see that virtually every shop is selling a selection of fearsome-looking Corsican knives, a reminder perhaps that this is the island that invented the word "vendetta", and a place where you do your best not to cross the locals. I kept this in mind when I asked the bar owner where we'd stopped for a drink if I could have a receipt – when the answer came back with an unsmiling and uncompromising "No", I thought it best not to argue!

As the final port of this leg of the cruise, Bonifacio has shown yet more of what the Mediterranean does best – great scenery, atmospheric towns and fascinating history. I think quite a few passengers are now planning return visits to Corsica.