Prosper Mérimée famously dubbed Sartène “la plus corse des villes corses” (“the most Corsican of Corsican towns”), but the nineteenth-century German chronicler Gregorovius put a less complimentary spin on it when he described it as a “town peopled by demons”. Sartène hasn’t shaken off its hostile image, despite being a smart, better-groomed place than many small Corsican towns. The main square, Place Porta, doesn’t offer many diversions once you’ve explored the enclosed vielle ville, and the only time of year Sartène teems with tourists is at Easter for U Catenacciu, a Good Friday procession that packs the main square with onlookers.
Close to Sartène are some of the island’s best-known prehistoric sites, most notably Filitosa, the megaliths of Cauria and the Alignement de Palaggiu – Corsica’s largest array of prehistoric standing stones – monuments from which are displayed in the town’s excellent museum.Read More
The megalithic sites
The megalithic sites
Sparsely populated today, the rolling hills of the southwestern corner of Corsica are rich in prehistoric sites. The megaliths of Cauria, standing in ghostly isolation 10km southwest from Sartène, comprise the Dolmen de Fontanaccia, the best-preserved monument of its kind on Corsica, while the nearby alignments of Stantari and Renaggiu have an impressive congregation of statue-menhirs.
More than 250 menhirs can be seen northwest of Cauria at Palaggiu, another rewardingly remote site. Equally wild is the coast hereabouts, with deep clefts and coves providing some excellent spots for diving and secluded swimming.
As you snake your way through the maquis, the Dolmen de Fontanaccia eventually comes into view on the horizon, crowning the crest of a low hill amid a sea of vegetation. A blue sign at the parking space indicates the track to the dolmen, a fifteen-minute walk away. Known to the locals as the Stazzona del Diavolu (Devil’s Forge), a name that does justice to its enigmatic power, the Dolmen de Fontanaccia is in fact a burial chamber from around 2000 BC. This period was marked by a change in burial customs – whereas bodies had previously been buried in stone coffins in the ground, they were now placed above, in a mound of earth enclosed in a stone chamber. What you see today is a great stone table, comprising six huge granite blocks nearly 2m high, topped by a stone slab that remained after the earth eroded away.
The twenty “standing men” of the Alignement de Stantari, 200m to the east of the dolmen, date from the same period. All are featureless, except two which have roughly sculpted eyes and noses, with diagonal swords on their fronts and sockets in their heads where horns would probably have been attached.
Across a couple of fields to the south is the Alignement de Renaggiu, a gathering of forty menhirs standing in rows amid a small shadowy copse, set against the enormous granite outcrop of Punta di Cauria. Some of the menhirs have fallen, but all face north to south, a fact that seems to rule out any connection with a sun-related cult.