Stacked up the side of a wedge-shaped crag against a spectacular backdrop of granite mountains, Corte epitomizes l’âme corse, or “Corsican soul” – a small town marooned amid a grandiose landscape, where a spirit of dogged patriotism is never far from the surface. Corte has been the home of Corsican nationalism since the first National Constitution was drawn up here in 1731, and was also where Pascal Paoli, “U Babbu di u Patria” (“Father of the Nation”), formed the island’s first democratic government later in the eighteenth century. Self-consciously insular and grimly proud, it can seem an inhospitable place at times, although the presence of the island’s only university lightens the atmosphere noticeably during termtime, when the bars and cafés lining its long main street fill with students. For the outsider, Corte’s charm is concentrated in the tranquil haute ville, where the forbidding citadelle – site of a modern museum – presides over a warren of narrow, cobbled streets.

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