Viewed from across the bay, St-Florent (San Fiurenzu) appears as a bright line against the black tidal wave of the Tenda hills, the pale stone houses seeming to rise straight out of the sea, overlooked by a squat circular citadelle. It’s a relaxing town, with a decent beach and a good number of restaurants, but the key to its success is the marina, which is jammed with expensive boats throughout the summer. Neither the tourists, however, nor indeed St-Florent’s proximity to Bastia, entirely eclipse the air of isolation conferred on the town by its brooding backdrop of mountains and scrubby desert.
In Roman times, a settlement called Cersunam – referred to as Nebbium by chroniclers from the ninth century onwards – existed a kilometre east of the present village. The ancient port was eclipsed by the harbour that developed around the new Genoese citadelle in the fifteenth century, which prospered as one of Genoa’s strongholds, and it was from here that Paoli set off for London in 1796, never to return.