Sunday, 27 June 2010

Bonifacio Citadel

Today was one of those days when work and pleasure mingle indistinguishably, as I had to go to Bonifacio to visit the Apartment l’Eglise – what luck!

I absolutely love Bonifacio. Like Calvi, it has a huge imposing Citadel overlooking the harbour lined with colourful restaurants, bars/cafés, interesting boutiques and even a tiny aquarium!

What’s great about the citadel in Bonifacio is that unlike any others in Corsica, this one is like a mini-village not only filled with ramshackle sunbleached houses, but also artisan craftsmen making knives and wooden/wicker goods, jewellers offering the exceptionally deep red coral that is indigenous to the area.

I parked at the very top of the citadel close to the Marine cemetery. There is free parking closer to the apartment I was visiting, but as I was a little early and the sun was shining, I’d decided to park a bit further and take my time wandering through the narrow streets.

I headed straight up the Ciazza Doria (rue Doria in French). One of my favourite shops is along here – Casadoria – where I always manage to spend rather more than planned on all manner of kitchen impulse buys and nice little trinkets.

The shop is almost opposite the chapel of Saint Jean the Baptist. Bonifacio is filled with interesting places to visit and often their simple exterior belies a fascinating interior. The Sancte Joannes Batptista as it is called is home to a beautiful wooden sculpture depicting the beheading of John the Baptist which is paraded through the town each year on 29th August.

I headed on up to the church of Sainte Marie-Majeure at the heart of the citadel. Medieval in style, this is the oldest religious building in Bonifacio and has an interesting loggia at the front. In times gone by, this was where the Genoese would discuss town issues and dispense justice, but today it had an altogether calmer ambiance with just a single nun selling little wooden figures in aid of the church.

Just a few steps away was my destination, the Apartment l’Eglise. The houses in Bonifacio are all huddled together with steep staircases climbing up to the upper floors. This apartment was on the top floor, so I was expecting a lung-bursting climb, but surprisingly there were just two flights of stairs to conquer.

As the owner opened the door, I was amazed at the size of the place! For some reason I was expecting a studio-sized apartment with a couple of bedrooms tacked on, but this place felt open and spacious which is probably in part to do with the impeccable taste of the owner who has chosen key pieces of quality furniture rather than trying to overfill it.

We sat by the windows overlooking the church, and admired the views from the upper balcony. The sun was streaming in, and I felt that I could have stayed the whole day, but sadly all too soon it was time to head back.

There are a couple of restaurants within just a few steps of the apartment, and I was worried that this might make the apartment noisy, but apparently not – perhaps the proximity to the church invites a more respectful clientele!

I took a slow wander back to the car via the third church in the citadel, the Gothic church of Sainte Dominique which dates back to the 13th-14th century. The church is especially distinguished by its octagonal bell tower and the perfect accoustics of the building mean that it is often used for the performances of Corsican polyphonic singing.

In Bonifacio, even the car parks enjoy fabulous views and I was treated to the sight of a huge yacht making its way out of the harbour into the open waters of the Bouches de Bonifacio

Although it seems obvious why someone would buy an apartment in Bonifacio Citadel, my nosiness took over and I ended up giving the owner the third degree. Surprisingly, the answer was the variety of diverse beaches in the area.

From the red hued sand of Tonnara just a few minutes drive from the town, to the super pretty white sand of the Porto Vecchio beaches and the silver white sands of Sperone, there is something to suit every taste.

Personally, I’d head to Tonnara as I’d be slightly concerned at the proximity of the golf course to the beach at Petit Sperone - after all, who can tell the difference between a snoozing sunbather and the unconscious victim of an over-ambitious golf swing??

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