Food and Drink in Corsica (Ajaccio)
If you want a true taste of Corsica, try brocciu, the pungent local cheese; it's used to flavor savory pastries or mixed with chopped pork and stuffed into artichoke hearts.
Wild boar, blackbird and thrush pate are also local specialties. The squeamish may prefer the island's pork-based charcuterie; Corsica has thousands of free-ranging pigs, whose acorn and chestnut diet gives their meat a distinctive flavor.
If you're a vegetarian, stick to fritelli (doughnuts made with chestnut flour).
Caffe Romana: Located on one of the main shopping streets in Ajaccio, this is a good spot to try local specialties such as brocciu and figatelli (sausage made with pork liver). Grab a seat on the sidewalk terrace when the weather is fine. (28 Cours Napoleon; 33 09 67 38 48 37; open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. until late, closed Sundays)
Brasserie L'Instant: On a quiet side street near Place Foch is this friendly brasserie, offering outdoor seating and a menu of sandwiches, burgers, salads, bruschettas and more. (1 Bis, Rue Emmanuel Arene; 33 04 95 26 48 86; open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed Sundays)
Brasserie du Diamant: This restaurant has a bustling outdoor patio overlooking Place du General de Gaulle. Diners can browse a lengthy wine list plus a menu of pizzas, Corsican meats and cheeses, sandwiches, and other options. (3 Rue Eugene Macchini; 33 04 95 21 04 56; open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.)
Le Passe Temps: Conveniently located right outside Palais Fesch, this cafe offers slightly overpriced sandwiches, salads and crepes, but the food is tasty and you can't beat the outdoor patio on a pedestrian-only street. (37 Rue Fesch; 33 06 22 20 71 22; open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed Sundays)
Brasserie le Globo: Enjoy a burger or salad on an outdoor terrace with a view of the sea at this pleasant restaurant on Place du General de Gaulle. It's also a good spot for coffee and a pastry. (8 Place due General de Gaulle; 33 04 95 24 72 51; open Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., closed Sundays)
Beaches in Corsica (Ajaccio)
St. Francois Beach: This lovely horseshoe-shaped stretch of honey sand is just a 10-minute walk (heading left) from the tender drop-off.
Other Beaches: Beach babies will be spoiled for choice in Ajaccio, as there are numerous sandy havens within about a 10-mile radius. The easiest ones to reach are the ones west of Ajaccio, which are accessible via the local no. 5 bus. The beaches have limited waves and are safe for swimming.
Don't Miss in Corsica (Ajaccio)
Palais Fesch: Arguably Ajaccio's best museum, this art collection -- amassed by Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Fesch -- includes some wonderful Flemish and Dutch paintings and an array of Italian Old Masters (Botticelli, Bellini). There are also a number of more recent works by Corsican artists, as well as paintings of Napoleon and his relatives. (50-52 Rue Cardinal Fesch; 33 04 95 26 26 26; between May and September open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.; note that Friday hours are longer during July and August, and all hours are shorter between October and April)
Ajaccio Main Market: Pungent and colorful, this market is stacked with great local goodies like fig, myrtle or plum liqueur, prettily packaged maize and honey cakes, spicy Corsican sausage, and melt-in-the-mouth beignets (sugared doughnuts). (Place Foch, open Tuesday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Ajaccio Cathedral: Dating from the 16th century, this high-vaulted cathedral houses both Napoleon's baptismal font and a Delacroix painting entitled "Vierge au Sacre-Coeur." It lies on Rue St. Charles, to the left as you head toward the beach, and is a cool haven on a hot day. Its elaborate chandeliers and white marble altar -- donated by the Empress Josephine -- are well worth a look. (Rue Forcioli Conti; 33 4 09 21 07 67; hours are irregular, and tourists may not visit the church during Mass)
Napoleana: The famous emperor is everywhere in this town. As well as statues of the diminutive Corsican, you can visit his birthplace at Maison Bonaparte (Rue Saint-Charles; 33 04 95 21 43 89; between April and September open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 6 p.m., and between October and March open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Off the pretty, tree-lined square -- called Place Foch (to the left as you exit the port) -- you'll find a small Musee Napoleon in the hotel de ville, or town hall. (Avenue Antoine Serafini; 33 04 95 51 52 53; between June 15 and September 15 open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and between September 16 and June 14 open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
Bastelica: This traditional Corsican mountain village, set 2,500 feet up in the foothills of Monte Renoso, lies about 24 miles east of Ajaccio. The drive there is spectacular.