Popular Corsica (Ajaccio) Shore Excursions
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.
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.