Restricting this to just 10 things has been difficult. Below are five of my favourite Corsican things, places or experiences: find the next five here. They are all part of the landscape/history/culture that inspired The House at Zaronza and will continue to inspire my future writing about Corsica, whether fiction or non-fiction.
The Prehistoric Site at Filitosa
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I gazed into the faces of these mysterious warriors, staring back across the millennia. Opinions vary as to who they were, but it seems likely that they were invaders rather than natives and that capturing their images in stone was intended in some way to disempower them.
Corsican polyphonic singing
Corsican polyphonic singing is an elemental and primal sound and is part of the distinctive character and culture of Corsica. Some might say it’s an acquired taste, but I think it’s fantastic and it speaks Corsica to me.
Last year we went to a concert by a group called Meridianu www.meridianu.com in Corte and I was spellbound. Here’s a clip from one of the best known groups, A Filetta, who have made an international name for themselves.
Corsica has rarely been independent throughout its history. For centuries it belonged to the Italian city state of Genoa before they sold it to France. But before that it belonged to Pisa. The charming and intimate little churches are one of the legacies of the Pisan occupation.
This is my favourite, the church of San Michele at Murato in the Nebbio, in the NE of the island. A frieze of mythical beasts and Biblical scenes adorns the upper walls. I made a point of mentioning it in The House at Zaronza.
This town, in the centre of the island, is symbolic of Corsica, for it was here that the visionary Pasquale Paoli established the short-lived Corsican republic in the 18th century. It has a faded, dusty grandeur and is the gateway to some marvellous mountain walks and scenery. Now the island’s only university, it is lively and buzzing and somewhat cheaper than the overpriced coastal resorts. We can’t keep away.
This is the collective name for the scrubby, aromatic vegetation that clothes the Corsican hillsides: rosemary, lavender, cistus, juniper and myrtle. Native Corsicans returning to the island by sea claim they can smell it several miles out. Corsican bandits d’honneur, those who had committed a vendetta murder, took to the maquis to evade capture.
During World War II, the maquis served again to hide resistants. And it eventually gave its name to the resistance movement in France. In The House at Zaronza, the main character, Maria Orsini, drinks in the scent of the maquis before taking the boat at Bastia to nurse at the Western Front during World War I.
In the process of writing this post, I’ve thought of so many more inspiring aspects of Corsica, which I will share over the coming weeks. In the meantime, we are preparing our 6th visit this September and I am planning the sequel to The House at Zaronza, in which Corsica will again feature strongly.
Read part 2 of this post here.
You might also like these, from my French life blog:
And from this blog:
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