Medieval Bonifacio on Your Own
Tour Participation Requirements
There's something mysterious and wonderful about towns isolated out on the very tip of an island or peninsula, and Bonifacio is a perfectly scenic example. Perched on rugged limestone cliffs sculpted by the sea on Corsica's far southern edge, this medieval bastion is a place of history, natural beauty, and a sophisticated Mediterranean ambiance, complete with palm trees and sleek yachts.
Separated from Sardinia by a narrow strait of sparkling water, the medieval settlement is named for Bonifacio II, Marquis of Tuscany, who built the citadel in the 9th century. But the roots go even deeper: The famous "Lady of Bonifacio" skeleton, discovered in a nearby grotto in 1972, has been carbon-dated to 6570 BC.
We get you to Bonifacio and back with a relaxing coastal drive, leaving you with about four hours to explore on your own. As you walk through the Old Town, you'll see and feel the diverse cultural footprints left behind by the French, Tuscans, Pisans, Genoans, Moors, and others who held the reins of power here over the centuries.
You'll also see (and feel!) plenty of stairs. Pedestrian access between the marina and upper Old Town is via the steep Montee Rastello and Montee Saint-Roch steps and the citadel's Genoa Gate – the only way in for centuries. But the true showstopper stairway experience is the straight 187-step descent to the sea via the King Aragon steps, hewn into the cliff face in a single night during a 1420 siege by the King of Aragon. Well, that's the legend, anyway. The truth may be a tad more pedestrian: The stairs were built by locals to gain access to a freshwater well. But that's Bonifacio: Just getting where you're going has an air of mystery.
We'll take the ferry, thanks
Look south from the towers, ramparts, and cliffs of Bonifacio and you may be able to make out Sardinia – it's only about 7.5 miles as the crow flies, or about nine as the human swims. Every summer, the Corsica-to-Sardinia crossing attracts distance swimmers looking to add to their Gibraltar Strait, English Channel, and Catalina Channel done-it lists. For comparison, Navy SEALs must be able to swim only two miles.
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