The city of Bonifacio, the capital of Corsica, is situated at the southernmost point of the island and is separated from Sardinia by the Bonifacio straight, which is 14 km wide. It is situated on a 5000 ha limestone plateau, pierced with terrestrial and marine cave.

Geologically, Bonifacio’s territory is an exception in Corsica with crystalline substrates at the west and limestone at the east, whereas the rest of the island is composed mainly of crystalline red rocks.

Actually, Bonifacio is placed on the best and only major harbour of the southern coast of Corsica. It is located on a limestone peninsula rising 60m above sea level, 16 km long, and linked to the island by a 100 m wide strip. Between the peninsula and the island, the bay is occupied by a well protected harbour surrounded by high cliffs.

                    Image courtesy of Hydria Virtual Museum
Bonifacio view from the sea level, as it overhangs the straits at an elevation of 60-70 meters

Hydria Virtual Museum

Despite the Mediterranean aspects of the climate with the extended sunshine and a 15.9°C mean temperature, Bonifacio is characterised by harsh cold winds.

According to the local Water Agency in Corsica there is a high average annual rainfall of 900 mm, a dense network of short water courses and a wide variation and irregularity of rains between the autumn and the summer periods. Although in general there is a water richness in the central, eastern and western parts of Corsica (rivers, rainfall and dams), in the South and North of the island -where tourism prevails- the water reserves are restricted.

A brief history of Bonifacio in milestones

This region has been inhabited already since the Neolithic era. Indeed, the most ancient skeleton of the island “la dame de Bonifacio” a female burial is dated to about 6750 BC.

Remnants indicate also a roman occupation since the 3rd century BC.

The modern city was founded around 830 AD by Boniface II, Count of Lucques marquis of Tuscan, who built a castle on the high peninsula overhanging the sea. Bonifacio has been ruled since then by Pisans, Genoese and French, who added to its rich diversity of character.

                    Image courtesy of Hydria Virtual Museum
Boniface, Count of Lucques, marquis of Tuscan, founder of the city

Hydria Virtual Museum

In 1092, Pope Urbanus II offered Corsica to the Republic of Pisa, and the Pisans ruled Bonifacio for nearly two centuries.

In late 12th century, the Genoans captured Bonifacio. They promptly replaced the local population with Ligurians (to whom they offered exemption from tax and port duty). The town was extended, and a large Genoan garrison was built.

In 1420, King Aragon laid siege to Bonifacio for 5 months. His attempt failed thanks to the tenacity of Bonifacio’s garrison and the local population who all joined in the defence of the citadel.

The Genoans of Bonifacio faced another siege in 1553, this time from an alliance between French and the Turks. The Bonifacians were tricked into agreeing to surrender, and then massacred by the Turks. Together with the rest of Corsica, Bonifacio was returned back to the Genoans soon after, in 1559. The Genoise port enjoyed prosperity until the late 18th century, when the French took ownership of Corsica.

The French took control of Corsica in 1768 through the Treaty of Versailles.

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