Citadelle d’Ajaccio, the fortress of Ajaccio, has a history going back to the 12th century, and a Genoan fortress called ‘Castel Lombardo‘.
The fortress is located on the shores of the Ajaccio Bay, and had an original purpose to militarily protect Genoan maritime routes between Calvi and Bonifacio.
PHOTO: Citadelle d’Ajaccio watchtower, the most impressive detail in the fortress. The view is from the beginning of Plage Saint François beach.
PHOTO: Citadelle’s defensive walls on the Port de Pêche fishing harbor side.
PHOTO: Right next to the fortress, you can one of the most beautiful seaside boulevards in Ajaccio, Boulevard Pascal Rossini. From the boulevard, and from the restaurants within the promenade, you’ll have great views to the Bay of Ajaccio.
During its history, the fortress (and most of the buildings surrounding it) was once abandoned, during the 15th century, as the area had an epidemic of malaria.
However, in 1492 the area was re-inhabited, when around 100 families from Genoa and Liguria moved here…among them early relatives of Napoleon Bonaparte.
You can still see the outline of that original village:
- Strada del Domo (modern day Rue Forcioli-Conti),
- Strada San Carlo (Rue du roi de Rome), and
- Strada Dritta (Rue Bonaparte).
Strada Dritta also contained the main gate to the original village.
At that time, the Citadelle was still a small ‘castello‘, but the city’s defenses were strengthened in many other ways, including construction of a city wall from 1502-1503.
Ajaccio‘s military constructions, including the fortress, were rebuild during the French rule in the island from 1553-1559…
…and with the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, Ajaccio became again a Genoan possession, with engineer Jacopo Frattini getting the project to further extend and rebuild Citadelle…including an addition of a moat.
According to one legend, Napoleon Bonaparte’s dreams of conquering the world have been said to have originated from watching the change of guard at Citadelle (during his childhood here).
Later, in fact, when Napoleon was the lieutenant colonel for the Corsican national guard, he had to try, from 1792-93, to take possession of the fortress — from the troops trying to establish Corsican independence that had barricaded themselves there — without succeeding in the attempt.
Citadelle was also used as a prison during the Second World War, and owned by the French Ministry of Defense until 2005, when it was sold to the city of Ajaccio.
However, by walking down the streets of Boulevard Danielle Casanova, Quai Napoléon, and Boulevard Pascal Rossini, you can see the best Citadelle highlights, including its dramatic watchtower.