Corsica's picturesque southernmost town gazes across the blue Mediterranean to Sardinia. In its narrow cobbled alleys lingers a strangely medieval mood and the ancient stone houses of the fortress-like, once much-besieged community cling to one of the island's most striking sites - a towering promontory of sheer limestone rock jutting out improbably into the sea 200ft below. Founded about AD 828 as a defence against pirates, the town was taken from Pisa at the end of the 12th century by the Genoese and remained under the influence of Genoa until modern times.
Corsica has an area of 8680 sq km (3351 sq miles). The interior is mountainous, with Mount Cinto (2710 m/8892 ft) the highest peak. The coast is mostly rocky and indented in the west; in the east the coastal plain of Aleria is dotted with lagoons and swamps. From the mountains descend numerous short, torrential streams. The largest rivers are the Golo and the Tavignano. The Genoese ceded the island to France in 1768 and one significant result of the cession was that Napoleon Bonaparte, born at Ajaccio the following year, was a French citizen. During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the island was twice held by the British.
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