Ajaccio (Aiacciu in Corsican) is the largest city in Corsica with roughly 65 000 inhabitants, and its administrative and political capital. It is located on the west coast of the island. The Gulf of Ajaccio is considered one of the most beautiful in Corsica; it is deep and large, with numerous sandy beaches. The southern part of the bay is especially popular. It hosts several beach restaurants, hotels, and the touristy town of Porticcio, accessible by road or in a few minutes by boat from Ajaccio’s harbor. At one of the extremities of the gulf, a group of small islands facing the bay are called the Bloodthirsty islands, because they used to cause a lot of ships to wreck and thus claimed a lot of lives. But another explanation for this name could be their beautiful red color when the sun sets right on them.
Ajaccio hosts the main administrative buildings of Corsica: the Préfecture de Corse, which is the main representative of the French government on the island, and the regional administrative power (local Assembly and local executive government). Ajaccio also has one of the main international airports of the island, as well as a big harbor with cruise ships.
Ajaccio is nicknamed the “imperial city” because it is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France. It is still possible to visit the house where he was born in 1769, located in the old town of Ajaccio and turned into a historical museum known as Casa Buonaparte.
The name Ajaccio is supposed to come from the Latin word “adjacium”, meaning rest stop. The present town was founded in 1492 by the Genoese who ruled the island until the eighteenth century, but traces of a much older settlement, a Christian town with a baptistery from the 6th Century, were found recently by construction workers.
Ajaccio is a typical Mediterranean town with a yachting harbor, narrow old streets and palm trees planted on the sidewalk along the sea shore.