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Sartene Corsica

Sartene Corsica Guide

Known as the "most Corsican of Corsica's towns", Sartene is an ancient place steeped in the traditions of superstition and vendetta. Even today it retains a fascinatingly sombre atmosphere.

Set high on a hill, the perfectly preserved Old Town has high granite walls, tall townhouses, with steep steps to guard against unexpected attack, and a maze of narrow passageways.


With castle ruins dating from the beginning of the 13th century, Sartene was the home of the mighty Della Rocca family until defeated by the Genoese in the early 16th century.

The town was subject to various anti-Genoese sieges, including one by the King of Algiers in 1583 who abducted a third of the population into slavery. Internal vendettas were also rife throughout Sartene's history. In the 1830s, a bloody feud between two families led to windows being bricked up and guards patrolling the streets, resulting in Sartene's tall fortress-type houses.


Sartene is not as commercially geared towards tourism as towns such as Bonifacio, however it does offer an authentic Corsican experience. Its main attractions are the labyrinthic Old Town and the small Musee de la Prehistoire Corse (the latter is currently closed for relocation/renovation). There are also several good restaurants in Sartene.

There is a pleasant square, Place de la Liberation (previously called Place Porta), lined with cafes and pizzerias and with lovely views over the surrounding valley. On one side of the square is the Eglise Sainte-Marie church, originally dating from the 1760s (although since restored), where warring families of the 19th century were forced to make peace.


Sartene is renowned for its ancient 'Catenacciu' procession held on Good Friday, one of the oldest traditions in Corsica. This is a re-enactment of the Passion, when a weighty wooden cross and chains (stored in the Eglise Sainte-Marie) is carried through the town by an anonymous hooded penitent. In the past the penitent (often a bandit or murderer) had stones hurled at him, however these days there is no such danger, resulting in a lengthy waiting list for those wishing to be the lucky sufferer!

7 km north of Sartene is the Domaine Fiumicicoli winery which produces award winning wines and is open to visitors. Sartene's wine industry, dating from the 19th century, is still an important part of its local economy.


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