Measuring around 5km from north to south and nearly 6km from west to its eastern mouth, Porto Vecchio’s natural, lagoon-like harbour was an attractive proposition for the diverse succession of rulers who came to Corsica. Today, it hosts a vibrant marina, a bustling port with Roman origins and a series of beaches, all overlooked by a picturesque old town and a 16th century fortification.
Under closer inspection, one might wonder why, with such seemingly ideal geographical characteristics, Porto Vecchio never developed into a larger, more important harbour and town. The answer lies in the marshes which until the mid-20th century dominated the area. Marshes meant malaria and the numerous attempts by the Genoese to transform the small settlement into a significant colony came to nought. Only with the arrival of the Allies during the 2nd World War were the marshes finally drained and malaria consigned to the past.
Today, it hosts a vibrant marina, a bustling port with Roman origins and a series of beaches, all overlooked by a picturesque old town and a 16th century fortification.
The old town centre of Porto Vecchio is one of Corsica’s most popular, thanks to its characterful maze of streets, its piazzas, its restaurants, bars and boutiques, its street market, its charming atmosphere and its views. For students of history and architecture, there are some interesting sites to visit, including the Bastion de France (in reality there are five bastions but three are private and one is in ruins), Place de la République (once the Roman heart of town), Porte Genoise (the town’s original gate) and the 16th century citadel.
Porto Vecchio’s popularity is also due to the beauty and interest of its surroundings. which feature some of Corsica’s most idyllic beaches (Palombaggia, Santa Giulia, Cala Rossa and Pinarello), the forested hills of Ospedale just inland, and the archipelago of Cerbicale, four islets whose unspoilt transparent waters and wooded interiors form part of a nature reserve.
Any trip to southeast Corsica should include a visit or two to Porto Vecchio. There are few better spots in which to while away a few hours strolling, dining or sipping on a chilled drink while watching the world go by.