"I could recognize it with my eyes closed, by the sweet perfume of its maquis": these are the words used by Napoleon to describe Ajaccio, the city of his birth in 1769. Looking out over the clear waters of the Corsican Sea, the city was founded by the Genoese. Ties with the Ligurian–Tuscan area are also at the origins of the Buonaparte family’s arrival on the island, who came there from Sarzana in the sixteenth century. It is one of the main towns in a region of extraordinary variety, where high and rocky coasts alternate with mild beaches of fine sand on the shores of a crystalline sea, its seabeds sometimes deep, sometimes gently sloping. The town is surrounded by rolling hills covered in olive groves, followed by mountains with chestnut and pine trees which give way to white snow–capped summits. The multiplicity of cultures and traditions merges with the shadow of a powerful cultural identity.
In Ajaccio, the myth of the Emperor continues to echo in every corner, dotting the city with important artistic and cultural evidence and leaving its mark on the names of streets and piazzas. The sites include: the birth home, where portraits of the family and period furnishings are kept; the cathedral of Nostra Signora della Misericordia, where the Emperor was baptized; the Museo Fesch, which houses the vast art collection of Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Fesch, and the Museo Napoleonico, located inside the Ajaccio City Hall, featuring an important collection of Napoleonic medals and family busts. Every street, every building and every monument tells some fragment of the myth, in an apotheosis of beauty that would have made Napoleon himself proud.