Corsica is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. It covers an overall area of 8681 square km. With its elongated shape and curious peninsula extending north towards Genoa, it measures 183 km in length and is 83 km wide.
Corsica is only 12 km from Sardinia, divided by the Strait of Bonifacio. The ferry crossing from the port of Santa Teresa in Gallura takes about an hour. The island has a series of mountain ranges over 2000 metres high and a number of natural lakes, all protected within the Corsica Regional Park.
Corsica is a sparsely populated island, the last census in 2004 recorded 260,000 inhabitants. Of these, 17,000 were Algerian emigrants who settled here in the sixties, while in recent years around 40,000 people have arrived from francophone North Africa.
During wartime, the lack of work drove many Corsicans to leave the island, and about 600,000 now live in Nice, Toulon and Marseille. However, their attachment to their birthplace is so strong that they do not allow their villages to disappear, and often return to maintain the family home, especially in summer.
The official language is French, imposed after Genoa abandoned the island. However, the Corsican language is also widely spoken and now commonly taught in schools.
Corsica has been a region of the French Republic since 1972. Until 1970, it was united with Provence-Cote d’Azur, but since 1975 it has been divided into the two administrative departments, with Ajaccio as the Regional Capital of Corse du Sud, and with a total of 360 municipalities.
Corsica makes its main income from tourism, with more than 1,000,000 visitors a year; but agriculture, sheep-farming and fishing are on the increase, as well as exploitation of the chestnut and pine forests. There is also a typical artisan trade, mainly based on traditional products such as cheese, olive oil, wine, honey, and the famous local beer with a chestnut aftertaste.
This island is definitely worth a visit; among its most important towns are Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio, Ajaccio, Bastia and Sartene Propiano.
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