History of the city
Legend has it that Ajaccio was founded by the legendary Greek hero Ajax who gave it its name. Another, more realistic, is that its name would have been related to the Tuscan agghiacciu (sheep pen), but we find Adjacium, mentioned in the 5th century in the cosmography of Ravenna …
Anyway, what is certain is that it was founded in 1492. It is also called “Imperial City” and formerly “City of Coral”.
It is known to be the first French city to be liberated during WWII, on September 9, 1943. It was in October 1943 that it was fully liberated, after the liberation of Bastia.
Ajaccio has become the first cruise stopover in Corsica, and the second in France, just behind Marseille. Ajaccio is the native island of Napoleon.
In Autumn and Spring, Ajaccio is often affected by thunderstorms, moreover it is the French city that holds the record for the number of thunderstorms between 1971-2000, with an average of 39 stormy days per year. Having said that, that’s no reason not to go! 🙂
More info on Ajaccio on Wikipedia.
Ajaccio, Genoese City
Deed of foundation of the city: “In the name of the Lord, Amen. Let all those who receive this document know the following: Messire Cristoforo de Gandino, architect, was commissioned by the Magnificent Office of Saint George for the construction, construction and erection of a fortress or fortified castle in the town of Ajaccio de l’isle de Corse ”. (Translated from Italian).
The foundation of the Genoese city of Ajaccio dates back to 1492. Corsica was then under the authority of the Genoese Bank of Saint-Georges. The Milanese architect, Cristoforo de Gandino, is sent from Genoa to carry out the plans for the city. We then abandon the ancient episcopal city of Adjacium, too exposed to barbaric incursions as to epidemics due to stagnant water.
The first stone was laid in April 1492 on a promontory called Capo di Bolo on the site planned for a fortress. A fortified castle was then built on a peninsula allowing better surveillance of the gulf; it will be transformed, during the 16th century, into a citadel. At the same time, the city developed, which then housed seven hundred inhabitants. The Genoese houses are simple, with one story. The roof is slate and the facades are pierced with narrow openings. They were sometimes colored according to the Ligurian tradition (tinted in natural earth) or covered with lime. From the end of the 16th to the beginning of the 17th century, the construction of religious buildings followed one another: the cathedral, and the churches of San Rucchellu, Saint-Érasme (former Jesuit church) and Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The construction of Napoleon’s birthplace, rue Saint-Charles, began in the middle of the 17th century. Deed of foundation of the city: In the name of the Lord, Amen. Let all those who receive this document know the following: Messire Cristoforo de Gandino, architect, was commissioned by the Magnificent Office of Saint George for the construction, construction and erection of a fortress or fortified castle in the town of Ajaccio of the island of Corsica. (Translated from Italian).
In 1575, the Senate of Genoa granted to the city of Ajaccio a coat of arms “azure” to the silver column surmounted by the arms of Genoa, accosted by two white greyhounds “with the circular legend:” thus the Ajacciens towards the Republic of Genoa “.
In the first half of the 18th century, this coat of arms was changed as a sign of independence from Genoa.
Ajaccio , U Borgu
U Borgu is the suburb which extends outside the walls of the fortified city, along the road which leads to its main gate. It is representative of the urban development of the city of Ajaccio since the Genoese era.
Made up of a few houses and the large salt warehouse (a Saliniera), u Borgu experienced real development from the 17th century with the installation of fishermen and coral traders in “e Gallerie”. It is then called “the corailleurs’ quarter”. The San Rucchellu oratory (small Saint-Roch) was erected at the same time to protect the city from the plague. In the 19th century, the suburb extended to what is now Place Abbatucci and its limit is called “a Barriè” (the barrier): it is here that a guard kept watch over the entrances and exits of the city, be it people or commodities. The houses from the Genoese period, mostly on one floor, have since been raised. You can admire many votive statuettes placed above the doors to protect the homes. Wrought iron is used to embellish balconies and portals. At the end of the same century, some facades were decorated in trompe-l’oeil. In the rue Fesch, in the heart of Borgu, the Fesch Palace and then the Imperial Chapel were built in the 19th century.
Ajaccio in the 19th century
At the end of the 18th century, 5,000 inhabitants had difficulty living inside the ramparts in a city that had become too cramped. Three town planning projects will be implemented during the 19th century to improve the living conditions of Ajacciens and respond to the growth of the city.
In 1801, the “Extension and embellishment plan” proposed by Napoleon Bonaparte, at the time 1st Consul, marked the start of Ajaccio’s development. Miot, general administrator of Corsica since January 1801, had the ramparts demolished and charged the Ponts et Chaussées service with the water route. Place Bonaparte (now Place de Gaulle) was inaugurated in 1802. From 1782 to 1873, three botanical gardens were set up: the first at Les Salines on the property of Charles Bonaparte; the next one, known as “Jardin d’Acclimatation du Casone”, then under the authority of the Natural History Museum of Paris, was designed by Count Miot and allowed cultivation tests of tea, coffee, cotton and worms. silk. Finally, the “Botanical Garden of Padule” reinforces this desire to experiment with many plant species from all over the world. In 1826, were built successively: the prefecture, the town hall and the Saint-Gabriel theater where today “La Poste” is located, Cours Napoléon. The second plan, produced by the architect Padovani, was implemented in 1830. It accompanies the previous one by extending the Cours Grandval to the “Grotto” with the development of the square called, today, place d ‘Austerlitz or “Casone”. Two residential districts were created: that of King Jérôme in 1855 and that of Foreigners in 1860. Finally, the Jérôme Maglioli plan (1865) completed the urbanization of the city by building the train station and courthouse districts .
Ajaccio, quarter for foreigners
The city of Ajaccio, aware of the development of winter resorts, is known throughout Europe for its pleasant and always temperate climate. The English in particular, until then loyal to the Côte d’Azur, gradually fell in love with the imperial city and its exceptional sunshine (2,700 hours per year).
A luxury district, sheltered from the winds coming from the North and the East, developed then thanks to Count Bacciochi, chamberlain of the Emperor Napoleon III. On the other hand, Miss Campbell, a Scottish aristocrat, settles permanently in the city and invites its many relations to stay there. She built the Anglican Church for English visitors who came on vacation. The accommodation capacity is increasing thanks to the construction of several hotels including the prestigious “Grand Hôtel Continental”, “Cyrnos-Palace”, “Hôtel Germania” and cottages on the Cours Grandval. Ajaccio’s notoriety intensified with the publication of the bi-monthly “L’Ile de Beauté”, a real promotional campaign launched by the tourist office. In 1890, the city received nearly a thousand winter tourists.