Corsica is administratively divided into the departments of Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud. The port city of Porto-Vecchio is located in Corse-du-Sud. Although it is a small town, with just over 11.000 inhabitants it is already the third largest city in Corsica. Not to mention the summer months: In the holiday season, the number of residents increases to up to 50.000 people.
Porto Vecchio in the morning light
Porto-Vecchio is located in the estuary of the Stabiacciu River, at the end of the eight-kilometre-long gulf of the same name. The port was already well known in Roman times.
Porto-Vecchio - Estuary of the Stabiacciu River
The settlement of the region around Porto-Vecchio began in pre-Christian times. According to legend, Greeks founded Portus Syracusanus in 883 BC. A few centuries later, the port fell to the Romans.
Much later, the Genoese bank Casa di San Giorgio bought the island. In 1539, in Porto-Vecchio, among other places in Corsica, the Institute had a four-bastion fortress built to protect the town and its port. The city developed from the fortress 70 meters above the bay, which was destroyed and rebuilt four times between 1540 and 1589.
Those who did not die in the attacks died of malaria in the swampy surrounding area. New settlers moved in; the settlement was not abandoned. After that, little happened for a long time. In 1769, for financial reasons, the Republic of Genoa was forced to cede Corsica to France.
In the past, the city was economically dependent on the salt pans, fishing and agriculture. Another line of business was the extraction of cork.
Since the 1960s, when the malaria mosquitoes were eradicated, the city has lived mainly from the tourism boom. Porto-Vecchio and Calvi, in north-west Corsica, are the island's main tourist centres.
The Marina of Porto Vecchio
The marina of Porto-Vecchio
The city is also the third largest ferry and cargo port in Corsica and a destination for small cruise ships.
Porto Vecchio - Azamara Onward in the Port de Commerce
points of interest & sights
Porto Vecchio immediately captivates visitors thanks to its scenic location. The city itself is hardly blessed with sights. Half a day is enough to get a comprehensive impression.
Porto Vecchio - Panorama
Porto Vecchio - Panorama
Citadel and Porte Genoise
The few attractions of Porto-Vecchio are all in the upper town. Impressive sights are the massive city fortifications with the citadel and the Porte Genoise. The most important bulwark of the citadel is called "Bastion de France". It can be visited for a small fee.
Porto Vecchio - Bastion de France
In the past, the Porte Genoise was the only access to the city and the port. The massive city gate had a cannon for defense purposes and turrets to ward off attackers.
Porto-Vecchio - Porte Genoise seen from the city center
Porto Vecchio - Porte Genoise
Opposite the town hall rise the San Giorgio Bastion and the Palace Bastion. The former was named after the Genoese bank. The Palace Bastion originally served as a lodging for soldiers and their officers, as well as a line of defense. On the opposite side of the street, a memorial commemorates the fallen of both world wars and the other military entanglements of the colonial power France.
Porto Vecchio - Town Hall
Porto Vecchio - War Memorial
Saint Jean Baptiste Church
The Roman Catholic Church in the heart of the upper town is dedicated to John the Baptist. It was built from granite stones on the foundations of a previous church in the second half of the 18th century. The baroque-style building has an elegant bell tower.
Porto-Vecchio - Church of Saint Jean Baptiste
Porto-Vecchio - Bell Tower of Saint Jean Baptiste
Due to the constant lack of money, work on the church has dragged on to the present day. The facade is unfinished. The frescoes inside the church were created in the 1960s. In 2004 they were restored. The imposing organ dates from the 1990s. On the other hand, the altar and the tabernacle are old. Both are made of Carrara marble and date from the 19th century.
The Place de la République, the central square of the old town, was laid out as a cinder square in the 19th century; it was paved with stones in the 1980s. Around the square are the church, cafes, restaurants and shops.
Porto-Vecchio - Place de la Republique
Porto-Vecchio - Place de la Republique
Behind the Port de Commerce stretches the area of the salt pans. Salt production in Corsica dates back to ancient times. A commercial use can be proven in the 14th century. At that time, several saltworks were created to preserve perishable food. After the Genoese came to power, salt production was banned because of their interests in the salt trade. Violations of the Genoese salt privilege were punishable by death. In 1795 it was again possible to produce high quality salt at reasonable costs in Porto-Vecchio. Salt production continued until the late 20th century. Today the salt flats are closed. The site is privately owned and cannot be visited.
The Porto-Vecchio salt pans
Porto-Vecchio - the salt pans
Porto-Vecchio for cruise ship guests
Cruise ship passengers are lucky when their ships dock at the Port de Commerce of Porto-Vecchio. The city is primarily the destination of small cruise ships. For the year 2023, four attempts by Azamara-ships reported. Porto-Vecchio is a ferry port. Ferries to/from Civitavecchia, Naples, Sicily, Marseille, Nice and Toulon dock regularly.
Cruise ship guests often book half-day tours to the 608 meter high Col de Larone. On the bus tour you will see the east coast of Corsica, the Bavella mountain landscape and the largely untouched hinterland of Porto-Vecchio.
Good to know:
A footpath of almost two kilometers leads from the pier to the city. The path climbs relatively steeply to 70 meters in altitude. The effort of climbing up to the upper town can be avoided. At the end of the approximately 500-boat marina, Av. Georges Pompidou branches off. Behind the Marina wait at Av. Georges Pompidou small, electrically-powered minibuses. These buses take visitors free of charge up to the old town, which is enclosed by the fortress walls. The comfortable and pleasant walk from the cruise ship to the bus stop takes fifteen minutes.
Porto Vecchio - waterfront promenade
The Office de Tourisme provides useful information about the town and the surrounding area. It is located near the town hall on Av. du Maréchal Leclerc.