Introducing Sartène (Sartè)
With its grey granite houses, secretive dead-end alleys and sombre, introspective air, Sartène has long been said to encapsulate Corsica's rugged spirit (French novelist Prosper Mérimée dubbed it the 'most Corsican of Corsican towns'). There's no doubt that Sartène feels a long way from the glitter of the Corsican coast; the hillside houses are endearingly ramshackle, the streets are shady and scruffy, and life still crawls along at a traditional tilt. It offers a much more convincing glimpse of how life was once lived in rural Corsica than do any of the island's more well-heeled towns.
Notorious for its banditry and bloody vendettas in the 19th century, Sartène has more recently found fame thanks to the annual Procession du Catenacciu, a re-enactment of the Passion that has taken place in the town every Good Friday since the Middle Ages. Barefoot, wearing red robes and cowled (to preserve his anonymity), the Catenacciu (literally 'chained one'; penitent) – chosen by the parish priest to atone for a grave sin – lugs a massive 35kg wooden cross through town in a re-enactment of Christ's journey to Calvary. View the cross and 17kg chain the pentinent wears inside Sartène's granite Église Ste-Marie.
Feel like seeing the area on horseback? Domaine de Croccano, 3.5km out of town on the road to Granace, is a lovely old farmhouse B&B surrounded by fields dotted with grazing horses. It runs various guided horse-riding rambles amid the maquis, all with stunnning views over Sartène and the sea. Sartène tourist office has a complete list of accommodation and activities in the area.
Don't leave town without stocking up on local cheese, sausages, cold meats, honey, olive oil and Sartène wines – we recommend a Saparale or a Fiumicicoli – at La Cave Sartenaise, an atmopsheric cellar with an old stone vaulted interior by the entrance to the Vieille Ville (Old Town).