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As France’s second busiest passenger port, after Calais, the dynamic city of Bastia remains lively year-round, and offers a wonderful welcome to Corsica. While it may not have the relaxed charm of its long-term rival Ajaccio, and is home to fewer people, it’s much larger to stroll around, and has the feel of a genuine lived-in city that refuses to sell its soul just to please the tourists.

Bastia’s historic core consists of two distinct neighbourhoods: Terra Vecchia, surrounding the small original harbour; and Terra Nova, the high-walled citadel above. Although those names mean ‘Old Land’ and ‘New Land’, the hilltop fortress is actually much older, built from the 15th century onwards as the stronghold of Bastia’s Genoese overlords. What’s now the Terra Vecchia replaced the tiny fishing village below with a tangle of alleyways, an ensemble of splendidly top-heavy tenement blocks, and some fine churches.

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