A busy port during the Roman era, Calvi takes its name from the Calvus – ‘bald’ rock that would come to form the foundations of the Citadel. Standing proud on its headland, any visitor to Calvi must visit this thirteenth century fortress, which has lost none of its fascination over the centuries, and remains a remarkable example of architectural and cultural heritage. Within the walls you’ll find cobbled passages tightly packed with houses, dominated by the Cathédrale Saint Jean-Baptiste, which stands at the highest point of the Citadel. Every week here there are concerts of “Chansons polyphoniques”, Corsican polyphonic singing. The best way to see the rest of the Citadel is to simply follow the ramparts, which offer some magnificent views across the bay to the mountains of la Balagne.
It is also reputedly the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, born during the Genoese occupation of the town, the remains of his house can still be seen today, commemorated by a plaque in the Citadel and statues scattered throughout the town.
The Citadel itself is a magnificent backdrop for the red-tiled town below, with its palm tree-planted harbour and lively restaurants lining the promenade. Quai Landry links the marina and the port, populated by bustling bars and cafés, this is the best place to get a feel for the town and watch the world go by. Past the promenade, a glorious pine forest – la Pinède – stretches along the six kilometres of gently shelving beach bordering Calvi bay, underlining the frontier between land and sea.
During the height of the summer season, Calvi sports a lively atmosphere at night time, with an array of quayside cafés, restaurants and several clubs. The well-known bar “Chez Tao” is not to be missed; set in the Citadel, it’s often open until dawn, music drifting out over the bay until sunrise. In recent years Calvi has reinvented itself as Corsica’s capital of culture. The town plays host to many music festivals during the summer including the “Jazz Festival” in June and “Calvi on the Rocks” in July. An impressive art exhibition also takes place in the Citadel from June to September. Whether you are meandering along the old cobbled streets of the Citadel or having a drink in a café on the Quai Landry, Calvi will leave you refreshed and inspired to see more of this beautiful island.