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.
Thanks to its strategic position on the northwest coast of Corsica, Calvi has a turbulent past having been invaded on numerous occasions which is evident in the town’s rich architectural and cultural heritage. The earliest found remains of settlers in Calvi date back to the Neolithic period, however its first recorded history is from around 1000BC when Romans introduced agriculture to the island and in fact the town’s name comes from Calvus meaning ‘bald’ rock that would come to form the foundations of the Citadel.
Although a busy port in Roman times, Calvi was just a small fishing village under the Pisans (1077- 1284) but its importance grew once the Citadel was built by Giovaninello de Loreto in 1268 following disputes between the island’s warlords. The Genoese, already positioned at Bonifacio, established trading links and 14 years later they defeated the Pisans at Meloria and moved into Calvi. The Citadel (along with the rest of the island) surrendered briefly to the Aragonese and there were also two failed attempts to take the town by the Franco-Turkish allies. However, until the 18th century Calvi remained under Genoese rule; the island’s uprising led by Pascal Paoli between 1729 and 1768 was not supported by Calvi and even today the town has a much more cosmopolitan feel than many others on the island. In 1794 Paoli took his revenge on the town in the Napoleonic wars with the support of his English allies and it was during heavy fighting here that Nelson lost his right eye.
Legend has it that Christopher Columbus was born in the town during the Genoese occupation and the reputed remains of his house can still be seen today in the Citadel, commemorated by a plaque. There is also a large statue at the foot of the Citadel and various other monuments scattered throughout the town.