Discovery of the remains of the Dame de Bonifacio indicates this area was inhabited in Neolithic times. Bonifacio's first appearance was as the town of the cannibalistic Laestrygonians in Homer's Odyssey.

The south of the island has its own turbulent history

There was a village here in Roman times but in 828AD Count Bonifacio of Tuscany built a castle on the peninsula which marked the birth of Bonifacio. It suffered continuous pirate raids but due to its position was coveted by various powers - most notably the Pisans, the Genoese and the Aragonese. In 1092 the Pisans took over and in 1187 the Genoese massacred them and replaced the population with Ligurian families who developed the town into a mini republic with its own laws. For this reason Bonifacio remained faithful to the Genoese.

In 1528, the plague decimated the town leaving only 700 survivors from a population of 5000 and then further trials in 1533 came in the form of invasions by the French army and the Turks. Sampiero Corso (Corsican freedom fighter) rescued the town and there then followed a brief period of French rule that came to an end in 1559 when it was returned to Genoa under the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis.


Bonifacio enjoyed relative prosperity until the late 18th century when the French gained control of the whole island. Bonifacio lost all of its privileges, merchants drifted away and the town suffered a commercial decline, only reversed with the advent of tourism.

Founded in 1539 by the Genoese, Porto Vecchio has grown to become Corsica's third largest town with a population of over 9,000 people. In its infancy, the town was abandoned many times when the inhabitants were stricken with malaria and remained so until 1564, when Sampiero Corso chose Porto Vecchio for his new base from which to liberate the island from the Genoese. However, the town did not really begin to thrive until the malaria infested areas were transformed into salt marshes in 1795. This was the one lasting thing accomplished by King George III, King of England, Scotland and Corscia. Many islanders still call it 'Salt City'; the 900 tonnes produced annually caters for most of Corsica's needs (mostly preservation of meat) although these days, Porto Vecchio prefers to refer to itself as the 'Pearl of the South' - a claim which is hard to dispute.

Capula is a site occupied from the Bronze age until 1259. In the 18th century Levie was the capital of Alta Rocca, its Genoese families prospering from the fertile countryside. Zonza has hosted two royal guests in its past. King Théodore of Corsica in 1736 and Mohammed V, sultan of Morrocco after he was deposed in a coup d'état in 1952 and escorted here by the French ministry of the interior. He and his family lived here for five months until the cold and snow drove them down to the relative warmth of Ile Rousse. L'Ospedale derives its name from a hospital (hospitum) set up in 1762 for Porto Vecchio's malaria victims, who took refuge here in the hot summer months. The hamlet of Bavella was built in the early 19th century for the inhabitants of the Conca commune who were granted the land by Napoléon III as a refuge from the summer heat of the lowlands.