St Florent is situated at the base of Cap Corse which is often referred to as an island within an island, a maquis covered peninsula just 10km wide and 40km long.

Cap Corse's history sets it apart from the rest of Corsica

The Cap Corse was inhabited by various ancient civilisations (including the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans) but it became significant in the 10th century when Pisan lords arrived and established fiefdoms in the region. The next century saw Genoese settlers drawn to the vineyards and once the Genoese defeated the Pisans, the feudal lords of Cap Corse became important allies of the new rulers. Until the French arrived, two families ruled and fought over the peninsula, the da Gentile in the south and the da Mare in the north. The Genoese ignored the place so the lords were able to control their profits to a greater extent than elsewhere on the island. They were well positioned for trading with French and Italian ports and by the 17th century Cap Corse was economically the most successful region in Corsica. Piracy was a problem which is why there are thirty fortified towers built around the coast, providing refuge for the local villagers in times of trouble.

The corniche road that circumnavigates the Cap Corse was only built in the mid 19th century, so it remained a place apart, accessible only from the sea. As a result, they were the only merchants and sailors on an island of mountain dwellers, and as they had no overland access to the rest of the island, when the agricultural economy declined (Phylloxera struck in 19th century) hundreds of Capicursini were forced to emigrate, many of them travelling to the Americas to seek their fortune in sugar, coffee or gold (a third of all Puerto Ricans are of Corsican descent, and a president of Venezuela was third generation Capicursini). These emigrants often returned once their fortune was made and built the fancy Tuscan style villas, Spanish haciendas or American colonial palazzi that can be seen in the villages along the cap.