Ajaccio is a French commune, prefecture of the department of Corse-du-Sud, and head office of the Collectivité territoriale de Corse (capital city of Corsica). It is also the largest settlement on the island. Ajaccio is located on the west coast of the island of Corsica, 210 nautical miles (390 km) southeast of Marseille.
The original city went into decline in the Middle Ages, but began to prosper again after the Genoese built a citadel in 1492 to the south of the earlier settlement. After the Corsican Republic was declared in 1755 the Genoese continued to hold several citadels, including Ajaccio, until the French took control of the island.
The inhabitants of the commune are known as Ajacciens or Ajacciennes. The most famous of these is Napoleon Bonaparte who was born in Ajaccio in 1769, and whose ancestral home, the Maison Bonaparte, is now a museum. Other dedications to him in the city include Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport.
Ajaccio is located on the west coast of the island of Corsica, 210 nautical miles (390 km) southeast of Marseille. The commune occupies a sheltered position at the foot of wooded hills on the northern shore of the Gulf of Ajaccio between Gravona and the pointe de la Parata and includes the îles Sanguinaires (Bloody Islands). The harbour lies to the east of the original citadel below a hill overlooking a peninsula which protects the harbour in the south where the Quai de la Citadelle and the Jettée de la Citadelle are. The modern city not only encloses the entire harbour but takes up the better part of the Gulf of Ajaccio and in suburban form extends for some miles up the valley of the Gravona River. The flow from that river is nearly entirely consumed as the city’s water supply. Many beaches and coves border its territory and the terrain is particularly rugged in the west where the highest point is 790 m (2,592 ft).
Napoleon Bonaparte (born as Nabulione Buonaparte) was born at Ajaccio in the same year as the Battle of Ponte Novu, 1769. The Bonapartes at the time had a modest four-story home in town (now a museum known as Maison Bonaparte) and a rarely used country home in the hills north of the city (now site of the Arboretum des Milelli). The father of the family, attorney Charles-Marie Buonaparte, was secretary to Pasquale Paoli during the Corsican Republic.
The city is, with Bastia, the economic, commercial and administrative centre of Corsica. Its urban area of nearly 90,000 inhabitants is spread over a large part of the Corse-du-Sud, on either side of the Gulf of Ajaccio and up the valley of the Gravona. Its business is primarily oriented towards the services sector.
The services sector is by far the main source of employment in the city. Ajaccio is an administrative centre comprising communal, intercommunal, departmental, regional, and prefectural services.
It is also a shopping centre with the commercial streets of the city centre and the areas of peripheral activities such as that of Mezzavia (hypermarket Géant Casino) and along the ring road (hypermarket Carrefour and E. Leclerc).
Tourism is one of the most vital aspects of the economy, split between the seaside tourism of summer, cultural tourism, and fishing. A number of hotels, varying from one star to five star, are present across the commune.
Ajaccio is the seat of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ajaccio and Corsica South. It manages the ports of Ajaccio, Bonifacio, Porto-Vecchio, Propriano and the Tino Rossi marina. It also manages Ajaccio airport and Figari airport as well as the convention centre and the Centre of Ricanto.
By road, the city is accessible from National Route NR194 from Bastia and NR193 via NR196 from Bonifacio. These two main axes, as well as the roads leading to suburban villages, connect Ajaccio from the north – the site of Ajaccio forming a dead end blocked by the sea to the south. Only the Cours Napoleon and the Boulevard du Roi Jerome cross the city. Along with the high urban density, this explains the major traffic and parking problems especially during peak hours and during the summer tourist season.
The city is served by an Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport which is the headquarters of Air Corsica, a Corsican airline. It connects Ajaccio to a number of cities in mainland France (including Paris, Marseille, Nice, and Brive) and to places in Europe to serve the tourist industry. The airline CCM Airlines also has its head office on the grounds of the Airport.
The port of Ajaccio is connected to the French mainland on an almost daily basis (Marseille, Toulon, Nice). There are also occasional links to the Italian mainland (Livorno) and to Sardinia, as well as a seasonal service serving Calvi and Propriano. The two major shipping companies providing these links are CNCM and Corsica Ferries.