Calvi, Corsica's slice of the Riviera, has been described by author Dorothy Carrington as "an oasis of pleasure on an otherwise austere island." Calvi prospered by supplying products to Genoa; its citizens remained loyal supporters of Genoa long after the rest of the island declared independence. Calvi also claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. During the 18th century the town endured assaults from Corsican nationalists, including celebrated patriot Pasquale Paoli. Today Calvi sees a summertime invasion of tourists, drawn to the 6-km (4-mile) stretch of sandy white beach, impressive citadel overlooking the Old Town, lively restaurants, and buzzing nightlife.
The major shopping streets are rue Clemenceau and boulevard Wilson. Look for pottery, for which the region is known. Hand-forged Corsican knives are another specialty item, as are regional charcuterie, cheeses, jams, and wines.
This Genoese citadel is perched on a rocky promontory at the tip of the bay. An inscription above the drawbridge—civitas calvi semper fidelis ("The citizens of Calvi are always faithful")—reflects the town's unswerving allegiance to Genoa. At the welcome center, just inside the gates, you can watch the video on the city's history, book an English-language guided tour, or follow the self-guided walking tour.
The austere facade of the 13th-century catehdral of John the Baptist is worth a visit to see its alabaster Renaissance baptismal font decorated with angel heads and rows of pews where the city's chaste upper-class women used to pray.