Set on a hillock overlooking a beautiful deep blue bay, Porto Vecchio, 15 miles (25km) north of Bonifacio, was rated by Scottish author James Boswell as one of "the most distinguished harbours in Europe". It was founded in 1539 as a second Genoese stronghold on the east coast, Bastia being well established in the north. The site was perfect; close to the unexploited and fertile plain, it benefited from secure high land and a sheltered harbour, although the mosquito population spread malaria and wiped out the first Ligurian settlers within months. Things began to take off mainly thanks to the cork industry, which still thrived well into the twentieth century. Today, a third of Corsica's wine is exported from Porto Vecchio, but most revenue comes from visitors. Around the centre of town explore the well-preserved fortress and the small grid of ancient streets backing onto the main place de la République. East of the square you can't miss the Porte Génoise, which frames a delightful expanse of sea and salt pans and through which you'll find the quickest route down to the modern marina, lined with cafés and hotels.