Bonifacio (Corsica), France
The scent of wild maquis carries you to aromatic Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Set off the southeastern coast of France and separated from Sardinia by the Strait of Bonifacio, the rugged island was fought over for much of its millennia-long history; a particularly contentious period of Genoese rule led to a short-lived independent state before it became a French territory in 1769. Corsica was an infamous haven for smugglers and pirates; indeed, bands of brigands were still roving there as late as the last century. Today, the island shows its wild side in its jagged mountains, steep gorges, and forests of native Corsican pine. The town of Bonifacio is a medieval beauty and particularly striking to behold from the sea, with its imposing citadel precariously perched atop the white limestone cliffs. Look for the legendary Staircase of The King of Aragon cut directly into the rock face; if physically able, climb the 189 steps for spellbinding, 180-degree views. Bonifacio’s cobblestone streets and piazzas are abuzz with craft shops, bars and brasseries, while fine-sand beaches and hidden pirate coves are plentiful.