The Genoese set up a colony in Ajaccio in the 12th Century. Unfortunately, the site they chose was malarial and it was abandoned in the 15th century. In 1492 the town was moved to the rockier headland and the first fortification was built. Around 100 families were moved to Ajaccio (including the Buonopartes). The new town was set out in a series of roads around the Citadel.
Initially the Citadel was more of a castle keep, but in 1502 the whole town was enclosed in a wall and during French occupation (1553-1559) the castle was extended into a Citadel of the kind popular in France at that time.
In 1559 Ajaccio was returned to the Genoese and the Citadel was extended once more with a wide moat and a massive bastion to the landward side. The town was fought over often in the next two hundred years with four separate attempts to seize direct Corsican control (in 1729, 1739, 1763 and 1768). After the last attempt the Genoese handed the island over to the French and withdrew.
The French continued to have trouble keeping Ajaccio and for many years it was in Corsican control. In both 1792 and 1793 Napoleon Bonaparte born just down the road in Ajaccio town attempted to seize the Citadel on behalf of France. On both occasions he failed and the second time his family were forced into exile in France.
France eventually took full control of Corsica, but even today there is a strong nationalist movement. The Citadel cannot be visited as the military are still in residence, but a good view can be had of the exterior of this very strong Citadel.
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