Corsica (French: Corse, IPA: [kɔʁs]; Corsican: Corsica; Italian: Corsica) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia. Corsica is one of the 27 régions of France, although strictly speaking Corsica is designated as a "territorial collectivity" (collectivité territoriale) by law. As a territorial collectivity, it enjoys greater powers than other French régions, but for the most part its status is quite similar. Corsica is referred to as a "région" in common speech, and is almost always listed among the other régions of France. Although the island is separated from the continental mainland by the Ligurian Sea and is closer to Italy than to the French mainland, politically Corsica is part of Metropolitan France. It was once briefly an independent Corsican Republic, until being incorporated into France in 1769. Napoléon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio, where his ancestral home, Casa Buonaparte, is also located. Corsica is also the birthplace of the singers Tino Rossi and Alizée.
Corsica has been occupied continuously since the Mesolithic era. It acquired an indigenous population that was influential in the Mediterranean during its long prehistory. After a brief occupation by the Carthaginians, colonization by the ancient Greeks and an only slightly longer occupation by the Etruscans it was preempted by the Roman Republic and became with Sardinia a province of the Roman Empire. In the 5th century, the Roman Empire collapsed and the island was invaded by the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Saracens and the Lombards. Pepin the Short, king of the Franks and Charlemagne's father, expelled the invaders and granted Corsica to pope Stephen II through the exarchate of Ravenna (756), which was the starting point of the temporal power of the papacy. The Genoese took possession of the island in 1347, and governed it until 1729 - interrupted only by a brief occupation by forces of a Franco-Ottoman alliance in the Invasion of Corsica (1553). In Corsica, vendetta was a social code that required Corsicans to kill anyone who wronged the family honor. It has been estimated that between 1683 and 1715, nearly 30,000 out of 120,000 Corsicans were killed in vendettas, and between 1821 and 1852, no fewer than 4,300 murders were perpetrated in Corsica.
In 1729 the Corsican Revolution for independence began. After 26 years of struggle the independent Corsican Republic was formed in 1755 under the leadership of Pasquale Paoli and remained sovereign until 1769 when it was conquered by France. The first Corsican Constitution was written in Italian (the language of culture in Corsica until the end of the 19th century) by Paoli. He proclaimed that Italian was the official language of Corsica. The Corsican Republic was unable to eject the Genoese from the major coastal cities. Following French losses in the Seven Years War, Corsica was purchased by France from the Republic of Genoa in 1764. After an announcement and brief war in 1768-69 Corsican resistance was largely ended at the Battle of Ponte Novu. Despite triggering the Corsican Crisis in Britain, whose government gave secret aid, no foreign military support came for the Corsicans. Corsica was incorporated into France in 1770, marking the end of Corsican sovereignty. However, nationalist feelings still run high. Following the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Pasquale Paoli was able to return to Corsica from exile in Britain. In 1794 he invited British forces under Lord Hood to intervene to free Corsica from French rule. Anglo-Corsican forces drove the French from the island and established an Anglo-Corsican Kingdom. Following Spain's entry into the war the British decided to withdraw from Corsica in 1796. Corsica then returned to French rule. In 1814 near the end of the Napoleonic Wars the island was briefly occupied again by British troops. The Treaty of Bastia gave the British crown sovereignty over the island, but it was later repudiated by Lord Castelreagh who insisted that the island should be returned to a restored French monarchy.
After the collapse of France to the German Wehrmacht in 1940, it came under the rule of the Vichy French regime, which was collaborating with the Nazis. Prior to its use as an aircraft base to attack German occupied Italy, it was liberated by Italian and Free French Forces shortly after Italian armistice in 1943. During World War II, the island was nicknamed "USS Corsica" as the United States military established 17 airfields on Corsica which were the bases for American tactical bomber groups attacking targets in Italy. One of the pilots who was stationed here was Joseph Heller who would use many of his wartime experiences in the creation of his famous novel Catch-22.
The island has a natural park (Parc Naturel Régional de Corse, Parcu di Corsica), which protects thousands of rare animal and plant species. The park was created in 1972 and includes the Golfe de Porto, the Scandola Nature Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and some of the highest mountains on the island. This park is protected and cannot be reached on foot, but people can gain access by boat from the village of Galéria. Two endangered subspecies of hoofed mammals, the mouflon (Ovis aries musimon) and Corsican red deer (Cervus elaphus corsicanus) inhabit the island; the Corsican red deer is endemic.
Corsica is the least economically developed region in Metropolitan France. Tourism plays a big part in the Corsican economy. The island's climate, mountains and coastlines make it popular among tourists. The island has not had the same level of intensive development as other parts of the Mediterranean and is thus mainly unspoiled. Tourism is particularly concentrated in the area around Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio in the south of the island and Calvi in the northwest. In 1584 the Genoese governor ordered all farmers and landowners to plant four trees yearly; a chestnut, olive, fig and mulberry tree. Many communities owe their origin and former richness to the ensuing chestnut woods. Chestnut bread keeps fresh for as long as three weeks. Corsica produces gourmet cheese, wine, sausages, and honey for sale in mainland France and for export. Corsican honey, of which there are six official varietals, is certified as to its origin (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) by the French National Institute of Origin and Quality (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine - INAO).