A rugged, unspoilt region of France known as the scented isle, Corsica has a distinctive character moulded by centuries of invasion and occupation.
The Mediterranean island has also suffered three decades of political violence involving separatist paramilitaries.
Corsica is largely mountainous; high cliffs and rocky inlets characterise much of its coast. The interior boasts deep forests, glacial lakes, gorges, maquis-covered slopes and snow-capped granite peaks. Wilderness areas attract walkers and nature-lovers.
Calvi - a tourism hotspot on the north-west coast
Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the French, was born in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica's southern departement. The Maison Bonaparte in the town is now a museum. The island's architectural features include Genoese fortresses, watchtowers and baroque churches.
Local culture finds expression in folk music and handicrafts. The Tuscan-influenced Corsican language is taught in the island's schools.
The island is studded with standing stones and other monuments, evidence of human occupation in neolithic times. The Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans all left their mark. Vandals, Goths and Moors were among the later invaders.
The Genoese from Italy ruled Corsica from the 1400s-1700s, and occasionally came to blows with the local aristocracy, nationalists and the French. A nationalist rebellion led to the foundation of a Corsican republic in 1755. But independence was short-lived; the Genoese ceded the island to France, whose troops invaded in 1769.
Nationalist groups seek independence from France
Corsica is one of France's least-developed regions and receives large subsidies from Paris. Tourism is an important part of the island's economy, but large stretches of the seaboard remain undeveloped. Much of the population is concentrated in the main towns of Bastia and Ajaccio.
Separatist groups seeking greater autonomy for the island carried out bombing campaigns from the mid-1970s, often targeting police stations and administrative buildings. In 1998 France's top official on the island was assassinated.
A referendum organised by the French government to consolidate the two administrative divisions of Corsica into a single region with enhanced powers narrowly failed to win approval in 2003.
In March 2005 the main separatist faction - the FLNC-Union of Combatants - broke off an open-ended ceasefire that it had declared in late 2003. There was a spate of minor bomb attacks around the time of the presidential elections in April and May 2007.
- Territory: Corsica
- Status: Part of France, separatists seek greater autonomy
- Population: 260,000
- Regional capital: Ajaccio
- Major languages: French (official), Italian, Corsican
- Major religion: Christianity
- Monetary unit: euro
- Main exports: Cheese, fruit, wine, olive oil, tobacco
Corsica has a regional assembly - the Assemblee de Corse - which sits in Ajaccio. The regional prefect is the top representative of the French central government on the island.
The island is divided into two departments - Haute Corse and Corse du Sud. Each has an elected assembly, based in Bastia and Ajaccio respectively.
The regional networks of French public radio and TV provide programmes tailored for the island. Some programmes and news bulletins are presented in the Corsican language.