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La Marana
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Étang de Biguglia : Click to enlarge picture
Traditionally the summer haunt of prosperous Bastia families, the sixteen-kilometre littoral known as LA MARANA lies a few kilometres south of Bastia. The beach here offers shady pine woods, restaurants and bars, though the sea is quite polluted. The whole of this part of the coast is divided into holiday residences or sections of beach attached to bars, the latter freely open to the public.

Fed by the rivers Bevinco and Golo, the Étang de Biguglia is the largest lagoon in Corsica, and one of its best sites for rare migrant birds. In summer, reed and cetti warblers nest in the reeds, while in winter, Biguglia supports a resident community of grey herons, kingfishers, great crested grebes, little grebes, water rails and various species of duck.

The Roman town of MARIANA, just south of Étang de Biguglia, can be approached by taking the turning for Poretta airport, 16km along the N193, or the more scenic coastal route through La Marana. It was founded in 93 BC as a military colony, but today's houses, baths and basilica are too ruined to be of great interest. It's only the square baptistry, with its remarkable mosaic floor decorated with dancing dolphins and fish looped around bearded figures representing the four rivers of paradise, that is worth seeking out.

Adjacent to Mariana stands the church of Santa Maria Assunta, known as La Canonica. Built in 1119 close to the old capital of Biguglia, it's the finest of around three hundred churches built by the Pisans in their effort to evangelize the island. Modelled on a Roman basilica, the perfectly proportioned edifice is decorated outside with Corinthian capitals plundered from the main Mariana site and with plates of Cap Corse marble, their delicate pink and yellow ochre hues fusing to stunning effect.

Marooned amid muddy fields about 300m to the south of La Canonica stands San Parteo, built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries over the site of a pagan burial ground. A smaller edifice than La Canonica, the church also displays some elegant arcading and fine sculpture – on the south side, the door lintel is supported by two writhing beasts reaching to a central tree, a motif of oriental origins.

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