If-Castle and Frioul Islands
During a visit to Marseille in 1516, King François I assessed the strategic importance of the site and ordered the construction of a fortress. The fortress soon changed roles and became a prison.
Masses of Protestants were thrown into the dungeons from the 17th century. However, the fortress provided rather decent living conditions to wealthy prisoners. The most famous prisoner is undoubtedly José Custodio Faria who Alexandre Dumas immortalised in the Count of Monte-Cristo.
You can still see the hole which Edmond Dantès carved out of the wall in one of the cells. After housing insurgents in 1848 and Communards in 1871, the fortress lost its prison status and opened to the public in 1890.
You can now visit the Château d’If on the regular ferry route
The Frioul archipelago
The Frioul archipelago is the limestone shadow off the coast of Marseille and is made up of four islands: Pomègues, Ratonneau, If and Tiboulen. The islands’ strong personality and stormy outline shaped by the mistral reflect their age-old history. In the quaternary they were attached to the continent and from 6BC their history began at the same time as Massalia.
Original floral species flourish in the site’s arid microclimate. In total, 200 plant species can be observed and some are protected. Many seabirds also flock to these islands including the yellow-legged gull or “gabian” in Occitan.
Frioul Island is home to many rocky inlets, beaches and sandy creeks: Maison des Pilotes (sand), Havre de Morgiret (pebble and rock), Calanque de Saint Estève (sand), Plage du Débarcadère (pebble).
The City of Marseille has owned the Frioul archipelago since 1971. The village of Port Frioul was founded in 1974: there are some restaurants, a harbour with a capacity for 700 moorings and it welcomes throngs of holidaymakers. The sea bass farm on Pomègues island has been recognised as the number one organic farm in the world.
The archipelago is part of the Calanques National Park and is a protected site where you can experience the real Mediterranean.
The Caroline Hospital
For centuries the islands were places for Mediterranean sailors to stop, whether they were warriors or adventurers. Their health aspect later played a major role in the protection of Marseille. At the beginning of the 19th century the architect Michel-Robert Penchaud built Hôpital Caroline on Ratonneau Island to treat patients with yellow fever.
A renovation project carried out by the association Acta Vista is currently under way.
Useful Frioul Island - If shuttle information