Its history dates back to medieval times and granite buildings from the early 16th century still line some of the streets. One of the main incidents in the town's history was an attack by pirates from Algiers in 1583, after which 400 people were taken away. These attacks continued into the 18th century.
The town is centred on the Place de la Liberation (previously the Place Porta), at the edge of which is the church of Sainte Marie. The town allows good views across the valley. Sartene wine is appreciated by wine connoisseurs for its good quality.