Before leaving for Malta, make sure you can not see everything at once. Without this premise, a stay in the Maltese archipelago that includes the islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino and Cominotto, is an inevitable leap in time to know this mini-nation in the center of the Mediterranean, still poised between modernity and past.
Weekend in Malta
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Eccoci davanti al Palazzo del Gran Maestro in cui oggi risiede il Presidente della Repubblica Maltese: è il nostro primo giorno a Malta dedicato alla visita di La Valletta. A lunedì con il nostro racconto. Chi viene? . . . #cittameridiane #italiantravelblogger #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #intour #malta #visitmalta #inmaltawithus #maltatourismauthority #sanvalentino2019 #instatravel #tourism #tourist
What immediately wins is the extreme hospitality and kindness of everyone, whether they express themselves in Malti, the local language that is a mix of Punic, Arabic, English and Sicilian, whether they do it in English or very often in Italian for to meet you or simply for a greeting.
Our journey starts from the capital, Valletta, a fascinating city and Unesco heritage to discover step by step between the steep climbs and descents towards the sea, alleys and palaces with the gallarija, the verandas from which the ladies could observe the road without exposing themselves.
And right in the heart of the city, in the neighborhood dedicated to San Domenico, one of the boutique suites of The Vincent Hotel (84, Old Hospital Street – firstname.lastname@example.org – thevincenthotelmalta.com) has welcomed our nights within the walls of an ancient palace a stone’s throw from Republic Street, the main street.
Valletta was founded, after the siege of the Turks in Malta in 1565, by the French leader Jean de la Vallette, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers, the legendary religious-chivalric order that remained on this island from 1530 to 1798. While it was Italian architect Francesco Laparelli who signed the design of the fortress on the network of underground ditches and the dense interweaving of streets that gave life to the city planned to be a table and built in just five years.
To Renzo Piano, on the other hand, is owed the new Parliament building, the entrance to the fortified ramparts and the restoration of the Opera House, demolished by the bombs of the Second World War. During the last conflict, in fact, Malta was involved in the clashes of the Mediterranean Sea: bombing struck the port and also the old part, to which today a careful restructuring has restored integrity.
The entrance gate is the City Gate where there is a bus terminal that leads to every corner of the island. The old and picturesque exhibits of the British automotive industry have been permanently replaced by modern buses so finding one to photograph is difficult. We have “unearthed” it on the seafront of Marsaxlokk but in the center of Valletta there is no longer any trace.
A few steps from the terminal the monumental Triton Fountain in travertine and bronze sculptures, with plays of lights and water, symbol of the city of Valletta and restored to its former glory thanks to the restoration work of last year.
In the center of Valletta you jump from one masterpiece to another, but it would be unforgivable to return home without visiting the Concathedral of St. John, commissioned by the powerful Order of the Knights of Malta and entirely paved with polychrome marble tombstones of the Warlords of the ‘600.
The great church is a triumph of the Baroque and full of treasures such as the frescoes on the vault and the paintings on the altars by Mattia Preti. Inside, you remain dumbfounded by the opulence and grandeur of the spaces.To see one by one the eight chapels dedicated to the nations of the Order that are decorated with Florentine-style high reliefs in gold.
The splendid paintings by Caravaggio, the Decollation of Saint John the Baptist, one of the absolute masterpieces of the Lombard artist and the only one with his signature, and the San Girolamo, placed opposite each other, are kept in the Oratory of the very rich Concattedrale and in front of which you remain open-mouthed!
All the nearly 400 churches between Malta and Gozo on the bell tower show two clocks: one marks the real time, the other, painted, marks an imaginary time, so the devil gets confused and does not know what time the mass is. This rule removes that of the concattedrale that on the austere façade, as opposed to the rich interior in military Baroque style, shows off two other quadrants that show the day of the week and of the month.
Do not miss the visit to Casa Rocca Piccola, where the marquis Nicholas de Piro in person leads to the discovery of this sixteenth-century villa-museum in which still lives an aristocratic Maltese family with lots of precious collections of traditional clothing and costumes of the 18th and 19th century, documents, medals, snuffboxes, books and paintings.
Unexpected interior garden, a rarity in Valletta due to the lack of water: it is the kingdom of Kiku, the beloved macaw parrot blue and yellow that speaks with guests. From here you can also access the underground, ancient wells that were converted into anti-aircraft shelters during the Second World War.
Small but precious is the Archaeological Museum housed in the Auberge de Provence with the wonderful little sculpture of the sleeping Venus or Sleeping Lady, which evokes the cult of the Great Mother, and the other sculptures found in the megalithic temples. But not only. The Maltese rulers have had so many: Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Aragonese up to the Knights, the French and finally the British who left Malta in 1974 after the proclamation of the Republic. And if of all the most important and that has left more traces was the domination of the Knights, in the halls of the museum you can admire very interesting pieces that reveal the history in the most ancient times.
Walking in the tangle of streets you come across the magnificent Auberges of the Knights of Malta with the rich portals and decorations of friezes, bas-reliefs and statues carved in local stone, globigerina, ideal because just extracted from the quarry is soft and easy to work while then, in contact with the atmospheric agents it becomes harder and more compact, taking on the color of honey.
In the most important one, that of Castille and Leon today the Government is based, while in the main one that towers over St. George’s Place and that was the Palace of the Grand Master resides the President of the Republic, today Mrs. Marie Louise Coleiro Preca. The Auberge of Italie hosts the MUZA, the national community museum which exhibits over 20 thousand works.
To wait for the Saluting Battery and the sunset we sit on a bench facing the sea of the Upper Barakka Gardens while in front of the Fort St. Angelo, the Three Cities and all the Grand Harbour are lit up with colors. The walls, monuments and palaces of Victoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, the ancient “three cities” separated by real fjords, are full of charm and history.
(End of part one)