Written by Liam Hetherington on 01 Mar, 2011
Upon its foundation in 1566 the new city was given its name: Humilissima Civitas Valletta, "the Most Humble City of Valletta". From the very beginning however the name was flawed. It was never imagined to be humble. For starters, it took the name of one…Read More
Upon its foundation in 1566 the new city was given its name: Humilissima Civitas Valletta, "the Most Humble City of Valletta". From the very beginning however the name was flawed. It was never imagined to be humble. For starters, it took the name of one man, Jean Parisot de la Vallette. De la Vallette, a French nobleman, was Grand Master of the Military Order of the Knights of St John, a brotherhood of Catholic knights who ruled the islands of Malta and Gozo. He had led the knights in fierce resistance the previous year during the four-month Great Siege of Malta when they found themselves vastly outnumbered by an Ottoman invasion force (30,000 Turks against 700 knights and 8,000 local Maltese irregulars). When, against the odds, the Turkish forces were driven back tribute and treasure flowed into this fly-speck in the Mediterranean from grateful monarchs across Europe. This was used to plan a new capital city for the Knights. The tip of the Xiberras peninsula was walled off, with mighty bastions and formiddable defences. Valletta was to be a fortified redoubt, yes, but the space between the walls, less than a square kilometre in area, was then filled with an elegant grid of streets and squares, with ornate baroque churches and towering baroque palaces. Courtly knights from the aristocratic families of Europe trod its boulevards. In the 19th century Benjamin Disraeli described it as "a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen". The end result was in no way Humilissima, ‘most humble’; instead it acquired a new moniker: Superbissima - ‘most proud’. Valletta is a small city. It stretches maybe 1 km to the north-east from the landward Great Ditch to Fort St Elmo at the tip of the peninsula. It is perhaps half-that wide. There is a main spine running for most of its length and the terrain falls away ahead of it and to either side, resulting in a streetscape of long sloping roads and sudden flights of stairs breaking up the route. And everywhere the blue waters of the encircling harbours (the Grand Harbour to the south-east and Marsamxett Harbour to the north-west) can be spotted twinkling beyond the buildings. Yet it packs a fair amount of interest into a small area. The Grand Master’s Palace, headquarters of the Order until Napoleon Bonaparte’s seizure of the island in 1798, still conjures up the majesty of the Knight’s era, though it cannot even attempt to match the extreme ornamentation of the mighty Co-Cathedral of St John with its glittering treasures and surprisingly colourful tombs. These were born of the Knights’ victory against the odds during the 1565 Great Siege. Memories of another triumph against the odds can be found at the National War Museum which chronicles the far-longer siege Malta survived during the Second World War. As a lonely British naval base stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean it held out implausably against the combined navies and air forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy from 1940 to 1943. This history of standing up to would-be conquerors is yet another reason for this tiny capital city to be proud.More than these individual attractions though Valletta is all about its own individual atmosphere. It has a very harmonious air about it. Partly this is because most of the buildings are all constructed from the local fawn-coloured limestone. And partly because it was built within a short space of time. The regular grid of streets was largely devised by just one man, Francesco Laparelli, and many of the churches and palaces situated within it were created by just one other man, Gerolamo Cassar. As such the city is a snap-shot of urban planning and architecture from the second half of the 16th century. Little wonder that UNESCO have inscribed the entire city as a World Heritage Site.Wandering the streets reveals a typically Maltese environment. Buildings are dotted with box-like enclosed and shuttered balconies. Corners are marked with baroque statues of saints and madonnas. Walls are the original sun-bleached stone. Strollers can climb to the tops of the impregnable encircling walls in many places. Pleasant and tranquil spaces like Hastings Gardens or the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens give enviable views out over the harbours. Yet it has the faded mournfulness of a 1960s British provincial town too, a testament to the 150 years this island was ruled from London. Outside the walls the Floriana bus terminus is crowded with yellow past-their-best British Leyland and Bedford Dominant coaches. The streets are dotted with red pillar postboxes and red phoneboxes. Dated shop signs advertise stores like ‘Amalgamated Haberdashers (est. 1910)’ or ‘Pearl’s Gowns’. The grandest and most modern-looking shop in town is probably the local branch of Marks & Spencers. A party town Valletta ain’t. The nightlife takes place further up the coast in the resort-towns of Paceville and Sliema. However the city does not necessarily shut down when dusk falls any more either. I was impressed by the number of really good restaurants we were able to find. Plus, once it gets dark we felt that we almost had the city to ourselves. Day-trippers from the resorts had headed back to their hotels. Cruise-party tours ("If it’s Tuesday it must be Malta") had retreated back to their cruiseships for dinner and may have already set off for their next destination. What this means is that rather than basing yourself elsewhere in the island and visiting Valletta for a day it makes sense to base yourself in Valletta and visiting the rest of the island from there. Certainly the hub of Malta’s public transport infrastructure is the Floriana bus terminus. Most routes start and end there, radiating out like the spokes of a wheel. To get from the south of the island to the north one would need to change in Floriana anyway. The buses are an experience by themselves, dated yellow ‘60s throwbacks emblazoned with religious exhortations. They are also dirt cheap. A taxi from the airport to Valletta would cost €15. One of the regular buses costs just €0.47. You can get practically anywhere in the island for under a Euro. The one downside is that the hoteliers of Valletta seem to still have a long way to go to equal the resterateurs. Close
Written by hagnel2 on 25 Mar, 2005
Malta is an archipelago of three islands situated in the eastern Mediterranean; its location between Sicily and the African coast has made it a strategically important territory for centuries. The islands were once part of the Roman Empire and St Paul is said to…Read More
Malta is an archipelago of three islands situated in the eastern Mediterranean; its location between Sicily and the African coast has made it a strategically important territory for centuries. The islands were once part of the Roman Empire and St Paul is said to have converted its inhabitants while shipwrecked here.
In 1530, the King of Spain gave Malta to the Knights- Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, a religio – military order that cared for pilgrims in that city from the 11th century. They had their headquarters in Rhodes but were ousted from there by an ottoman invasion in the year 1522
In 1565, Knights of St John withstood another siege by the Turks but this time they held the enemy at bay. Control of the island passed to the British Empire in 1814. Malta served as a Naval base in WW2 suffering through a blockade and five months of bombing raids. King George recognized the bravery of the Maltese people by awarding the George cross to the island; the cross is eight pointed and can be seen on the islands flag. Malta became an independent democratic republic in 1974.
Today’s port Valletta is the country’s capital. It is named after a heroic knight who successfully led resistance against the ottoman fleet.
Valletta contains superb architecture and fortifications and interestingly the town’s layout was designed to allow natural breezes to waft through it. One of the unique aspects of this town is the fact that at the end of almost every Valletta Street or Side Street, there is a glimpse of bright blue water eloquently framed in golden stone. To savor this town to the full wander its streets, squares and gardens. Everywhere you walk, you can’t help but absorb its historic atmosphere, beginning of course with the encircled honey coloured wall fortifications.
We walked from the port to the town. There are many taxi touts waiting to whisk you to the center but we always feel we can acclimatize ourselves by walking. The narrow sidewalks and the steep climb to the town gave us quite a work out but we enjoyed seeing the ancient buildings along the quayside. Many of the buildings were being used as small workshops, wine bars, storage, and cafés. The area is gritty and shabby. Most of the doors are small but the crumbing stone facades give the place character certainly one can feel the areas history. It took about thirty minutes of negotiating the steep sloping streets before we reached Merchants street where a daily flea market was in progress. We didn’t linger at the packed market and continued to stroll.
As we were climbing more steep steps we met a friendly Maltese gentleman who greeted us in English, in the course of conversation, he advised us to check out the gold in the jewelers and cautioned us to buy only from the accredited shops. Up to that point, we did not intend to buy, but on our walk, we peered in windows and saw some exquisite filigreed work and some beautifully crafted chains. We ended up buying two 22k gold necklaces, one medallion and a pair of earrings for a fraction of North American prices. They accepted Amex. I must add we never buy costly jewelry when abroad but this stuff was a steal; our subsequent Canadian appraisals bore this out.
The cities main shopping area is Republic Street it is also the historic center. The central area is the only place that is flat - a respite from climbing. We stopped at one of the many cafes for a coffee and pastry, browsed for souvenirs for our grandchildren then continued along to St Johns Square to visit St Johns Co Cathedral definitely Valetta’s jeweled centerpiece.
The plain unremarkable façade belies its outstanding interior and if like us you only have the time to visit one church, I strongly recommend this one. Those people who may not relish the ornamentation of ecclesiastical buildings will find it impossible not to admire the craftsmanship and artistry. The cathedral was built between 1573-1577, some additions were made into the 18th century but the ceiling painted in 1661 by Mattia Preti an Italian artist is a masterpiece depicting the life of John the Baptist.
The sense of contrast with its plain façade is definitely overwhelming. Arabesque intricate carving covers every inch of the wall space. The floor studded with inlaid marble tombstones in green, red, and yellow gleam and shine. Each stone is imprinted with the coat of arms of the person beneath and inscription of their valor. There are many side chapels dedicated to each of the seven nations. National sections of the order had their own chapels in which they prayed and heard mass all the chapels are masterpieces of art. Twelve of the grand masters are entombed in the crypt.
In the cathedral’s museum, you will find Carravaggio’s painting of Saint John the Baptist. The colours of the painting and the expressions on the faces are awesome; most chilling is the young girl waiting with outstretched arms holding a bowl for the head of the saint. Also in the museum are beautiful Flemish tapestries and exquisitely illustrated manuscripts.
We left the cathedral reluctantly, there is too much to see in this cathedral the mind and spirit are overwhelmed. But time was pressing on and we walked back to the ship via the city gates. We didn’t have time to wander the lovely gardens to the right of the gates but we hope to remedy that on our next trip. Valetta is an easy port to explore independently and the Grand Harbour is simply awesome; do get up early in order to experience its majesty from the sea.
Cathedral St John: admission. One Maltese Lira. Open 9:30-12:30. -1:30pm-4: 30pm Mon- Fri. Sat.9am: -2pm
Tourist Info. Freedom Square. Open. 09:00-17:00 Mon- Fri. Sat.-09:00-1700. Sun 09:00-12:30. Phone. 21 2377 47. Bus Station. Located outside City gates. Visit Malta bus tours the island and costs in the region of two Maltese Lira.
Ships Tours: Mosta & Rabat half day tour$40
Malta Panoramic tour half day $39
Fernandes 6hour cruise along the coastline on a Turkish Gullet. $90
Written by marif on 20 Dec, 2004
Defeated during the Turkish siege in 1522, the Knights of St.John, known as the Knights Hospitallers were forced to leave the island of Rhodes. After 214 years residing in Rhodes where they developed a great military and naval base, the knights were in search of…Read More
Defeated during the Turkish siege in 1522, the Knights of St.John, known as the Knights Hospitallers were forced to leave the island of Rhodes. After 214 years residing in Rhodes where they developed a great military and naval base, the knights were in search of a new home. King Charles V of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor was generous enough to give the knights refuge in Malta with permanent sovereignty over the whole island. The Act of Donation, a historical document of great importance can be seen inside the National Library in Valletta.
Upon their arrival in Malta in 1530, the knights opted to settle on one side of the Grand harbour, an area which was already inhabited to some extent by the local population. Here they built their first residences, a fortress and a stretch of defensive walls. This area later known as the 'Three Cities' became the seat of the Order. However, 35 years later, the Turks who ousted the knights from Rhodes besieged Malta. For 4 months, the knights hand in hand with Maltese civilians fought a bloody defensive war led by the 70 year old Grand master Jean de La Valette. Although the knights were finally triumphant, the losses in terms of deaths and destruction were huge.
Wary of what may happen in the future and fearing that the Turks would return to avenge the defeat, the knights aided financially by European rulers and the Catholic church set on building a new city where security and comfort would have priority.
Jean de La Valette laid the foundation stone of the city in March 1566 but it was not until February 1569 that Grand master Pietro del Monte, La Valette's successor established a commission to draw up plans and designs for the new city. Francesco Laparelli, an expert on fortifications and a leading urban designer of the time was sent by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to review and report on the design of the city. The plan was based on a grid of streets and a ring of fortifications. Named Valletta after the Grand master Jean de La Valette who died peacefully while the project was taking shape, the Renaissance-style city grew rapidly.
In 1571, the knights transferred their seat of power from the 'Three Cities' to Valletta. The initial architectural work of Laparelli was taken over by a Maltese architect and military engineer Girolamo Cassar who carried on where Laparelli left off. Among the first buildings to be erected were the Cathedral of St.John in 1573, the hospital of the Order in 1573 and the palace of the Grand master.
Designed by Girolamo Cassar, the Cathedral of St.John has a plain modest exterior but once inside, a wealth of artistic treasures and decorations await you. Most of the artistic works inside are attributed to Mattia Preti, a 17th-century Italian artist who spent 30 years of his life decorating the churches of Malta. Enter the cathedral's oratory to see the most valuable and wonderful sacred painting in Malta: Caravaggio's 'Beheading of St.John'. Having just been meticulously restored in Florence, this priceless treasure is a landmark of 17th-century sacred art. There are also many artistic works inside the cathedral's museum, the highlight being 'St.Jerome', another masterpiece by Caravaggio. Upstairs, the museum houses sacred vestments and handmade tapestries of great beauty.
The Grand master's palace is a huge two-storey building that occupies a whole block and borders four of Valletta's principal streets. One of its fine arched entrances leads into Neptune's courtyard, named after a bronze statue of Neptune which together with 5 marble coat of arms adorn the courtyard. The other opens into Prince Alfred's courtyard named in memory of Prince Alfred who visited Malta in 1858. Apart from these two courtyards, most of the palace is kept closed indefinitely. However, you can visit the excellent Armoury housed on the ground floor at the back side of the palace. Highlights inside include the Grand master's carriage, the full suit of armour of Grand master Alof de Wignacourt, two showcases containing Turkish weapons and a wide impressive array of decorated helmets, breastplates and back plates. Today a section of the Grand master's palace is used to house the Maltese Parliament and the office of the President.
The hospital of the Order, built on the eastern tip of the city was used by the knights to treat the sick. The former hospital's main ward was transformed into the Mediterranean conference centre, an excellent setting for conferences, concerts and banquets. Part of the hospital houses the Malta Experience, an audio-visual walk along Malta's past with multi-lingual commentary available on headphones. Don't miss it!
In Valletta, there are numerous other residential structures, churches and forts that were constructed during the era of the knights from 1530 to 1798. Most noteworthy is Fort St.Elmo constructed at the very tip of the city overlooking the Grand harbour from the east and Marsamxett harbour from the west. The defensive walls which surround Fort St.Elmo are a beauty of unique architecture though they require urgent restoration. The National Museum of War housed in a section of the fort is worth visiting for its excellent war memorabilia and authentic furnishings.
The majestic auberges which were the former living quarters of the knights have Baroque architectural details in stone that are amazingly beautiful. Don't miss the wonderful exterior architecture of the facade of Auberge de Castille which is used today to house the office of the Prime minister.
Written by MichaelJM on 23 Jan, 2005
Our day trip to Valletta was made courtesy of the "boneshaker" buses, and once we arrived, it was really easy to walk around the town. Leaving the bus station behind, we headed for City Gate (sounding more inspiring than it really is) and then into…Read More
Our day trip to Valletta was made courtesy of the "boneshaker" buses, and once we arrived, it was really easy to walk around the town. Leaving the bus station behind, we headed for City Gate (sounding more inspiring than it really is) and then into Freedom Square (best described as a paved area surrounded by shops), which was rebuilt after its destruction in World War II. Not really a place of celebration, but more a large parking lot!
Next we head off to the Upper Barakka Gardens. These formal gardens were created in the 1660s, and after several modifications, they are now a haven in an otherwise noisy city. There’s a stunning view from the terrace out to the three cities and the harbour, and if you’re brave enough to look over the edge, you’ll realise how high up you are. Take time to examine the many sculptures and enjoy the colourful flora.
The town has been developed on a grid-like basis, and following the Triq ir-Repubblika, or roads running parallel to it, will take you in the direction of Fort Elmo. It’s virtually impossible to get lost with the town’s layout, so we followed our instincts, and if we saw an interesting building, we headed for it. En route, we saw signs of a bustling market, but on closer inspection, it was a fairly tatty set of market stalls selling second-hand goods, cheap clothing, and obviously copied CD's. Yes, yet another Maltese disappointment.
St Paul’s Shipwreck Church was dedicated to the alleged shipwreck of St Paul in 60 AD (a befitting name, don’t you think?) and is so unremarkable on the outside that we almost missed it. It is said to be one of Malta’s oldest churches (built in the mid-1500s), and we entered by a small side entrance. This small church is rammed full of icons and artwork, and I don’t think there’s a square inch that hasn’t been decorated in some way. The dark church’s lighting seems to be by way of its silver chandeliers, and the small chapels are delights, with their paintings and frescoed ceilings. The priceless relic of a bone from St. Paul’s wrist is on display, but you will need a certain amount of imagination to identify it.
St John’s is perhaps the most bizarre cathedral I’ve ever seen. It is baroque in the extreme, and the arched cloister around the nave is heavily carved. Make sure you give detailed attention to these, as there’s a mass of gruesome skeletons and hidden skulls giving symbolic warning to non-believers with triumphant messages for the pure and unsullied. I could not accuse St John’s of being understated!
St John’s Square has the most cannons I’ve ever seen outside of a museum, and it’s here that you can rent a horse and carriage for a tour of the town. We didn’t bother, but the sight and sound of the horses brought some added interest to Valletta.
A new bus service that gives you a good orientation of what Malta is like has just been introduced by the Malta Bus Transport Association. Aimed primarily at tourists and called 'Visitmalta', this service follows two routes, both operating from the Sliema ferries bus terminus…Read More
A new bus service that gives you a good orientation of what Malta is like has just been introduced by the Malta Bus Transport Association. Aimed primarily at tourists and called 'Visitmalta', this service follows two routes, both operating from the Sliema ferries bus terminus which you can reach from Valletta by frequent scheduled Bus 61 or 62. Once you are in Sliema, you can choose either Route 505 which takes in the north section of the island or Route 506 which covers the towns and villages in the south. The bus ticket for either trip can be bought from the driver or from the ticket booth at the Valletta City gate bus terminus and costs £M2, equivalent to about US$6.
Besides being both enjoyable and interesting, the trip which lacks a much needed commentary runs along streets which contain the best sights and attractions. The bus stops at numerous locations where tourists are given the opportunity to visit places of interest and then continue on the next 'Visitmalta' bus. It is advisable to buy a good street map either from a stationery store or from the Tourist Information Office housed inside the City gate arcades at Freedom square, Valletta. (Tel: 00356 21237350 or 00356 21237328).
Six buses run daily along each route, following this timetable:
ROUTE 505 departure times:
ROUTE 506 departure times:
1. One of the best places to stop along the north route is Mdina, Malta's preserved medieval capital where the historic atmosphere can be tasted in its ring of thick defensive walls, its narrow meandering walkways, its tiny squares and in the numerous old buildings that are tucked away within the most unexpected locations. The Baroque 17th-century Mdina Cathedral, work of the renowned Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa has splendid architecture inside and out. Its magnificent dome and ornate towers can be seen from miles away while its interior houses numerous paintings and frescoes attributed to the Sicilian painter Mattia Preti. The Cathedral museum, housed inside a medieval building across the square is a treasure trove of ecclesiastical works of art which include silverware, religious vestments, paintings and engravings by Favray, Goya and Van Dyck together with a unique collection of coins. For information about the cathedral or its museum, tel: 00356 21454136. More splendid architecture adorns Cathedral square. Have a look at the 14th-century Norman house whose double-arched windows and doorways are architecturally unique. Wander along more narrow streets and alleys until you reach Bastion square from where the breathtaking uninterrupted view reaches as far as Valletta's coastline.
If you still have time before taking the next 'Visitmalta' bus, stroll along the winding streets of Rabat (Mdina's suburb) until you reach St.Paul's Catacombs, a large network of underground burial chambers which are more than 1500 years old. Move down the steep steps to the third level and see rows of tombs and small side chapels cut out of limestone rock where mourners prayed for deceased relatives (recommended time is 2 hours).
2. Another recommended stop along the north route is the village of Mosta. You can't miss the Mosta Dome, a huge church with an imposing Greek-style architecture . Built in 1860 to replace a smaller church, this structure of immense proportions was designed by the Maltese architect Giorgio Grognet. Its impressive interior has numerous works of art that you shouldn't miss. Enter the vestry to see the huge bomb that pierced the dome and crashed to the floor inside the church in 1942 without exploding. Both the church and the congregation had a miraculous escape, as can be witnessed from the numerous photos on display in the vestry. (recommended time is 1 hour).
3. If you opt for the south route, stop at Marsaxlokk, Malta's main folklore and fishing village. Stroll along the 1km long coastline and see rows of colourful traditional Maltese fishing boats anchored to the pier and groups of fishermen preparing or mending their nets. If you happen to come here on a Sunday, the fishing market along the coastline provides a fascinating insight into the traditional fishing industry while the adjoining flea market is the best place to make a good bargain (recommended time is 1 hour).
4. The Cottonera area along the south route offers visitors the chance to get the best experience of Malta's maritime past. Known as the 'Three Cities' because it is made up of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, this is the place where the knights built their first homes or auberges. Built on a promontory stretching into the harbour, Fort St.Angelo in Vittoriosa has been restored and today looks much the same as it did in the early days of the knights. The impressive facades of Auberge de France and Auberge d'Angleterre, two of the first residential homes used by the knights are graced with ornate doorways and decorated windows while the restored 16th-century Inquisitor's palace which you can visit has wonderful Italian-style architecture. The Vittoriosa Church of St.Lawrence which overlooks the Grand harbour has a wonderful interior richly decorated with numerous paintings, sculptures and artistic works.
If you still have time, continue towards the small town of Senglea. Don't miss climbing to the 'vedette', a turret with six windowed facades from where the view of the Grand harbour reaches as far as the eye can see. Another highlight here is the Church of Our Lady of Victory which was reconstructed after World War II when it was completely destroyed. The church houses numerous paintings by Maltese artists and priceless artistic statues. There's not much to see in Cospicua, a hilly harbour town with steep narrow streets, alleys and steps. But it's worth having a look at the Church of the Immaculate Conception which boasts numerous artistic works in silver and a number of beautiful paintings by Maltese and Italian artists (recommended time is 2.5 hours).
For more information about 'Visitmalta' buses, tel: 00356 80072393.
Less than 8kms northwest of Malta, the sister island of Gozo, much smaller and less densely populated is a haven for those who want to escape for a day to enjoy the greenery and relaxed atmosphere of small secluded villages, serene countryside and rocky seashore.…Read More
Less than 8kms northwest of Malta, the sister island of Gozo, much smaller and less densely populated is a haven for those who want to escape for a day to enjoy the greenery and relaxed atmosphere of small secluded villages, serene countryside and rocky seashore. A very efficient day and night ferry service links the two islands. From the ferry, a stone's throw away, you can see the tiny deserted island of Comino whose crystal clear surrounding sea is often exploited by snorkelers and scuba divers.
From Valletta's City gate bus terminus, Bus 45 reaches the ferry terminal at Cirkewwa, now under reconstruction in about 1 hour. The bus trip gives passengers the opportunity to pass through the village of Mosta which is renowned for its huge Rotunda church. It continues through the seaside fishing village of St.Paul's Bay before making its way through the picturesque village of Mellieha.
Even before the ship reaches the small harbour of Mgarr in Gozo, you already have the opportunity to enjoy typical Gozo scenery: green hills, church steeples, white cliffs and numerous typical fishing boats anchored alongside the Mgarr pier.
From Mgarr harbour, take the frequent bus to Gozo's capital Victoria where most historic attractions are concentrated. On the way, it is advisable to stop for a historic preview at 'Gozo Heritage', a 20 minute audio-visual tour of the island's history and prehistory, complete with light and sound effects. In the adjoining souvenir shop, you can see local craftsmen at work. On reaching Victoria's bus station, head towards the main square lined with residential buildings and shaded with old trees. The main square, officially called Independence square but colloquially known as 'it-Tokk,' is the venue for a crowded daily outdoor market where fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and souvenirs are displayed for sale.
In another square south of Independence square, St. George's Basilica built 4 centuries ago but enlarged and restored several times houses numerous artistic works worth seeing. The highlight is Mattia Preti's painting 'St.George and the Dragon' above the high altar. From here, walk along narrow meandering streets towards the Citadel, a ring of thick defensive walls constructed around a hill from where the view of Gozitan church steeples, domes and towers is unforgettable. Enter the nearby 17th-century cathedral dedicated to the Assumption. Adorned with numerous priceless paintings and works of art, this is one of Gozo's highlights you shouldn't miss. The dome which gives an impression of immense height is just a trompe l'oeil, a flat painting attributed to the Sicilian artist Antonio Manuele. The adjoining Cathedral museum houses numerous ecclesiastical works of art which include silverware, church vestments and a unique bishop's carriage. Downhill from the cathedral, the Museum of Archeology provides information about the Ggantija Temples, one of the world's oldest buildings. You can also see a vast exposition of Carthaginian and Roman remains together with numerous stone carvings.
From Victoria's bus station, you can take a bus to Ta' Pinu, a 20th-century church which has replaced a small chapel since the 1920s. The elaborate interior sculpture in stone is wonderful; more wonderful is the architecture of the slender free-standing bell tower. The church is a pilgrimage site visited by the locals all year round. If you still have an appetite for church architecture, visit the Church of St.John the Baptist in the village of Xewkija. Built between 1951 and 1971, it is a circular colossal stone structure of immense proportions. You can't miss it; its imposing dome is seen from everywhere, even from Malta's north towns and villages.
If you want to relax away from attractions and sights, why don't you take a bus to the coastal village of Xlendi? The narrow bay, lined with typical village houses, hotels, restaurants and outdoor cafes is a top venue for swimming and sunbathing. Better and more picturesque is Dwejra Bay, a peaceful shallow lagoon protected from the open sea by a stretch of cliffs. A natural arch carved out of the rocks called the Azure window connects the lagoon with the sea. You can swim out through the arch to the open sea or you can take a boat trip around the splendid coastline nearby. Another beach resort which was recently developed into a top tourist venue is Marsalforn. Stroll along the wonderful promenade lined with pubs, restaurants and souvenir shops or venture further west to reach the Qbajjar salt pans, a place where sea salt has been produced since the times of the Romans.
Before taking the ferry back to Malta, be sure to taste Gozo's unique delicatessen. Called 'gbejna', it is a popular variety of local goat's milk cheese deliciously sprinkled with black peppercorns. Or why don't you try the Gozitan cheesecakes, stuffed with ricotta and excellent with a cup of espresso or capuccino? A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay produced from Gozo's fertile vineyards is perhaps the best product to take back home.
Written by ygubbins on 14 Apr, 2004
I would highly recommend that anyone visiting Malta spend a day in Valetta. This is an amazing city full of interest. It is the seat of the Maltese government and also is the headquarters of the Order of Malta. It is possible to walk around…Read More
I would highly recommend that anyone visiting Malta spend a day in Valetta. This is an amazing city full of interest. It is the seat of the Maltese government and also is the headquarters of the Order of Malta. It is possible to walk around Valetta in a few hours and this can be very enjoyable; however, I recommend hiring a horse and carriage, as the driver will be able to tell you all manner of interesting things. I loved the visit to an old hospital of the Knights Hospitaller, which doubled as an air-raid shelter during World War II. There are numerous cafes to take a break in and enjoy a coffee. Malta is a popular area for setting films also. Most people my age will know that some of “Gladiator” was filmed in Valetta by the ancient walls, and the filmmakers also used some of the local carriage drivers for charioteers in the Colosseum! Close