The best is left for last- or in our case- Valletta, capital of Malta. Valletta is named after its founder, the respected Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. Started in 1566, Valletta was completed, with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in the astonishingly short time of 15 years, even more remarkable is considering the fact that mechanical tools did not exist at the time and the whole city was built entirely by hand. Built on a peninsula between two natural harbours , the city sits perched on higher ground. Its streets were aligned in a grid-like layout, being wide and straight, which is said to have been chosen to allow the sea breeze to provide respite from Malta’s hot summer weather.
One of it’s biggest landmarks is the La Valletta- the Parliament building, which was the official residence or Jean Parisot de la Valette from 1571 to 1574. The Order of St. John ruled the fortified town until 1798 when it was raided by the French. Two years later Britain declares Malta as it’s colony. The country remained under British flag until 21 September 1964, when they declared their independence, but La Valletta is the capital since 1874. The city was bombed during the Second World War and suffered quite huge damages.
We, unlike any normal tourist, decided to start our tour of the city backwards and the first stop was St. Elmo fortress, which rises above the two harbours and controls their entrance. It had important role in the Great Siege of Malta from the Ottomans. Unfortunately, the fort is closed for visitors, thanks to the the continuing since 2009 restoration.
We were hugely disappointed that couldn’t see it inside, but the frustration was smoothed by the War Museum, located outside the fort and has rich collection depicting Malta’s military force through the two World Wars. The museum is made in one of the fort’s towers and the setting was impressive.
After we learned as much history as possible, we decided to get lost in this “big” city and to let ourselves by guided by chance. This was the right decision, since after a short walk we reached the Upper Barracks Gardens – splendid place, almost at the end of the city, just outside the walls. They were built in 1661 and were private gardens of the Knights. Nowadays everyone can enjoy them and marvel at the gorgeous views they offer. You can see the three neighbor cities and the main port. Here is also one of the main attractions in Malta – the Cannon salute, at 12 AM and 4 PM. While we were there the one at 12 didn’t happen, so we had to come back later.
Thanks to a very useful phone application- Triposo, we found out a lot of interesting facts about the gardens. It showed us that there are another gardens , Lower Barracks Gardens, and we immediately headed that way. They weren’t as beautiful as the Upper, but had lovely views as well.
The most wonderful thing in Valletta is that wherever you look you’ll see amazing architecture and charm. Every alley is like a jewel, keeping small part of a time long gone. Even if you don’t visit any museum, it’s more than enough to sit in a cafe ( preferably outside the main streets), to stop and eat an ice cream or just to look around you. You’ll fall in love.I completely ignored some of the not to so loving aspects like the parked cars and the garbage, because of views like these:
Our next stop was the Palace Armory and, as a bonus, the State Apartments. Armory is rather large, with rich collection and exhibits from the Knights ruling and private armors of some of their most extinguished brothers.
The State Apartments are a museum and parts of them are used by the President and his administration. It’s quite amusing to find out that the only thing that separates you from the President’s cabinet is a little rope and even more stunning was the guard, who excused himself when he stepped in my photo 🙂
We finished our cultural program and dived into exploring the small alleys. To say goodbye Malta and Valletta saluted us. I salute you , too:
I want to end this day with a wish – may all of you to come and visit this magical island. The atmosphere is incompatible and you can spent as much time as you can spare. The best way is to have at least two weeks, but I’m still not sure that it would be enough. I’m certain that I wasn’t able to express my euphoria in words, but you must feel and touch this island by yourself. For our one week we just scratched the surface… There were many sites left unseen, many emotions and experiences waiting… Malta, wait for us, we will be back