Malta in spring

Who I am
Martí Micolau

Author and references

Gone are the times when the Barbary pirates were rampant and Malta was the last obstacle to defend Christianity. Very ? changed, but the echo of those times has left its indelible trace, both in the toponymy and in the many military fortifications scattered around the island starting from Valletta. Now Malta? one of the capitals of Mediterranean tourism and a sense of peace and festivity predominates throughout the year.
In all its shades, the ocher color dominates. Ocher of the Maltese land. Ocher of the Maltese stone, is with which all the buildings are built, which on sunny days becomes blinding (therefore sunglasses mandatory!). What? stand out the colorful traditional wooden windows on the streets, of identical size, which seem a geometric decoration to the streets.
In short, the monotonous ocher and the bright colors, the intense traffic and the villages where peace reigns, fishing villages and coasts full of hotels.? A lot of contrasts, like any country overlooking the Mediterranean! But here does the inheritance feel strong? of the loyal British order.
I take you to discover its lively ferment and quiet corners, its profound history and its gaze to the future. Follow me, I'll show you what to see in Malta in 3 days in spring.

1 day

An obligatory starting point in Malta? its capital, Valletta, often the only center known to most. The city? takes its name from its founder Jean de la Vallette, grand master of the Knights of Malta after the Great Siege of 1565. the former capital; why? the peninsula in the center of the Grand Harbor was chosen, built from scratch and richly embellished and fortified. Ed? this is the impression it gives? today: a military citadel with mighty ramparts surrounding it but what? open to tourism.
The city? appears polished also for the appointment as European capital of culture 2018, as evidenced by the square in front of the city? with the fountain of the Tritons that shines as if it were new; from here you can take buses to reach all destinations or enter Valletta through the bridge and the door between the local stone walls. The light color of the stone? the one that dominates in the city; the same one used by Renzo Piano to build the new Parliament building, a very modern building which is therefore integrated into the context and opens Republic Street, full of shops.
Move ? easy why? Valletta ? really small and? composed of a few perpendicular streets that cross and go up and down? like a slide; at the bottom appears the blue of the sky and the sea.
Although I have been told that it can be visited in just one day, I believe there are many things to see in the city. We begin with the? ConCathedral of San Giovanni, a Catholic basilica with a triumphant Baroque style that celebrates the glories of the order of the Knights of Malta; they subsidized and embellished it, sometimes making the works come from France or Italy. The cosmopolitan character of the order is reflected in the cathedral and the history of Malta: the same 8-pointed Maltese star? a symbol of the 8 languages ​​spoken by the various Knights. Each nationality was given a side chapel of the church to decorate it, in order of importance starting from the altar, with that of the Italian, French and Aragonese languages ​​which are the most? rich. Their chapels, with the tombs of the grand masters carved in marble and wood, really leave you speechless! It impresses the same time with the stories of St. John the Baptist (protector of the order) painted by Mattia Preti against the dark background; but not ? nothing compared to the real treasure of the church, the two paintings by Caravaggio kept in the Oratory, with the writing St. Jerome and the famous Beheading of St. John the Baptist, an enormous work that steals all eyes. Are 2 of the 5 works of the painter's Maltese period, 15 months in which he succeeded? to be celebrated, then imprisoned and finally to incredibly escape to flee to Sicily: 100% Caravaggio!
I found the other cathedral, the Anglican one, closed after 15 pm; I must say many museums and churches on the island have limited openings, as if they were open to please you ... I didn't appreciate this at all! What? like the fact that they are expensive: go for 10? of the cathedral, but not the 12? of the palace of the Grandmasters with few rooms that can be visited or the 9? of the Casa Piccola Rocca where to admire the life of the nobility? Maltese.
This is why I decided to focus on outdoor beauties, such as scattered baroque decorations, fascinating decades-old signs and wonderful views. The pi? beautiful of all? certainly the panorama from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which faces the Three Cities? and the Grand Harbor with its arches enclosing a garden full of geraniums and palm trees, a must see in Malta. Right here you can? attend every day to a show not to be missed:? at 12? and? at 16? c '? the firing of cannons on the Port. ? crowded but worth it.
A few steps away, the Auberge of Castile now houses the Prime Minister; I don't think you can enter, but the baroque facade with the waving red and white flag and the two cannons? magnificent, both during the day and at night illuminated by the headlights. The auberge were the buildings where the Knights belonging to the same language resided and there are still 4 of them.
Another very beautiful view? L? nearby, on the bastion of San Michele at the entrance to the city: from the built garden, perfect for a quiet stop, you can clearly see the Piazzale dei Tritoni and - around the corner - the part of Valletta with the Anglican cathedral. The? Lower Barrakka Garden on the other hand does not? much ?.
As mentioned, there would be other things to see. For lovers of the 2nd World War you can visit the places where you? fought or the war cabinet where the English defense of Malta was organized; or through the "Malta experience", an audiovisual presentation, relive the 7000 years of the island's history.
In short, there are things to do: everyone choose the one that suits them!

2 day

What to see in Malta on day 2? There? spoiled for choice and for today I rely on an itinerary described by my friend Eliana on her blog, that is a path between the two historic towns of the island for a grand finale in nature.
By bus from Sliema I reach Valletta and from there. I look for the one who goes to Mdina, waiting a few minutes. Looking at the scoreboard? easy to understand which bus to take and from which shelter.
After having crossed flower fields closed by stone walls, in half an hour we are in the center of the island, at its closest point. high. Mdina, the city? silent,? the old capital of Malta and welcomes me as soon as I get off the bus with its white Arab walls? (after all "medina" in Arabic means walled city). In front of c '? an exotic garden a little neglected but which leads to the Mdina Gate, a splendid and solemn entrance to the city; beyond that, you enter another era! Totally stone buildings, carved portals, windows and balconies decorated in an exuberant baroque ... all strictly Maltese stone color that surrounds you, especially in the narrow streets. No wonder then that it was the set of many films, including Game of Thrones: this one? King's Landing!
The inhabited center? small, enclosed in the mighty walls on which? It is also possible to go up for free to have a view that reaches Valletta and the surrounding countryside, with the clouds that give me a heart-shaped gash; the wind blows strong: you feel that we are in the pi? high of Malta, even walking through the streets. What? doing,? you touch numerous monasteries, priories and chapels? why? here (as in neighboring Rabat) numerous religious orders had and are based: for this reason they call it the "silent city".
The heart of the town? certainly the Pjazza San Pawl (San Paolo) with the splendid Cathedral of San Paolo: after all, the Bible says that after a shipwreck, Saint Paul takes refuge? right here for 3 months. ? in a splendid baroque style why? the previous church - as well as other buildings - were destroyed by the earthquake of 1693. After that the Maltese nobles, who still live here, arranged and decorated their houses in the new style.
To enjoy the visit of Mdina you can? also take a carriage: while the horse trots through the alleys, the driver will do? as a guide revealing its secrets; I have not done it, but I enjoyed (or breathlessly) to chase it to photograph it in the most points? beautiful towns. Patience in the end? been paid off!
If wandering through the streets weren't enough, there are many places to visit, besides the churches, what for? inside they disappoint a little for their "poor" baroque; there are interesting museums, such as the natural history museum at the entrance, the cathedral, the Knights of Malta experience or the brand new Palazzo Falson. I was very intrigued by the latter, but the girl who answered me in Maltese, the wait and the 10? entrance made me desist. Better to continue!
Leaving the walls, yes? already? in Rabat (after all in Arabic it means "suburb outside the walls"), a much smaller country? extended of Mdina and with an equally historic heart. The Roman domus demonstrates this? In front of the Porta dei Greci (the other gate of Mdina, the one used by residents with cars). After all ? been the main human settlement of Malta since ancient times: first Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and finally the Romans. Of the domus not? a lot remained, apart from the marvelous mosaic floor of the peristyle and of an adjoining room and some fragments of a statue; so I understand the criticisms of the Italians on tripadvisor who pay 6? and they only see this. For? the billboards explain well all aspects of life and Roman houses, bringing you into the mentality? ancient. Who wants to see the Colosseum, go to Rome!
Crossing the street outside, take via San Paolo and enter the heart of the town; in fact on the city? Roman of Melita? was built in the Middle Ages Rabat, also all in local stone, but in a much more? spartan and popular. Here the decorations are more? rare, but the bright colors of the windows and doors stand out: blue, yellow, red and green are everywhere. ? a very Mediterranean touch that makes it look like an Arab country, but c '? a big difference: the many holy cards and religious newsstands that are located on street corners or outside homes. After all, Malta was the last bastion of Christianity? and you had to bring out even more? your faith! So wandering through the streets of Rabat can? give truly wonderful views and photos.
Passing in front of bars and restaurants is appetite; I like a British "fish and chips", but then I regret it and fall back on Maltese cuisine: spaghetti with rag? of rabbit, 9,50 ?. I'm afraid already? the rip off and instead comes a huge plate of spaghetti (unseasoned) with? over a lot of sauce and two huge pieces of rabbit!
I leave satisfied and reach the church of San Paolo, from the scenic square where the children play. Rabat? known above all for the catacombs, really numerous: those of Sant'Agata, of San Cataldo,? of San Paolo ...? it seems that it is right here that you take refuge? the saint in the Maltese living room and for this there? even Pope John Paul II came to pray (in the grotto of San Paolo). I would have liked to see those of Sant'Agata - the only ones internally frescoed - but in the afternoon I found them closed, so I turned to those of San Cataldo. I admit that I am not a fan of undergrounds and stones (and for this reason I have omitted the visit to the megalithic Unesco heritage sites), for? one is worth a visit.
As we leave, I notice that the sky begins to cloud over: let's take the bus and continue!
A few minutes away from Rabat c '? Dingli, a village built around its church that stands out from the houses. ? known for? for the surrounding nature, in particular the kilometer-long rocky cliff that rises above the Mediterranean Sea.
Via Panoramica runs along it and? I get off the bus. A strong wind from the sea greets me, with gusts that come and go. There? a nice sidewalk that allows you to take a nice walk:? one of the itineraries recommended by VisitMalta.
You have to get close to the edge to admire the view, walking among protruding rocks and flowers; not ? simple why? the gusts? risk throwing you off balance, but the view is worth it! Under the cliff c '? a very green strip of land with dry stone walls that delimit the fields and allow cultivation; from above they look like Picasso lines on the canvas. On the horizon, the blue of the choppy sea merges with the afternoon blue of the Mediterranean sky.
The recommended walk? kilometers long and touches several points: the Maltese weather center (with a bizarre shape), the church of Santa Maria Maddalena and then other chapels. Also for the strong wind, more and more? annoying, I stopped at the first two; however there was a wonderful view of the cliff that falls and is seen as white as the famous one of Dover. I imagine that on the contrary, from that point, the view left you speechless being able to admire the whole line of the Dingli Cliffs? For kilometers!
I go back along a low wall from which a carpet of yellow flowers appears; my attention flies to a lonely bench lying near the ridge, where people sit to contemplate the horizon: seeing it empty it seems like a dreamlike atmosphere, with the sun warming it and the sea that seems very close. Among other things, the island of Filfla is known in the background.
For? ? hard to resist the strong wind that dries your face, cos? I enter the nearby bar "The Cliffs" (what a fantasy!), today really full. Do you need a drink? To regain strength after this busy day. I would like to stay until sunset, to admire the sun that goes out in the sea (it must be wonderful!), But tiredness comes out strong. Not knowing where exactly the bus passes, I walk to Dingli, where is it? the terminus leading to Valletta. Didn't I notice that the bus chair was like this? quiet and comfortable! ;-)

3 day

Third and last day. There would be many places to see, such as the bays of the north part of the island, some with soft sand like Golden Bay. There? who recommended Popeye Village, the village where they filmed Popeye and now? an amusement park, but not? my kind of destination. A friend told me instead that she took the "sightseeing bus" that goes around the island, to be able to see everything very quickly, but even this is not for me: I prefer to see few things but well. I already have an idea ... I choose Marsaxlokk, located on the south coast at the bottom of the homonymous bay. From the emotion, as soon as I see the sea I get off the bus, but I immediately realize that? the neighboring bay of Birzebbugia! Here the low houses are beautiful, with the church spiers towering above them and a beautiful promenade, but it lacks magic; cos? on foot I do the 2km to overcome the hill, passing in front of the mighty Tower of San Luciano. Then there it is, Marsaxlokk, a splendid fishing village nestled at the bottom of the bay, with low houses with colored signs. The protagonists here are the "luzzu", the traditional colorful boats with the eyes of Osiris on the sides of the bow, real eyes carved and painted, inheritance? of the times of the Phoenicians. They are everywhere: hundreds in the water (obviously), but also on the dock to be painted or fixed. Their sparkling colors shine in my eyes!
For the rest of the village? gathered around its main square a stone's throw from the sea, with the church and tables on the opposite side; very Italian atmosphere! On the waterfront c '? a few stalls where everything is sold, but they tell me that on Sundays the fish market takes place with vendors who are arranged on both sides of the road showing all the catch of the night. Really very quaint!
The other days of the week, this season, an atmosphere of peace reigns. Maybe too much: I wanted to take a ride in luzzu but the only boatman I found replied that you could not go out to sea why? there were clouds ... but if they are few and soft, since the day? fantastic! Obviously he has no desire, so I just shoot at will? from the dock and then I stop to sunbathe.
This makes you hungry: in an atmosphere of tranquility? absolute I sit at the tables that are reflected in the sea that reminds me of Port de Soller in Mallorca. The specialty? here? fish and the many restaurants, one next to the other, offer it in every way, but I opt for a specialty? that I haven't tasted yet: pastizzi, puff pastries stuffed with pur? of peas or ricotta that the Maltese eat for breakfast (but how do they do it ?!). I admit I was skeptical, but they are good, especially the one with cheese; with a good beer they go down? that ? a pleasure!? If asked "what to see in Malta?" I would certainly mention Marsaxlokk!
A few minutes away from here c '? the St. Peter's Pool, a fabulous inlet of crystal clear water that? a summer paradise. But the weather doesn't? still so? hot: back on the bus, towards the Three Cities ?! With "Three Cities?" we mean the 3 centers that are reflected in front of Valletta and the Grand Harbor, arranged in a "u" shape: Senglea and Vittoriosa with Cospicua behind them. Often overlooked, they are a glimpse of Maltese daily life and therefore I cannot miss them.
Conspicuous? the "P? extended, but also the most? destroyed by the Great Siege and the World War, so I admire the imposing Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception from the bus. My destination? Vittoriosa, the cradle of civilization? Maltese since ancient times. I go down to the small sloping square and immediately notice the more style? resigned with respect to the capital. Some old people are chatting at the bar table in front of me and I don't see any indication of where to visit. I know that on the tip of the peninsula c '? Forte Sant'Angelo, but wandering through the streets of the ancient palaces and auberge? Not even the shadow.
Then I go down towards the port, where the baroque Church of San Lorenzo stands out: this s? that you see! Unfortunately ? a mass in progress, so I continue walking near the moored boats, with the sun already? touches the roofs of Senglea in front of me. What a magnificent view! Arrival in front of the Maritime Museum, where c '? a trendy bar next to abandoned buildings; this ? the real periphery of Valletta!
I retrace my steps and decide to reach Senglea on foot; ? a nice piece why? I have to go back to the bottom of the peninsula and then cross the bridge, skirting the entire marina. On the other side the waterfront? pi? elegant, with bars and restaurants with outdoor seating that give a nice atmosphere. I pass over: the sun is going down and I want to reach the tip of the peninsula; I pass under a portico, enter the town, go up a staircase and here we are ... Gardjola Gardens! A small garden on the walls with a wonderful view of the Grand Harbor! An embraced couple takes selfies; I like a cat do not disturb and I slip into the stone lookout, the main observation post of the Port: the sculpted eye and ear testify to this and all of Valletta? in front of me! This ? a perfect setting and a great way to end the day: here the blue hour photos are fantastic!

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