It is not surprising that Valletta is the European capital of culture, 2018.
Valletta, a fortress and world heritage city is the capital of Malta, There is an immense wealth of culture to see including archaeological sights, Art, Design, and History. Take time there to do justice to its beauty, splendour and majesty .
Valletta is predominantly a medieval city of ornate, baroque style architecture, with few neo-classical buildings. Valletta takes its name from Jean Parisot de Vallette, the Grand Master who led the knights of St John to victory over Ottoman rule in 1565. The knights stayed on Malta for 268 years and transformed Valletta from what they called merely a rock of soft sandstone into a flourishing island with mighty defences that stand as one of the great powers of Europe.
Malta’s history is governed by its geographical location. It is just 60 miles away from Sicily, 115 away from Italy and 210 miles from Tunisia in Africa. This confluence of cultures and powers that have ruled there are what make this interesting cultural blend of flavours. A succession of powers have ruled including: the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Order of St John as well as the French and British.
Later during the Great siege of Malta the defeat of the Turks brought a lot of good things to Malta and its people, though it must be said, not all good – amongst its glories is ignominy, such as the taking hostage of the Jewish community so that the Order of the knights could secure large sums in ransom money.
Malta’s great siege of 1575, is well documented in the National War Museum. The museum is a hive of information dating back to 2500 BC.
Secret Swimming Spot.
Even if History is not your thing, the sceneries alone are awe-inspiring. Once you arrive at the War museum if you continue forward a little further, there is a set of steps leading down to the water. There you will arrive at rocks with manmade safe climbing ladders leading down into the sea. It is a refreshing place to have a swim before taking a spot of lunch at the many tempting restaurants.
Walking around Valletta I gain an immediate sense of the influence that the different cultures have impressed here.
The erection of the new parliament building has been a contentious issue in recent years as the new parliament building invited questions, and disapproval about the difference in style and proximity to other historic buildings, in particular, the Our Lady of Victories church (the first church built in Valletta).
Picture source: Wikipedia.
Nevertheless the square itself is remarkable – the floor is hewn from large slabs of polished Gozitan limestone resembling marble, and the sweeping open space is jaw dropping and gives a sense of coolness and calm.
It’s not easy to get lost in Valletta, as the street systems are fairly grid -like, being as they emanate north-eastward of the spectacular Grand Harbour.
Walking around Valletta one cannot help but notice the beautiful Maltese balconies, both well-kept and some ruined vestiges. with ornate curlicue designs. Some are open balconies, some closed and there are even corner ones. It’s not clear whether they are originally Turkish, Arabic, or Spanish, but either way these Maltese balconies are beautiful.
Inside the must-see spectacle of St John’s Co-cathedral – http://stjohnscocathedral.com/ are two Caravaggio oil paintings, the famous Beheading of St John the Baptist, as well as the lesser known, but no less beautiful, St Jerome writing. Valletta boasts a wealth of museums and theatres. Go see the Grandmaster’s Palace, the Manoel thetre, the Valletta museum to name but a few places of interest.
Moving away from the city of Valletta, yet only a short five-minute ferry ride across the water, I soon arrive at the Three Cities. It’s a spectacular sight.
It’s eye-opening to see the wonderful layout of the three spits of land reaching in to the water stretching across the water to Valletta. They are the Three Cities: Senglea, Copiscua and Vittoriosa. Vittoriosa (Birgu in Maltese) in particular has its many churches splendidly lit up at night in stark contrast to its darker neighbour, Senglea which is accessible directly from Vittoriosa by a small foot bridge.
Walking up a steep hill colourful flags festooning the streets, the colour of of the saffron colours of monks’ robes tempt you to walk to the top. This is the effect Valletta has on you, it encourages and implores questions and curiosity.
Once I reach the top I gasp at the sight before my eyes. There is a large open square festooned with flags. It is the feast day for Saint Dominic. I am in Birgu square. There is fierce completion in the villages to have the best decorations.
The community effort is what makes the Holy Feast of St Dominc a success.
The priests have arrived.
There is to be a procession starting in just two hours. There are to be players of the Cor Anglais, clarinets, cymbals, drums, trombones, trumpets.
Feasts and the church – that is: the idea and practise of community spirit – are integral to life in Malta and Gozo, Malta’s sister island.
I sit back to take in the sights strike up conversation with the locals. The sound is glorious! I stay longer than intended to listen to the band, eat, drink and be merry. It is only a five-minute ferry trip back to Valletta. As I cross later fireworks light the sky behind me. It is truly awesome.
© JulieADexter, 2016