I like to think of Valletta as a stately elderly Dame. Alone in the early mornings, she waits gracefully, bedecked with sumptuous jewels and laden with the memories of generations. Her straight, narrow streets are the wrinkles on her brow. The doves, cooing on the balconies, precede the droves of people which visit her every day. Lady Valletta – old and proud, and yet resplendent in her unique glory. No matter how many times I visit her, I always learn or discover something new. She is a real Maltese matriarch.
Valletta – a historical city filled with grand palaces, museums, inspiring architecture and heritage sites. But it’s also a social hub sporting a shopping mall, professional offices, tasteful restaurants and chic coffee shops. It’s a nightlife spot and a place where one can purchase or sell any daily need imaginable.
Valletta holds a special place in my heart, not only because of its unique history and beauty, but most of all because I was, so to speak, born and bred there. I used to live there until I was four years of age. My grandfather used to pick me up at the local kindergarten school, then take me for walks near the sea or at the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens, where I learnt to love our scenic port while throwing breadcrumbs to the pigeons. I also started to appreciate our varied and rich Maltese history and Baroque architecture there. This love story continued years later when I started working in Valletta, and discovered the many palaces, villas and formal gardens which throughout the years continued to be lovingly maintained by the authorities. The opulent Grandmaster’s Palace, resplendent with its marble halls, stately rooms and renaissance paintings; Casa Rocca Piccola, with its walled gardens, sumptuous furniture, not to mention its secret tunnels and passageways. Another treasure is surely the National Library of Malta, also known as the Bibliotheca. The library was founded in 1776 and contains, among other historical documents, the archives of the Knights of the Order of St John, as well as the largest Melitensia on the island.
Of course, one cannot talk about the splendour of the city of Valletta, built in the 16th century during the rule of the Knights Hospitaller, without also mentioning the famous Auberges – the seats of the various langues, or different bodies, of Knights. The city’s fortifications and its bastions make it truly unique. And what about Fort St Elmo, which guards the entrance to the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour, along with Fort Tigne and Fort Ricasoli? Museum lovers will have a field day visiting the National Museum of Archaeology, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace Armoury, the War Museum at St Elmo, as well as the St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, which exhibits modern and current artworks, alongside various performances within its purpose-built theatre. One should also remember to visit the amazing St John’s Co-Cathedral, which is a real must whether you are religious or not. Theatre aficionados will surely find something entertaining at the lush Manoel Theatre, while those who want a peaceful break could enjoy a quiet stroll amidst the plants and trees of Hastings Gardens.
Not only is Valletta a cultural centre, but it has also been recently revamped into a nightlife hub. Jazz pubs, wine bars, outdoor concerts, as well as a number of other seasonal events like wine fests, film festivals, art festivals, stand-up comedies and literary readings have transformed the city into a meeting place for young people and students, as well as couples and senior citizens. The outdoor market or monti, as well as the many clothes shops and entertainment venues which open during the day, are also a favourite with parents, children, and anyone who might need a respite from the humdrum of everyday life… or just wants to get some shopping done.
Valletta truly encapsulates the best Malta has to offer, and is a symbol of what our island has become throughout the years. It’s no wonder that Valletta is an official UNESCO World Heritage site!