Malta, Southern Europe
Malta facts and history in brief
Valletta was named
after the knight who masterminded
Malta's successful stand against
the Turkish siege of 1565.
Valletta became the city of the Knights
of the Order of St John and the
seat of Malta's government.
While traveling through the Mediterranean, Sir Walter Scott described
Valletta as 'the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen'.
Today it's a beautifully preserved 16th
century walled city, small enough to
cover in a few hours without sweating too much
in the Mediterranean sun.
In fact, the streets were carefully laid out
to channel cool breezes in from the harbour.
Valletta is a rough rectangle at the tip
of a peninsula on Malta's northeastern coast,
just a few hundred metres
across in either direction and surrounded
by water on its northern, eastern
and southern sides.
From the City Gate at the southwestern
edge of Valletta, you can walk to the centre
of town through a series of squares
surrounded by palaces and cathedrals.
One of the grandest is the Auberge de
Castille, once the palace of the
Spanish and Portuguese langue
(a division of the Order of St John).
It's now the office of the prime minister and
not open to the public.
Among Valletta's many fine gardens
are the Upper Barrakka Gardens, originally
the private gardens of the
Italian Knights of St John, where you
can get a magnificent view of
Grand Harbour and the Cottonera.
St John's Co-Cathedral and Museum presents
an austere facade, but the interior is a
baroque masterpiece, with a
patchwork of marble tombstones set in the
floor commemorating the knights of old.
The museum houses a
collection of outstanding Flemish tapestries
and paintings by the Italian master Caravaggio.
The city's other major museum, the Palace
of the Grand Masters, is also the seat
of the president and parliament.
It's loaded with tapestries, frescoes
and friezes commemorating the Great Siege.
Fort St Elmo, at the northeastern tip
of the city, features guides dressed as
knights and re-stagings of historic battles.
Hui Chin and I spent a lot of time, walking around Valletta, the
ramparts of the fortress and enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
You can click on the photos for an enlargement.
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