This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.


Friday 31 December 2010

Heavenly Voices At The Carmelite Priory

The Carmelite Priory in Mdina was the venue for a Christmas Concert by the Jubilate Choir. The melodic voices soared beautifully in the ornately decorated refectory in which the friars used to eat their meals.  This amazing room is a fine example of a total work of art where the architecture, paintings and sculpture come together to form a unique Baroque gem.

Christmas Concert in Mdina (1)

Christmas Concert in Mdina (2)

Christmas Concert in Mdina (4)

Christmas Concert in Mdina (5)

It was a perfect and intimate setting in which to enjoy wonderful renditions of traditional favourites such as Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful together with a medley of Italian and Maltese carols.

Christmas Concert in Mdina (11)          Christmas Concert in Mdina (12)

Concerts at the Refectory are held on a regular basis with proceeds and donations going towards restoration of the paintings on the breath-taking ceiling of this room. The Carmelite Priory Museum is open daily to visitors between 10.00 and 17.00 hours.

Christmas Concert in Mdina (3)

Christmas Concert in Mdina (9)

The Carmelite Priory Museum

Villegaignon Street



With this last post for 2010, I would like to wish all my readers a very happy new year.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

It’s Christmas Time In The City

The decorations in Valletta this Christmas are very simple but quite striking.

Valletta on a Sunday (36)

I suppose it was the local council’s way of bringing an ‘icy’ feel to our Mediterranean Christmas.

Valletta at Christmas 006   

Our capital city may not be as large and imposing as other cities but it has its own innate charm.

Valletta at Christmas 007

And I think it photographs beautifully, even when night falls.

(I do hate those overhead wires though and I hope that they do something about them soon).

Valletta at Christmas 020


Photographs taken  in Republic Street and Merchants’ Street, Valletta.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Maltese Traditions (1) – The Calends (L-Irwiegel)

In the days before weather forecasts and satellites, the people of these islands (mostly the farmers) adopted a curious method of trying to predict the weather for the following year. Starting on the twelfth day before Christmas, they would observe the weather of each day noting shifts in the wind, the amount of clouds in the sky, and any rainfall or sunshine. The first day on which this was done, December 13th, would correspond to January, the next day to February and so on. In this way they thought they would have an idea of what the next year would bring. This ancient way of predicting the weather is common  in most parts of Europe, although in some countries, the calends (irwiegel) start on different days. Countries whose calends start on the same day as Malta are Portugal, Sicily (from where this tradition was most likely adopted), France, Croatia and certain provinces in Italy. Each day started at midnight and farmers, or anyone else interested in predicting the weather in this ancient fashion, were supposed to take note of the weather variations that occurred throughout the course of each day.

Rainy days 001

Anyone inclined to follow this tradition can start noting the weather patterns each day from next Monday until Christmas eve. So, we will soon know whether we are going to have a warm February (which has not been unusual these last couple of years) or hail in August (highly unlikely). Although there is no scientific data to back this tradition, some elderly farmers claim that they used to use this method with success. Nowadays, this tradition has all but died out since it is considered to belong to the realms of superstition and ignorance. Personally, I think that there is no harm in trying this out, just for fun. After all, there is usually an element of truth in all traditions that have spanned so many generations. So, rain or shine? If the irwiegel are to be believed, I guess we will find out soon.

Bahrija 27.02.10 (26)

(Believe it or not, this photo of a cloudless sky was taken last February).

Monday 29 November 2010

The Belvedere at Lija

Lija (5) 

This Belvedere is situated in Lija, one of three villages, the others being Balzan and Attard, situated in the central part of the island. Constructed in 1857 by the Maltese architect Giuseppe Bonavia, it originally formed part of the gardens of a large villa owned by the Depiro family but it was separated from the property when the street in which it now stands was constructed. The word ‘belvedere’ comes from the Italian language and is usually given to structures or towers that command a fine view of their surroundings. When the Belvedere in Lija was built, it commanded unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside and villages. These days the area has been heavily urbanised and even a climb to the top of this structure will only give you a view of houses, houses and more houses with, perhaps, a glimpse of a few fields in the distance.

Due to its rather whimsical architectural style, people from the locality sometimes refer to it as the ‘wedding cake’. Indeed, its three separate levels do resemble the tiers on a traditional wedding cake. I love this shot in sepia, as it makes it seem as if the photo was taken back when the tower was built – well, as long as you ignore the traffic sign in the centre.

Lija (6)

The Belvedere

Transfiguration Avenue


Tuesday 23 November 2010

Castello Zammitello

Built around 300 years ago, this small castle surrounded by fields is within walking distance of the village of Mgarr. It was built in the Norman style and its main aim was to serve as a look-out post for any corsairs who may have anchored their ships in the near-by bay of Gnejna.

Castello Zammi tello (4)

This small castle, of course, has its own legend. One version of the legend is that Lucia, the daughter of Baron Bernardo Zammit, disappeared on the day she was to marry an elderly Sicilian count. Her distraught father, believing she had been carried away by corsairs, ordered an armed search of the nearby bay – to no avail. A year later, the bells of the local church started tolling unexpectedly and a vision of Lucia, clad  in a nun’s habit, appeared on the altar. Lucia confessed that she had run away from home to avoid marrying the elderly count and had taken refuge in a convent. After taking her vows she had spent the past year tending the wounded in a foreign land only to be killed by a stray arrow. I wonder is the ghost of Lucia sometimes wanders through the rooms of her old home …

  Castello Zammitello 

In recent years the castle has been refurbished and is being used as a venue for weddings and other private functions.

Castello Zammitello

Gnejna Road


Please go here if you are interested in organising a private event at this historic castle.

Monday 15 November 2010

Of Bridges and Stairs

 Valletta (34) 

I know that comparisons are odious but, for some reason, I cannot help but compare cities. And sometimes, without even meaning to, I find myself comparing our old capital city, Mdina, to our current capital city, Valletta. Both are beautiful in different ways and while I feel that I know Mdina like an old and loved friend, I have not explored Valletta that well – perhaps because it is a young upstart when compared to the older capital which has been around for at least 3000 years. But I am slowly making amends and walking around Valletta with a camera in my hands and trying to make up for lost time. That’s how I cam across this wonderful little place aptly named The Bridge Bar -  because at the foot of the stairs …

Valletta (28)

… a bridge crosses the road below.

Monday 8 November 2010

Door Knockers of Malta

There was a time when every door on the island had some form of door knocker. Some were just simple rings but the door knockers of the large houses and palaces were works of art in brass or bronze. Today I am sharing some of my favourites.

Birgu 109

Mdina (3)

Medieval Mdina 111

Mdina (8)

While all of them served a practical purpose, looking at these door knockers of yesteryear makes me wonder whether there was some type of competition going on between the house owners as to who would come up with the most elaborate and beautiful door knocker. I will leave it up to each one of you to choose a favourite.

Mdina (29)

Medieval Mdina 120

Mdina (40)

Medieval Mdina 145

Door knockers were photographed in Birgu and Mdina.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Wayside Chapels (5) – St Matthew at Il-Maqluba

 Il-Maqluba (54)        

The chapel of St Matthew is situated right above the doline known as il-Maqluba on the outskirts of the village of Qrendi . There are actually two chapels adjacent to each other. The smaller building that you can see towards the left of the photo below is the first chapel dedicated to St Matthew that was built on this site. The style of the building and its interior suggest that this chapel was built in the middle ages.

Il-Maqluba (59)

The day we happened to visit the area, the care-taker of the chapels was making preparations for a wedding so we were able to go inside both the chapels. The interior of the older chapel is quite bare with a beautiful carved motif on and behind the altar.

Il-Maqluba (61)

Il-Maqluba (64)

The bigger chapel, which was built in 1674, is a product of the Baroque era with small stained-glass windows and a large titular painting of St Matthew hanging over the altar.

Il-Maqluba (65)


Il-Maqluba (67)

The original painting was by the renowned artist Mattia Preti and was completed in 1688. It is now in safe-keeping while a copy hangs in its place. This precaution was taken after the Preti painting was stolen in the 1960s.

Il-Maqluba (66)

The church was hit  by a bomb during the war and some structural changes were carried out on the facade: two belfries were added while the central belfry was removed.

Il-Maqluba (53)

Friday 29 October 2010

Glimpses of Grand Harbour

Valletta (31)  

I may be biased but I think that Malta has one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. I love how its mood seems to change with the different light. This harbour has witnessed many battles and has sheltered hundreds of ships, its turbulent past is now part of history. On the ramparts that surround it, the guns are forever silent and the only sound that breaks the stillness is the gentle sighing of the wind and the mournful wail of some ship’s fog horn as it sails away to a distant shore.



Monday 18 October 2010

A Kitchen Called Victory

Valletta (7)

The recent refurbishing of a shop-front in Valletta led to the discovery of the sign above. Victory Kitchens were opened by the Government at the height of WW2 to alleviate the suffering of the population by distributing free food. In 1942 there was a total of 42 Victory Kitchens in different towns and villages around the island. This particular sign had been painted over and forgotten for many years. It has now been restored and serves as a reminder of those bleak days when the world was at war.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

The Legend Of The Place They Call ‘Il-Maqluba’

Il-Maqluba (50)

On the outskirts of the village of Qrendi, beneath a chapel dedicated to St  Matthew (more about that in a future post) is a circular depression in the ground. It is known as ‘Il-Maqluba’ which roughly translates to ‘the upside-down one’ or the ‘inside-out one’. This natural depression is said to have been formed in 1343, after a particularly severe winter, possibly accompanied by an earthquake. Il-Maqluba was formed by the collapse of the underlying limestone strata. In geological terms, this is known as a doline. The place is now a sink-hole and collects water from the surrounding fields and country-side. That is the scientific explanation of what happened.

Il-Maqluba (20)

Il-Maqluba (5)  

But there is a more colourful story, of course. It is said that a small village of evil people lived right over the area where the depression is today. A pious lady who lived in the area where the chapel is now situated repeatedly warned her neighbours to change their evil ways – to no avail. As a result, God decreed that the ground beneath the village would collapse, sparing none except the good woman. Angels were then sent to dispose of the hamlet by dumping it at sea. This is said to be how the small island of Filfla, a few miles off the south-west coast of Malta, originated. I suppose that this is a case when the legend is so much more interesting than the truth.

Il-Maqluba (21)

The doline itself is 15 metres deep and has a perimeter of 300 metres. It supports a variety of trees such as bay laurel, sandarac gum, carob and hawthorne and other endemic vegetation. Il-Maqluba (32) 

Equipped with a rope and some sturdy shoes, it is possible to go down into the doline – something which I still need to do. Perhaps this winter I will try to experience Il-Maqluba from the bottom looking up, as opposed to always peering down the steep slopes at its lush green interior.

   Il-Maqluba (48)

For an aerial view of il-Maqluba, go here.

Monday 4 October 2010

Wayside Chapels (4) – St Mary Magdalen

On a breezy day a couple of weeks ago, we drove to the little town of Dingli and then headed on towards the cliffs which drop vertiginously into the deep blue sea. The summer heat and drought has de-nuded the cliffs and, shorn of the short-rooted plants that grow in the garigue in the cooler months, their jagged edges look sad and forlorn, waiting patiently for the rain that will give them back life.

Dingli Cliffs 015

It is on these cliffs that the chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalen is situated.

Dingli Cliffs 004

Three steps lead to a small one-roomed building. With the sheer cliffs behind it and the towns of Rabat, Mtarfa and Mdina in the distance, this chapel commands one of the most outstanding views on the Island.

Dingli Cliffs 013

Dingli Cliffs 012

Dingli Cliffs 001

Dingli Cliffs 010


I could not find much information about this chapel other than that it was built in 1640 to tend to the needs of the farmers that made a frugal living from the little terraced fields in pockets of soil on the cliff-face. During the winter months this area is a favoured picnic stop by many but, in summer, it is surrounded by silence and the gentle sighing of the wind.

      Dingli Cliffs 016

The Azure Window: the end of an icon

The Azure Window was a natural limestone arch that rose majestically out of the blue Mediterranean sea to a height of 28 metres (92 fee...