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.


Wednesday 31 October 2012

Malta And The Movies (3): Cutthroat Island (1995)

Cutthroat Island is an action-packed pirate movie that starred Geena Davis, Matthew Modine and Frank Langella and was partially filmed in Malta. It was released in 1995. Although it tanked at the box office it enjoyed modest popularity locally – which is understandable since some of the filming took place here and also because many people were enrolled as extras. Cutthroat Island is a swashbuckling adventure with a female heroine, a motley cast of rogues, a secret island and buried treasure. The plot is not particularly original and the ending is predictable. But is is an entertaining movie to watch if only for the stunts and for catching glimpses of Malta. I have included what I believe to be one of the most memorable scenes.

It was filmed at, what is now, the Birgu Waterfront. Back in the mid-1990s, this part of the harbour was mainly used by fishermen to berth their boats. Did you recognise the two buildings below in the movie clip?

Birgu 148Birgu 150

Wednesday 24 October 2012

St Paul’s Grotto

In around 60AD, a ship bound for  Rome left Judea. On the way, it encountered a storm and was shipwrecked. There is nothing remarkable about the story so far – shipwrecks were surely a common occurrence in the Mediterranean in those days. On that ill-fated ship were two men - humble men; prisoners of Rome. But these men were no ordinary prisoners. One of them was Paul of Tarsus, the apostle of the Gentiles. The other man was Luke – the author of the Gospel of St Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. And the island they were shipwrecked on was Malta.

“When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all”. Acts 28: 1-2

In the town of Rabat, just outside what in Roman times would have been the city walls, is a small cave, or grotto, situated underneath a church that was built in the 16th century. According to tradition, this was the cave where Paul was kept prisoner during his 3 month stay on the island.

Rabat and the Catacombs (30)

This has never been historically verified, but, since for almost 2000 years this piece of information has been passed down from one generation to the next, it is now mostly accepted as a fact.  Naturally, a cave that housed such an illustrious visitor is bound to spark some legends. In ages past, it was thought that the stone of the grotto could heal snake bites. Another legend attributed other miraculous properties to the stone: no matter how much of it was quarried, it grew back and the size of the cave always remained the same. Legends apart, this small grotto is revered by many as the most sacred place on the island.

Paul was the first person to preach the gospel on this island and is probably the most important visitor to have ended up on our shores. He is one of Malta’s patron saints and his feast, a national holiday, is celebrated annually on February 10th.

For a historical account of the shipwreck go here.

Rabat and the Catacombs (31)

St Paul’s Grotto

Parish Square, Rabat

Opening hours: Daily 9:30-1:30 & 2:30-5:00

Entrance to the grotto is free of charge but a small donation is usually expected.

The grotto is not push-chair or wheel-chair accessible.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Valletta – European Capital Of Culture 2018

Hot on the heels of my last post about Valletta comes this one. I usually try to space out my posts when they are about the same subject, but the announcement last week that Valletta has been voted the European Capital of Culture for 2018, is a prestigious honour for our tiny capital city and I could not just pass it by as if nothing had happened.

Valletta (17)

The foundation stone of Valletta was laid in March 1566, at the church dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, by Grand Master La Vallette. The city was subsequently beautified over two centuries by various other Grand Masters, Knights of the Order of St John and by the Maltese nobility. Described by Benjamin Disraeli as a city “built by gentlemen, for gentlemen”, Valletta is a city of many facets. It is the smallest capital city in the European  Union but its 0.8 square km are packed with an almost dizzying array of palaces, churches, auberges and houses, interspersed with piazzas and gardens.  The city’s fortifications are a marvel of military engineering and its harbour is, in my biased opinion, one of the most beautiful in the world. I could include a thousand pictures of Valletta in this post and I would just be showing you a mere glimpse  of what it has to offer. Admittedly, a lot of work will need to be done between now and 2018. Rehabilitation, renovation and regeneration of different parts and aspects of Valletta will need to be undertaken. Much has been done in this respect  in the last 5-10 years but there are still some areas that are crying out for attention. However, I am positive, that by 2018, Valletta will once again take its place with pride amongst the much greater and more well-known cities of Europe.

I hope that its nomination as the European Capital of Culture 2018 will mean that more people will get to know, and explore, Valletta because I believe that its appeal lies in the fact that it has something for everyone.

From international brands

Valletta on a Sunday (2)

to little local stores.

Valletta on a Sunday (28)

From an abandoned fort

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to a beautiful harbour.

Barracca and Patches (15)

From magnificent churches,

Valletta on a Sunday (3)

and sumptuous palaces

Valletta (5)

to ordinary houses.

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From the art of Mattia Preti

Museum of Fine Arts (19)

to the sculptures of Sciortino.

Museum of Fine Arts (45)

From the wacky

New Year's Eve in Valletta (20)-001


to the sublime…

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… and so much more.Valletta never ceases to amaze me. Not because of the things I have seen, but because of the ones that, to this day, I continue to discover on each visit.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Notte Bianca 2012


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Triton Fountain

This week I thought I would share some photos from this year’s edition of Notte Bianca. Notte Bianca, which is in its 6th year, is an annual all-night cultural activity that takes place in Valletta. During this night museums, churches, private and public art galleries and historical buildings are open to the public free of charge. The public also has access to places that are normally out of bounds, like the Prime Minister’s office at Auberge de Castille and the House of Representatives (the Parliament of Malta).

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 Auberge de Castille

Various cultural activities take place in the streets, gardens and piazzas of the city. This year there were exhibitions, musical events and a kids areas; men on stilts walking the streets; marching bands; a classic car display; an artisans fair; candlelight tours; ghost tours … the list goes on.

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Balcony – Grandmaster’s Palace

Unfortunately, I could only be there for a couple of hours so I really did not get to see much. Here are the places that I did manage to visit.

The beautifully lit fa├žade of the National Library on Piazza Regina.

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The National Library

Strait Street – the former red light district whose streets used to be lined with bars and music halls. For years, the buildings fell into a state of disrepair. They are now being given a new lease of life, with restaurants and small wine bars opening up and replacing places of disrepute.

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Strait Street

St John’s Cathedral, a Baroque extravaganza replete with gold leaf and Mattia Preti murals on the ceiling.

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St John’s Cathedral

The courtyard of Auberge d’Italie.

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Auberge d’Italie

Notte Bianca 2012

Location: Valletta, September 2012

Notte Bianca is usually held during the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October.

Tips for anyone planning to visit this event in future:

- Get there early.

- Use public transport.

- Wear comfortable walking shoes.

- Stay as late as you possibly can – preferably, until after most of the crowds have left.

Notte Bianca is an example of what Valletta should be like on a regular basis, after the shops and offices close down. Instead, after twilight, the city is basically a ghost town. There are some, like me, who prefer it that way. But, as our capital city, it deserves to have new life injected into it every day of the year and not just on one weekend.

Mine was a whirlwind visit this year. Hopefully, I will make up for it in 2013.

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...