VALLETTA (PART I)
Valletta – the capital of Malta and a place that is best explored on foot. A city that offers something for every taste … baroque palaces, many-many churches, intriguing streets, spectacular sea/harbour views and many open-air cafés.
There are around 28 churches just in Valletta (a combination of churches, chapels, basilicas and the Co-Cathedral) … when walking somewhere in Valletta, you’re guaranteed to find a church.
When you enter Valletta from the Grand Harbour area, you will do so by entering through the Victoria Gate – built by the British in 1885 and named after Queen Victoria.
Eight streets run dead straight for most of the peninsula’s length, crossed by narrow, stepped streets. It is such a beautiful sight, you would want to take photo’s around every corner …
We’ve been to the Upper Barracca Gardens a couple of times from where you have spectacular views over the harbour. This is a 17th century parade ground of the Italian Knights which consists of a wide collection of monuments.
In Valletta, there is no shortage of tiny corner shops and boutiques shoulder to shoulder (of course, with the occasional church in between). You will be able to find so many wall/street decorations and statues, that you would want to spent a couple of hours here … and maybe come back on another day as well.
We’ve visited a couple of churches in Valletta (later in this post, we will show a few pictures of the inside of St John Co-Cathedral). It was however, the entrance to the Church of St Barbara that caught our eye.
When we’ve visited Malta for the first time (2011), we were fortunate to still enjoy a ride in the old Maltese busses … yes, it was tremendously slow, but the Maltese bus drivers were colourful guys and always ready for a chat. This was quite an experience and something we won’t easily forget!
Some of the walkways in Valletta was, to say the least, just extraordinary! Sometimes we just had to stop, look up and be overwhelmed …
THE GREAT SIEGE OF MALTA
There are so many museums to visit while in Valletta. We’ve decided to visit the Great Siege of Malta. This was one of the most savagely contested encounters of the 16th century (1565) where a vast Ottoman fleet (about 40,000 men) attempted to invade Malta.
The Knights were heavily outnumbered with a mere 700 men and around 8,000 Maltese regular troops.
The Grand Master, Jean Parisot de la Valette, head of the Order of the Knights, decided not to deploy his men on the beaches to face the attack, but instead, he organised his defence from within the fortifications.
After almost 4 months, this blood-thirsty war ended after the Turks were finally forced to withdraw. It is documented that towards the end of this siege, Grand Master Valette ordered all Ottoman prisoners to be executed and their heads used as ‘cannon balls’ to fire back towards their compatriots in St Elmo (the entrance of the Grand Harbour) … yes, indeed a bloody story!
Here are some photo’s, taken inside the museum:
ST JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL
After witnessing this bloody war, it was definitely time to seek for a much calmer environment … we therefore took a walk towards the impressive St John’s Co-Cathedral.
This cathedral, completed in 1578, was granted status as the Co-Cathedral together with Mdina’s Cathedral by Pope Pius VII in 1816.
The cathedral is dedicated to John the Baptist, patron saint of the Order, and is regarded as the finest work of Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar.
The oil-painted ceiling, the masterpiece of Mattia Preti, depicts 18 episodes in the life of John the Baptist.
After walking through this magnificent cathedral, we’ve needed a break – and I’m pretty sure you too!
We will continue our tour of Valletta in our next post (then we will show you a palace and a traditional Maltese evening) … see you then!
We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013