It’s understandable that most visitors will miss Rabat and rather visit the ancient city of Mdina.
With no fortifications remaining, the town of Rabat is far bigger in area and population than Mdina. Here you will find schools and colleges and there are a variety of shops – all the normal things you’ll see in a town … but Rabat definitely has a character of its own. If you want to explore this town, it’s best doing it on foot.
We’ve used our time well in Rabat – visiting the Domus Rumana (a Roman Villa), the Catacombs and just strolling through the streets. We were also fortunate to be here on one of the feast days of Malta, namely the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. With the streets beautifully decorated, there were a joyous atmosphere.
Let’s go to our first sight of the day …
DOMUS RUMANA (ROMAN VILLA):
Built in the 2nd century BC, the house presumably belonged to a wealthy merchant. The site was discovered in 1881 and contains amazingly fine mosaic polychrome pavements and some original architectural elements.
A number of rooms were constructed to protect the mosaics and an upper hall was added to provide exhibition space. We were fascinated with the Roman antiquities that were on display.
There were quite a few statues in the museum, said to be dated to the middle of the 1st century AD. This meant it was about a century after the original construction of the house.
At least two of these show members of the family of Emperor Claudius. The best preserved is that of Emperor Claudius himself, followed by that of his daughter Claudia Antonia and that of a young boy with a bulla around his neck (probably portrays the young Nero, Claudius’ adopted son and successor in AD 54).
There is also an area outside (still part of the museum) that houses many more Roman artefacts. I can understand why they say that the remains of this villa were among Malta’s most significant Roman legacies.
I saw two Roman antiques that I’ve found both fascinating and interesting … a clay pot that were put together (it must be a satisfying job to be able to do that) and a baby rattle. I was thinking a lot about that rattle – I can just imagine when a baby in Roman times hit him- or herself with that rattle on the head – it could have serious consequences ☺️.
Our last (and probably the main attraction) were the mosaics. Apparently, these are rated among the finest and oldest in the western Mediterranean and they compare well with those of Sicily and Pompeii.
We found this museum truly amazing to visit. It felt at times as if we’ve walked back into ancient footsteps. If you visit Mdina, don’t miss the Roman Villa in Rabat.
As we’ve strolled through the streets of Rabat, we’ve noticed all the colourful flags and decorations on the church … when we’ve asked the locals about these, they informed us that they are celebrating the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (celebrated on 29 June). It was beautiful to see Rabat in such a festive mood.
The 16th century cross-shaped parish Church of St Paul is ranked among the country’s most impressive structures. It dates from 1575, but was largely rebuilt in the late 17th century.
While strolling down the streets of Rabat, we’ve came across a couple of gentlemen sitting outside. With them, they had a few little cages with birds and in another a mouse. They probably saw us looking curiously at them and called us over … after a conversation in half-English and half-Maltese, we’ve came to the conclusion they come here every day to enjoy each other’s company (while taking a few drinks) and at the same time bringing their pets out to enjoy the sunshine. Well, that’s at least what we’ve understood … 😄.
Our last stop in Rabat included a visit to the vast network of catacombs. The most extensive, St Paul’s Catacombs, are a labyrinth of tunnels, niches and rock tombs in use up to the 4th century AD. St Agatha’s Catacombs are below the church dedicated to the saint who fled to Malta from Catania in AD 249.
We’ve paid a visit to the St Paul’s Catacombs, but it was so dark and we literally had to feel our way down (maybe it will be a good idea to bring a torch with you when visiting these).
The underground cemeteries are honeycombed beneath Rabat and as deep as 7m (23ft) below the ground. Family graves are cut into the rock walls, there are also stone canopies, benches and early communion tables used by the early Christians.
We’ve taken many pictures, but some of these are just dark spots, while others are totally out of focus … but here’s two pictures just to give you some sort of understanding of what to expect 😁.
We always like to conclude a day of exploring on a positive note (and above the ground), so we’ve left the dark catacombs of Rabat and took a short drive to Ta’Qali.
TA’QALI CRAFTS VILLAGE:
Just a short distance from Rabat (and Mdina) is the craft village of Ta’Qali. It is situated on the former World War II airfield and is Malta’s largest local craft market.
We’ve taken many photo’s here – of the craftsmen at work on glass blowing, ceramics and wrought ironwork as well as the huge Malta Aviation Museum which is nearby.
“Where are those photo’s” you may ask … well, we have no idea 😳. Which mean, you dear blogger friends, will have to go there yourself to see all these beautiful products and experience the Aviation Museum.
We will conclude with two stock pile photo’s off the internet of the beautiful and famous coloured Mdina glassware.
Oh, and let me not forget … it was here in Rabat where we’ve had our first taste of Pastizzi, the traditional savoury pastry of Malta (usually filled with either ricotta cheese or curried peas) … ours were filled with ricotta and we’ve loved it!
In our next post about our visits to Malta, we are going to the beach. We will show you the beautiful village of Mellieha Bay where we’ve stayed during our second visit. This is where you will find Malta’s largest beach … 600m in total (which is big for such a small island)! See you on the beach 🏖🏖.
We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013