MALTA. (The Hidden Treasures) Valletta.

Valletta-Harbor

Valletta, The Fortress City, “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen” is Malta’s capital city. It is a living, working city, the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Valletta is named after its founder, the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. The magnificent fortress city grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Started in 1566, Valletta was completed, with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in the astonishingly short time of 15 years, even more remarkable when considering the fact that mechanical tools did not exist at the time and the whole city was built entirely by hand.

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For me, Valletta is the jewel in the crown of great cities, it has enraptured me since the first day I entered through its magnificent gates, and continues to warm my heart with every step I take along its welcoming streets. Most cities around the world originate sporadically, and evolve in a haphazard jigsaw of urban sprawl, with little or no distinguishing lines to indicate where the city ends and the country begins. Not so, Valletta. It becomes clear as you enter, that here is a purpose built city, brilliantly designed in Baroque architecture, massively fortified, painstakingly embellished, and with a unique and intangible charm and character,

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When the Knights of St. John arrived in Malta in 1530, this area of the peninsula was uninhabited, except for a few farmers and fishermen, some small dwellings, and perhaps a little church. But these holy men had their plans well prepared. This wonderful location, high up on a plateau, and looking down on one of the great harbours of the world, soon caught their eye, seeing it as the ideal site for a big walled and fortified city, and immediately began building it. The UNESCO World Heritage City that is Valletta today is a glorious legacy of the Knights, and a testament to their wonderful vision and devotion to excellence.

The city is busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere by night, that gives the feeling that you are walking back in time. The grid of narrow streets boasts some of Europe’s finest art works, churches and palaces. Valletta is abundantly rich in sites to see and explore, intriguing historical buildings around every corner: votive statues, niches, fountains and coats of arms high up on parapets. Narrow side streets are full of tiny quaint shops and cafés, while the main streets are lined with larger international branded shops for fashion, music, jewellery and much more.

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Since 1974, Malta has been an Independent Democratic Republic, and the Maltese are so proud of that status and distinction, that the main street of their capital city is named Republic Street. This famous street is the heartbeat of Valletta, the assembly point of a great cosmopolitan togetherness, visitors of all nationalities sharing an appreciation of the delights of this ancient and ornate Capital. While Valletta’s main street is predominantly a shopping showcase of a myriad of international brands, it is also the location of some important attractions particularly the Grand Master’s Palace, the National Museum of Archaeology, and the world renowned Cathedral of St. John.

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Paperback cover

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