ROL Cruise recommends…
1. Meet the Marquis de Piro
One of the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Casa Rocca Piccola, a sixteenth century palace. Originally built for Don Pietro la Rocca (a Knight of Malta), the palace is now the ancestral home of the 9th Marquis de Piro and his family. The Marquis himself often gives guided tours of this living museum. Wander through its fifty rooms, including the stylish Four Poster Bedroom, the Art Nouveau Summer Dining Room and the fascinating Archive Room.
2. Marvel at St John’s Co-Cathedral
Built between 1573 and 1578, St John’s Co-Cathedral is thought to be one of the world’s finest examples of High Baroque architecture. On display within this ornate building is John the Baptist, the only signed work and largest painting by Caravaggio. Equally impressive is the building’s lavish interior, with its intricately carved stone walls, painted vaulted ceiling and marble floors.
3. Witness the firing of the cannon
Head to the terrace below the Upper Barrakka Gardens to see the Saluting Battery and the cannons that were once used to fire salutes to visiting naval vessels. The cannon is still fired daily and costumed tour guides will enthusiastically explain how the cannon is loaded and fired. The Upper Barraka Gardens themselves, meanwhile, offer one of the best views in Malta. From this sixteenth century garden you’ll enjoy magnificent views of Valletta’s Grand Harbour and out across to the old towns of Senglea and Vittoriosa.
4. Visit Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
A short bus ride takes you to Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a 5,400 square feet underground necropolis. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, this subterranean structure dates back to around 3000 BC. Please note: at the time of writing (September 2016), the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is temporarily closed for the installation of a new micro-climate-controller. Please check the Heritage Malta website for news of when the site will reopen: http://heritagemalta.org
5. Explore the island
With the island covering a mere 95 square miles in total, you’re never too far from Malta’s many other delightful destinations. The closest of these is Vittoriosa, located on the south side of Valletta’s Grand Harbour and accessible by boat. Originally called Birgu, the city was re-named to commemorate the victory over the Turks in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 (‘vittoriosa’ is the Italian word for ‘victorious’). Even older than Valletta itself, highlights of this beautiful city include the Church of St Lawrence, the Maritime Museum and Fort St Angelo.