IBB Palazzo Bettina – Birgu

Yesterday we had to opportunity to visit the new IBB hotel Palazzo Bettina in Birgu. The hotel is steeped in history and its restoration has been carried out with true passion. The boutique hotel, featuring 13 luxuriously furnished suites combines ancient with modern, offering an optimal solution both for guests looking for a luxury historical dwelling with a certain flair and for those searching for an elegant, modern, and progressive solution.  The building appears to date back to the 17th century and has a long and varied history serving as a residence for several distinguished individuals and families, in particular, Elizabeth
Muscat Dorell (1741-1829), known as Lady Bettina, who also gave her name to the building.. The palazzo also served as a British military hospital in the second half of the 19th century and St Ġorġ Preca, the founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine. The Third Order Carmelite also made use of the property as one of the seats for the Society of Christian Doctrine in the inter war years.

In 2017, Palazzo Bettina was purchased by the Sormani family, who were charmed by the history of the building. With the extensive experience in recovering and renovating ancient buildings with the objective of returning them to their original splendour, they undertook this new adventure. The result of the investment can be seen in the complete renovation of the building, transformed into a luxury boutique hotel. Bought in 2023 by Bettina Investments Limited, the restoration of the Palazzo was completed back in the summer of 2021 and included the creation of 13 rooms fitted with every possible comfort and luxury.

Malta Makes It On Bloomberg’s List of Top Travel Destinations in 2024

Once again, the charm and allure of Malta have captured the attention of the global stage, earning our Mediterranean gem a spot on Bloomberg’s list of must-visit destinations for 2024.

In an article titled “Where to Go in 2024,” Bloomberg dedicated a special section to Malta, highlighting its unique offerings as an ideal travel destination.

Among a diverse array of locations globally, including cities and states of much larger scale, Malta stood out alongside Busan in South Korea, Boston, Las Vegas, Montecito, and Aspen in the United States, Argentina, Hong Kong, Halifax in Canada, Bergen in Norway, Quito in Ecuador, Transylvania in Romania, San Sebastian in Spain, Belfast in the UK, Lima in Peru, Morocco, and the enchanting island of Palau.

Bloomberg anticipates 2024 as a record-setting year for travel, with a positive outlook on overcoming pandemic fears, economic challenges, and geopolitical conflicts. The International Air Transport Association projects that 4.7 billion people will take to the skies this year, generating a staggering $964 billion from air travel alone.

For those planning their travels, Bloomberg recommends choosing Malta for a vacation in 2024. The article highlights the opportunity to explore filming locations of blockbuster movies like Gladiator and Troy, as well as the iconic settings of the Game of Thrones series. Beyond cinematic landscapes, visitors can immerse themselves in Malta’s rich historical tapestry and bask in the beauty of the surrounding seas.

On the cultural front, Bloomberg acknowledges Malta’s International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS) as Europe’s most significant museum. With a government investment of thirteen million euros, MICAS provides a platform for both local and international contemporary art exhibitions. Notably, the museum offers breathtaking views of the Port of Marsamxett.

The article also encourages travelers to mark their calendars for March to May, as Malta hosts the Maltabiennali.art, themed “White Sea and Olive Groves.” Additionally, October presents an enticing opportunity to experience Notte Bianca, when museums and historical sites open their doors to the public free of charge.

Article credits: https://maltadaily.mt/malta-makes-it-on-bloombergs-list-of-top-travel-destinations-in-2024/
UNESCO recognises Maltese festas as an Intangible Cultural Heritage

The festa is a community event of religious origin held annually in village parishes across Malta and Gozo. The main festa season in Malta starts towards the end of April and runs until the beginning of October, with multiple events taking place in different villages. Community volunteers prepare the festa throughout the year and the event itself typically lasts a week. On the final day, a statue is carried in a procession led by the clergy and accompanied by members of the parish and marching bands. Festa weeks entail concerts, band marches, firework displays and bell ringing. Typical festa food, such as nougat, is sold from street stalls. The practice is transmitted informally through participation in the preparation and events. For instance, youth learn the stories and songs of the village and its sacred figures and how to participate in the festa by attending community events. Some parishes organise a children’s festa in conjunction with the church, and children carry a smaller statue through the town. Despite its increased secularisation, the festa remains an important part of cultural heritage in Maltese villages, uniting families, outsiders and local communities in a celebration of popular religiosity and local identities.

World’s first deepwater archaeological park inaugurated off Xlendi

At a depth of more than 110 metres, the world’s first deepwater archaeological park has been inaugurated off Xlendi in Gozo.

The park, designated as an Archaeological Zone at Sea in 2020, covers a total of 67,000 square metres.

Speaking during the park’s inauguration ceremony on the Xlendi waterfront, National Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici remarked that through the park, researchers and technical divers from all over the world can explore the history of Malta.

This archaeological park at the bottom of the sea has also been mapped out on the website www.underwatermalta.org following extensive work by Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, headed by Professor Timmy Gambin.

The artefacts were documented and are now offered through a virtual museum so that more people can appreciate the unique sites of our seas, said Bonnici.

Gambin said the launch of this unique park elevates the submerged deposits off Xlendi and enhances Gozo’s cultural heritage as well as its tourism product.

Through future collaborative efforts and thanks to the generous support of the Malta Airport Foundation, Gozo will continue to develop as a centre of excellence in the fields of underwater archaeology and heritage management, he said.

The park’s depth ranges between 105 and 115 metres, where the seabed consists of fine silt and sand punctuated by a series of rocky outcrops formed by extinct coral reefs.

Around these outcrops, there are concentrations of archaeological objects, mostly amphorae. It is highly likely that more archaeological remains are buried in the sediment, based on the continuous deposition of sediment from Xlendi Valley and the presence of partially buried objects.

Although the depths at which this park is found make it accessible only to a niche of technical divers, the virtual museum brings the discoveries closer to specialised audiences and the general public.

The park, sponsored by the Malta Airport Foundation, is the result of a collaborative effort between Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the University of Malta, and the Munxar Local Council.

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri said the park was an additional incentive for travellers to opt for Gozo as their destination of choice, offering them a distinct and unparalleled stay unlike any other.

Article credits: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/world-first-deepwater-archaeological-park-inaugurated-off-xlendi.1048456
Malta International Airport’s traffic up to 3.4 million in first half of 2023

Malta International Airport plc (MIA) recorded a positive first half of 2023, registering 3.4 million passenger movements during the six months.

This meant that the airport’s traffic volumes during the period exceeded those of the first half of 2019 (3.2 million) by 5.6 per cent. This year’s figure also represents a sharp 48 per cent increase from the one recorded in the opening six months of 2022 (2.3 million).

In June 2023 alone, the airport saw 754,258 passenger movements, representing a substantial increase of 4.5 per cent over passenger traffic handled in the same month in 2019. June also became the third consecutive month during which the 700,000-passenger mark was reached.

The peak was reached on 29th June, as 30,419 departing and arriving passengers took advantage of the four-day bridge weekend due to the Mnarja feast, which also coincided with the end of the academic year for various educational institutions in Malta.

Seat capacity surpassed 2019 volumes by 1.8 per cent, standing at 873,580 seats, while load factor also showed a marked improvement, increasing from 84.1 per cent in June 2019 to 86.3 per cent last month.

MIA top five markets remained largely consistent with the previous year, as Italy retained top spot of the market leaderboard for June with a market share of 24.5 per cent. It was followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain.

Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/malta-international-airport-s-traffic-up-to-3-4-million-in-first-half-of-2023

 

Want to avoid the crowds? Here are Gozo’s SIX best lesser-known beaches

Gozo’s undeniable beauty has made it the ideal holiday destination for tourists and locals alike. Unfortunately, a lot of the island’s stunning spots go unnoticed by many due to their hidden, secluded, or plain inaccessible nature.

Having said that, if you’re looking for some quiet time or just want to spice up your next Gozo weekender with an adventure (or two), a visit to one of the island’s secluded beaches is sure to tickle your fancy.

Without further ado, here are Gozo’s six best lesser-known beaches:

Bamberin near Hondoq
Hondoq is one of the most sought-after beaches in Gozo, filled to the brim with tourists and locals alike. Just a short walk away from Hondoq, however, you can find a stunning spot known as Bamberinin that is ideal for those quiet-loving bathers looking for a dip in crystal clear waters.

Il-Kantra near Mgarr ix-Xini
Everyone knows of the picturesque Mgarr ix-Xini situated along the Xewkija and Sannat coast. A few metres down that very same coast, however, you can find a little secluded corner known as Il-Kantra.

Many dock their boats at this spot or simply go down for a swim after enjoying lunch at the nearby restaurant bearing the same name.

Xtajta Bay near Ramla
Many are those that adore Ramla Bay and its iconic red sand, but it can easily get super crowded during the summer season. If you’re up for a hike, walk along the fields on the bay’s left side and you’ll find a mini version of the iconic beach with way less people.

Horizon near Xwejni, Marsalforn
Marsalforn is filled with a myriad of different swimming spots all along its coast, yet not many know of the concealed swimming area known to the locals as Horizon.

Sandwiched right between Xwejni Bay and Qbajjar, Horizon is an ideal spot to have a swim as the sun is going down.

A great bonus to Horizon is that it’s dog friendly – so make sure to bring your pooch along! There’s also a good chance of encountering some unadulterated Maltese culture at this spot, as men often frequent the area to play a game of bocci.

Dwejra Bay
Many might confuse Dwejra Bay with Dwejra’s inland sea, but these two spots couldn’t be more different. Dwejra Bay is a naturally carved bay alongside Dwejra’s cliffs, close to the Fungus Rock.

Far from any type of pollution, with no building or artificial light in site, this is the perfect natural spot that is, as of yet, completely untouched by humanity. Here you can enjoy Dwejra’s vast underwater flora and fauna without anyone disturbing you.

That being said, one has to be careful as this beach is not easily accessible and requires a bit of climbing along rough terrain. Nevertheless, the journey there is extremely worth it.

Zrieqzaq Bay
Speaking of secluded bays that are difficult to get to, Zrieqzaq Bay is another spot that is completely isolated from civilisation.

This stunning beach is part of the quiet village of Qala and is situated along the ecologically unique Gebla tal-Hafla. The area is also surrounded with a vast plain of salt pans.

 

Article credits: https://www.guidememalta.com/en/want-to-avoid-the-crowds-here-are-gozo-s-six-best-lesser-known-beaches
Festival of Lights – Cittadella

Experience the enchanting beauty of Gozo like never before at Lejl Imkebbes, the annual festival of lights in the historic city of Cittadella. Hosted in collaboration with the Ministry of Gozo and Cultural Heritage Directorate, this event promises an unforgettable evening for all visitors.

As you stroll through the narrow streets of Cittadella, you’ll be surrounded by the soft glow of over 30,000 candles in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, carefully decorated artefacts will be set around the fortified city. The magical atmosphere created by the flickering lights offers a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of Gozo’s hills, valleys, villages, and churches, as well as a stunning view across the sea to Malta.

The festival offers a range of activities for everyone to enjoy, including historic re-enactments, extended and discounted museum entrances, opening of other public venues of interest, live entertainment on stage and around the city, together with children’s activities.

So mark your calendars for Saturday, 20th May, from 6 pm onwards and join us for this captivating event. Admission is free, so bring your friends and family for a night to remember.

Visit the event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1343890462847399
Il Barocco maltese, tra architettura e musica

IL LEGAME CON IL GUSTO DOMINANTE TRA XVII E XVIII SECOLO IN TUTTA EUROPA SI ESPRIME SOPRATTUTTO NELLE ARCHITETTURE PUBBLICHE E RELIGIOSE DA SCOPRIRE NELL’ARCIPELAGO DI MALTA, GOZO E COMINO

A gennaio l’arcipelago di Malta celebra la sua identità barocca. Per tutto il mese, ormai da dieci anni a questa parte, Valletta accoglie infatti un programma di eventi diffusi negli spazi più emblematici della città, dall’Auberge de Provence al Gran Salon alla Concattedrale di San Giovanni al Teatru Manoel. Sotto la direzione artistica di Kenneth Zammit Tabona, il calendario del Valletta Baroque Festival (che si è appena concluso) attira estimatori della musica classica da tutto il mondo, proponendo concerti dedicati ad autori di musica barocca (da Bach a Handel a Mozart e Scarlatti), ma anche coinvolgenti ibridazioni di epoche e stili, dal Vivaldi interpretato in chiave rock ai Beatles letti alla maniera settecentesca. Ma un contributo fondamentale al successo della kermesse arriva proprio dalle ambientazioni che fanno da cornice agli spettacoli, tra stucchi dorati, ampollose decorazioni, sculture ed espedienti architettonici di grande impatto scenografico. Per questo, ben oltre la chiusura del festival, è sempre un buon momento per esplorare Valletta e l’arcipelago maltese in cerca del suo passato barocco.

IL BAROCCO A MALTA. LA STORIA
Prima dell’introduzione del Barocco a Malta, lo stile architettonico predominante sull’isola si rifaceva agli esiti manieristi dell’epoca rinascimentale, attraverso l’attività del più quotato architetto pubblico locale, Girolamo Cassar, che progettò molti edifici pubblici, privati ​​e religiosi nella capitale di Valletta, che al tempo si andava costruendo. Tra XVII se XVIII secolo, però, sotto il dominio dell’Ordine di San Giovanni, iniziò a imporsi il nuovo gusto che già aveva conquistato in buona parte l’area mediterranea e l’Europa continentale. Il cambio di passo è tradizionalmente associato alla figura dell’ingegnere bolognese Bontadino de Bontadini, incaricato di costruire l’acquedotto di Wignacourt all’inizio del Seicento: tra 1612 e 1615, Bontadini realizzò un impianto scenografico pienamente aderente alla ricerca di stupore e meraviglia caratteristica del nuovo approccio estetico, tra torri d’acqua, fontane e un magnifico arco. Lo stile divenne popolare tra la metà e la fine del XVII secolo (del 1635 è la Chiesa dei Gesuiti di Francesco Buonamici, altro “testo” ritenuto cruciale per la diffusione dello stile a Valletta) e raggiunse il suo apice nel corso del Settecento, a cui si lega la realizzazione di opere monumentali come l’Auberge de Castille. All’inizio dell’Ottocento, durante il dominio britannico, l’architettura neoclassica sarebbe riuscita a imporsi sulla stagione barocca, capace però di protrarre la sua influenza fino al Novecento, come dimostrano alcuni edifici religiosi commissionati tra XIX e XX secolo, ancora legati a stilemi ascrivibili al gusto settecentesco.

IL TOUR DEL BAROCCO TRA MDINA E VALLETTA
A Malta, il Barocco di grandiose cupole e facciate riccamente decorate, pur contenuto nello sfarzo e votato alla sobrietà, fu esemplato principalmente su modelli italiani e francesi – tra le opere seicentesche si annoverano anche la ristrutturazione dell’Auberge de Provence e l’Hostelin de Verdelin – anche se non mancano riferimenti alla corrente spagnola. Oggi un tour di riscoperta di quella che per l’architettura – principalmente religiosa – di Malta è stata un’epoca d’oro può iniziare dai progetti firmati da Lorenzo Gafà, che nella seconda metà del XVII secolo fu incaricato di guidare molti cantieri sull’isola: il più ambizioso lo vide all’opera per la ricostruzione, tra il 1696 e il 1705, della Cattedrale di San Paolo a Mdina, danneggiata nella sua struttura medievale durante il terremoto siciliano del ’93. Ma Gafà lavorò anche altrove, realizzando la Chiesa di San Lorenzo a Birgu (1681-97; in città ha sembianze barocche anche il Palazzo dell’Inquisitore, oggi Museo Popolare) e la Cattedrale dell’Assunzione a Victoria, sull’isola di Gozo (1697-1711). Nel frattempo anche numerosi artisti furono coinvolti nella ridecorazione di edifici già esistenti: a Valletta, la Concattedrale di San Giovanni, dove ancora oggi si apprezza il ciclo di opere pittoriche realizzato da Mattia Preti negli Anni Sessanta del XVII secolo.
Il passaggio al Settecento fu però segnato principalmente dai lavori di ricostruzione che si resero necessari dopo il devastante terremoto di cui sopra. E fu la città vecchia di Mdina a subire l’evoluzione più significativa: il programma di riassetto urbanistico, che determinò la demolizione di edifici medievali danneggiati e la nascita di nuove opere pubbliche, si espletò durante la reggenza del Gran Maestro António Manoel a partire dal 1722, sotto la direzione di Charles François de Mondion. La Mdina odierna, antica capitale dell’isola, colpisce per la magniloquenza del progetto dell’epoca, ispirato al Barocco francese, tra la Porta Principale (1724) e il portale della Porta dei Greci (1724), la Torre dello Standardo (1725), il Palazzo Vilhena (1726-28) e la Corte Capitanale (1726-28). Tornando a Valletta, data alla seconda metà del XVIII secolo un edificio simbolo della città come l’Auberge de Castille, progettato dall’architetto maltese Andrea Belli, con il portale d’ingresso introdotto da una teoria di gradini e incorniciato dalla monumentale facciata scandita da paraste e chiusa in alto da una cornice aggettante. Oggi il palazzo è la sede del Primo Ministro di Malta. C’è poi il Teatru Manoel, inaugurato nel 1732, con scalinate in marmo e stucchi in stile Rococò. In omaggio al legame con la cultura barocca, persino uno dei più recenti cantieri di architettura religiosa, che nel 2005 ha portato all’inaugurazione della chiesa parrocchiale di Santa Venera, è stato improntato allo stile dell’epoca, com’è evidente nella decorazione della facciata.

IL BAROCCO A GOZO. LA CATTEDRALE DELL’ASSUNZIONE
L’eco di questo gusto contagiò anche Gozo, dove, come già ricordato, fu al lavoro anche Lorenzo Gafà, per realizzare la Cattedrale dell’Assunzione a Victoria, sul luogo dove si trovava un tempio dedicato a Giunone, di cui ancora si ammirano i capitelli conservati nel vicino Museo della Cattedrale. Forte la somiglianza con la cattedrale di Mdina, la chiesa di Gozo si distingue per l’unico alto campanile che svetta sul retro e per il soffitto che finge l’esistenza di una cupola, dipinta in trompe l’oeil. A Victoria si visita anche la coeva Basilica di San Giorgio, ricostruita dopo il terremoto della Val di Noto, celebre per la facciata completamente rivestita in marmo e per il ricco corredo di opere d’arte (torna, tra gli altri, Mattia Preti) custodito all’interno.

Article credits: https://www.artribune.com/turismo/2023/02/barocco-malta-architettura-musica/

 

25 years of Colours of Malta

Colours of Malta in collaboration with Visit Malta host French familiarisation trip

Last week in collaboration with our partners at Visit Malta, we invited a handful of top French agencies to experience a few days discovering the Maltese Islands from cover to cover. A mix of history, culture, adrenaline activities, top dining, and the most idyllic October weather, set the perfect backdrop for this French educational.

We thank all our preferred suppliers for supporting us with their hospitality and creativity in order to give our guests a memory of our islands that will never fade!

Let's go that extra mile!