Five Enchanting Squares In The Maltese Islands

Malta is known for its stunning coastal landscapes, rich history, and charming towns and villages. Among this island nation’s many treasures, its beautiful town and village squares, or “pjazzez”, stand out as vibrant hubs of local life and culture.

Here are five of the most beautiful squares in Malta that you should explore during your visit.

St George’s Square, Valletta
Nestled in the heart of Malta’s capital city, Valletta, St George’s Square is a stunning example of Baroque architecture. It is lined with majestic buildings, including the Grandmaster’s Palace. The entire square exudes a sense of grandeur and history. This renowned square is both aesthetically pleasing and a social hub, as it hosts numerous events and concerts throughout the year including Valletta’s New Year’s Eve party. St George’s square is a perfect place to start your exploration of the capital’s historic streets.

Mesquita Square, Mdina
Known as the “Silent City,” Mdina is a fortified medieval town that transports visitors back in time. This small square is charming and serene, with its cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and a well in the centre. TV enthusiasts will know this is the spot where several key Game of Thrones scenes were filmed.

Independence Square, Victoria, Gozo
The quaint island of Gozo boasts its own picturesque piazzas. Independence Square, also known as Pjazza Indipendenza, is the heart of Victoria, Gozo’s capital. It’s adorned with a beautiful fountain and surrounded by historic buildings within easy reach, including the stunning Gozo Cathedral. The square is a bustling hub of activity and a great place to soak up Gozo’s unique charm. Get up early, grab a te fit-tazza (tea in a glass) at a local bar and watch the world go by.

Pjazza San Nikola, Siġġiewi
Siġġiewi is a traditional Maltese village known for its agricultural heritage, and Pjazza San Nikola (St Nicholas) is its central square. Quaint houses, a statue of San Nikola and a lovely parish church surround the square. It’s a serene spot to experience the authentic Maltese way of life and take a leisurely stroll through the winding village streets.

St John’s Square, Valletta
Another gem in Valletta is St. John’s Square. It is home to the magnificent St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historical facades and the impressive cathedral make it a must-visit destination for art and history enthusiasts. Inside the cathedral, you’ll find an incredible display of Baroque art and architecture and, of course, Caravaggio’s famous painting of The Beheading of St John the Baptist.

These five piazzas offer a glimpse into Malta’s rich history and culture while providing a tranquil and picturesque setting for visitors to enjoy. Each square has its unique charm, making them essential stops for anyone exploring the islands. You are sure to stumble across many more throughout your stay.

So, whether you’re sipping a coffee in Mdina, admiring the Baroque splendour of Valletta, or traversing the quieter streets of Gozo, Malta’s scenic squares are sure to leave a lasting impression on your journey.

Learn more about one of Malta’s most loved fruits: Bajtar tax-xewk

Bajtar tax-xewk (“prickly pear”) is a seasonal summer fruit that grows all over the Maltese islands. In the past farmers used the plant as a boundary planted near their field walls to keep intruders or other wandering livestock from entering their fields or between boundaries as a wind breaker.

According to many farmers this fruit is best harvested in the morning between August and September. During the peak of summer we can see the plant flowering with different magnificent colours which then would reflect the colour of the fruit.

Prickly pears are not just famous for their various colours but also for their health benefits. It contains magnesium, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins C and B, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium, and many other nutrients and is thus a good source of a considerable part of the daily need of many vitamins and minerals. Although in the old times it was also used as a fodder to pigs, the fruit is nowadays used for jams, liquors, syrups and also for cosmetics in Sicily.

Is-Suq tal-Belt: A historic covered market at Valletta’s core

Valletta is routinely referred to as a highlight by tourists and foreign expats getting to know the island. The sheer number of architectural gems, rich history and way of life in the capital city is appreciated by locals and foreigners alike.

While there are worries that Valletta is losing some of the rich cultural value it once possessed due to the closure of generations old stores and establishments, certain structures are a sign that refurbishment and renovation that respect the urban context can go a long way towards preserving Malta’s heritage, one being Is-Suq tal-Belt.

Situated right at the heart of the capital, the market, also referred to as the Covered Market, is a market hall that was first constructed in 1861 and is mostly constructed out of iron. Built in a Victorian style, the limestone exterior gives it a fine finish that fits perfectly with the rest of Valletta’s architecture.

Despite Is-Suq tal-Belt’s architectural beauty nowadays, the market and its building site have had quite a turbulent history, having previously been home to a square known as Piazza del Malcantone, which used to be part of a gallows parade of a guilty person, where they would be humiliated and tortured around Valletta, before being hanged in Floriana. Crops and goods were also sold in the square.

Afterwards, a marketplace in the Baroque style was constructed at some point during the rule of the Order of St John, yet this was demolished when the British took over Malta. Following that, plans for a covered market began in 1845, and the building was then constructed between 1859 and 1861, initially designed by Hector Zimelli, and completed by Emanuele Luigi Galizia.

The market then fell victim to bombs during World War Two in 1942, leaving a third of the building destroyed. While it regularly underwent repairs, including the construction of new floors, prompting it to thrive for a few more years, the building still fell into a state of decline.

However, after Valletta’s nomination for European Capital of Culture 2018, Government set out to regenerate a significant part of the capital city, including the market. Arkadia Co. Ltd was granted a 65-year lease of the building in 2016, and after around €14 million in investment, Is-Suq tal-Belt experienced heavy restoration, led by Italian architect Marco Casamonti.

Original elements of the building were preserved and restored, with sections of the building being converted into food markets, restaurants and stalls, leaving the upper level for cultural activities and events. Other parts which were added over the years were dismantled.

The market hall officially reopened to the public on 3rd January 2018, right on cue for Valletta 2018.

The building has a rectangular plan, featuring walls and arches made from limestone. On the other hand, the roof is comprised of cast and wrought iron decked in timber, supported with various iron columns. The basement and ground level of the market were inspired by the Mercado di San Miguel in Madrid, as well as the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Its restoration has been applauded, however heavy criticism has been leveled against commercial tenants for putting up large signage blocking the building’s beautiful facade, while just last month the Planning Authority rejected plans for outdoor canopies.

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Maltese Nights at Valletta Waterfront

The centre of Valletta turns very quiet when the last office workers and shopkeepers leave for the evening, and the only regular nightlife to speak of are events at the Manoel Theatre and St James Centre, plus a handful of bars.

However, one can take in the scenic Grand Harbour views and relive traditional Malta at the Valletta Waterfront every Thursday evening from 8pm.

The Valletta Waterfront combines food, retail and entertainment within a maritime hub, which for the past years has proved to be a highly popular destination.

For those in search of a relaxing time with good food and entertainment, the Waterfront’s many restaurants and bars cater for different tastes, with dining right by the water’s edge.

The establishments’ indoor dining areas are situated inside the tastefully refurbished, historical stores, originally constructed by Grand Master Pinto in 1752.

Today, ushering in a modern era, the iconic doors have been revived with an artistic impression of colour, representing the storage of goods from days past: blue for fish, green for produce, yellow for wheat and red for wine.

Patrons can go back in time through the Maltese islands’ history and experience traditional folk dancing, falconry displays, the terramaxka – a musical instrument which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Maltese games, as well as battles between the Knights of St John and the Ottoman Turks, among other activities. The small chapel of the Flight to Egypt by the Holy Family further creates a unique ‘village’ ambience.

Maltese nights will continue every Thursday through to the end of September.

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Maltese olive oil Bidni wins platinum award at International Olive Oil competition

Bidni Extra Virgin Olive Oil has won the Platinum Award at the renowned London International Olive Oil Competition, setting a new benchmark for Maltese olive oil on the international stage.

The Bidni olive, a variety endemic to Malta and virtually unknown to the world until two decades ago, was revived through the dedicated efforts of Sammy Cremona and later by the Grima family.

The Bidni olive tree is an early harvest variety, which property naturally protects the olive fruit against fruit fly infestations. The olives, small and concave with a deep purple colour when ripe, yield a distinctive oil with a noticeably peppery taste, owing to the fruit’s high level of polyphenols. The olives are cold-pressed within less than 24 hours of harvest, producing an extra virgin olive oil with an oleic acid percentage considerably lower than standard extra virgin olive oils. Today, the Grima family cultivates around 600 Bidni trees, producing approximately 500 litres of this extra virgin olive oil annually.

The London International Olive Oil Competition is one of the largest and most prestigious olive oil competitions in Europe, making this win a significant achievement for both the Grima family and MCA. As an accolade that sees hundreds if not thousands of competitors annually, the Platinum Award recognises the outstanding quality and distinctiveness of the Bidni Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

“It is of great honour to see the fruit of our work participate at this international event and receive such a prestigious award” says Immanuel Grima, who together with his father Joe cultivates the Bidni olive trees. “While we anticipate an increase in production as our trees mature, our focus will remain on quality and the nurturing of this endemic variety”.

“This award is a great honour and a confirmation of Malta’s potential in producing high-quality gastronomic products,” says Kurt Mifsud, founder of the MCA, which collaborates with the Grima family by managing the Bidni. “Our main aim is to maintain this high-quality level and continue to introduce people to this unique most likely endemic variety through our events and collaborations. In the coming years, we intend to participate in more competitions and we will continue to promote local products and varieties.”

Bidni Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available for purchase at several shops around Malta, including Master Cellars, Chocolate District, Bagel Hole, Il-Lokal, Veg Box, and the MCA website. Bidni also forms part of the Merill Rural Network, an initiative that brings together a number of farmers and artisans from all over the Maltese Islands.

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Forbes Best Souvenirs To Buy In Malta

Wandering through the cliffside gardens of the capital Valletta or the peaceful streets of the medieval city of Mdina, you can’t help but feel you’re in an extraordinary place. Malta, a three-island archipelago in the heart of the Mediterranean just south of Sicily, brims with 8,000 years of history and cultural influences from the Phoenicians to the Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, the Knights of Malta (the Knights Hospitaller), French and British.

“Malta is a melting pot of cultures and has always been a very crafty nation,” says Malta native Luisa Alden Sullivan, the luxury and corporate business manager of Citrus Travel. “You can see the craft of the Maltese through the ages just by looking at the architecture. There are so many unique souvenirs that are original and exclusive to Malta — we have incredible artisanal traditions.”

Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind art and home decor, intricate Maltese lace, filigree jewelry, locally produced wines or premium sea salt, these souvenirs will bring back fond memories of Malta for years to come.

Heritage crafts

Across Malta, beautiful Baroque-style limestone buildings and architectural details make the island’s cities and towns a delight to explore. One of the first things you’ll notice is the impressive bronze-cast door knockers.

Traditionally a symbol of a family’s wealth and status, these beautiful adornments come in many different shapes and styles, from a simple ball with a circular ring to lion’s heads, dolphins and the eight-pointed Maltese Cross (an emblem of the Knights Hospitaller).

If you’re keen to take home a gleaming door knocker, head to the Artisans Centre on Republic Street in Valletta to find a few options. For a custom creation, reach out to Funderija Artistika, an artistic bronze foundry that crafts gorgeous handmade pieces in shapes like monstera deliciosa leaves, scallop shells and seahorses.

Another heritage craft worth seeking out is handmade Maltese lace, or bizzilla. Known for its complex bobbin lace (or pillow lace) technique, whose roots go back to Genoa, Italy, Maltese lace flourished in the 17th century when affluent families would commission tablecloths, runners, baptism dresses, wedding veils, shawls, scarves, jackets, shirt collars and fans featuring distinct local symbols like the Maltese cross.

“I would say that the most interesting souvenir would have to be the Maltese lace since it is so intricate and takes a lot of time and patience to make,” Sullivan says.

One of the best places to find authentic pieces is on Gozo Island, where local lacemakers craft bizzilla on their doorsteps. If you are pressed for time, swing by Ta’ Qali Crafts Village just outside of the ancient town of Attard, in central Malta, to shop for beautiful Maltese lace alongside many other local crafts like delicate silver and gold filigree jewelry or hand-blown glass sculptures, vases and baubles by Mdina Glass.

Gourmet delights

With pastries, wines, prickly pear jam, olives and Gozo cheese, Malta has no shortage of gourmet souvenirs to bring home.

If you’re into wine, head to Marsovin, a fourth-generation winery with five private estates across the islands and an atmospheric 400-year-old cellar near Valletta that hosts intimate tastings (reservations required). It’s known for its premium reds — try the aromatic Primus (a blend of shiraz and native gellewza grapes) or the intense, velvety Marnisi Organic (with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc) — but you can also find excellent chardonnay, rosé and sparkling wines.

“Our tradition of wine-making dates to the time of the Roman occupation in Malta. We have fantastic grape-growing conditions thanks to our hot summers, mild winters and rocky soil full of natural minerals,” Sullivan says. “And since we are an island nation, we do not have a lot of natural resources like fresh water. So, of course, the Romans and the locals had to get a little creative when they needed to quench their thirst.”

For those craving a sweet treat, pick up traditional Maltese nougat, or qubbajt. There are a couple of common variations — a soft, white version with almonds and hazelnuts and a dark, hard style akin to a nut brittle. Long associated with celebrations since the days of the Knights of St. John, qubbajt can be found at village festivals and markets across the island. If you want to visit a local bakery, Beehive Confectionary on the main island and Savina on Gozo Island are highly recommended.

While you’re in Gozo, head to the northern coast to see the incredible 350-year-old salt pans where Leli Tal-Melhcontinues to cultivate salt using traditional natural methods. Known for producing natural, premium salt prized for its purity and flavor, the fifth-generation family-owned company operates a charming little shop carved into the limestone cliffs where you can stock up on this artisanal seasoning.

Unique homeware and accessories

To dive into the local creative scene, head over to il-lokal on Old Bakery Street in Valletta. A champion of local art and design, this excellent concept shop showcases a mix of ceramics, prints, home accessories, clothes and jewelry from Maltese or Malta-based creatives.

Take home quirky finds like Babau espresso cups (babau being the Mediterranean version of the bogeyman), geometric earrings by Frankly Bold, atmospheric prints by Ed Dingli or a playful pastizzi sculpture (inspired by ubiquitous local pastries of the same name) by Kane Cali.

Another destination for distinctly local goods, Villa Bologna Pottery, traces its history back to the 1920s when it was initially known as St Mary’s Ceramics. The light and airy boutique and studio in Attard is a must-visit destination for distinctly Maltese ceramics inspired by local marine life, landscapes and traditional motifs. You’ll discover all sorts of gorgeous pieces, from hand-painted dolphin lamps to bowls, fish-shaped “glug glug” jugs and coffee mugs, plus colorful table linens and home accessories. The owners also just opened a restaurant next door, where you can enjoy casual Italian bites and tipples in the Baroque villa’s lush garden courtyard.

Looking for one-of-a-kind accessories? Set in the ancient fortified city of Birgu on the Grand Harbour, Birgu Blueworkshop and atelier specializes in locally crafted products, including its own brand of hand-stitched leather products made in-house, silk scarves, homeware, kitchenware, homemade jams and Maltese wines.

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Il Barocco maltese, tra architettura e musica


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.

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.

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.

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.

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25 years of Colours of Malta

Mdina Cathedral Museum catering for eclectic tastes

The Mdina Cathedral Museum stands out as an institution that is continuously evolving. It is housed in a magnificent baroque building on the right hand side of the cathedral, in Archbishop’s Square. This imposing edifice was built by Bishop Alpheran de Bussan, with the first stone being laid in 1733. This building was to serve as the seminary for the diocese of Malta.

In the 16th century, the council of Trent had instituted seminaries to provide for the training of candidates to priesthood. Twelve years after the last session of the council, Mgr. Dusina, Apostolic Visitor to Malta had decreed the erection of a seminary. Various attempts were made by the bishops of Malta to have such a purpose built building but it was only in 1703 that Bishop Cocco Palmieri welcomes the first seminarians to a building in Mdina.

In 1723 Bishop Mancini (1722-1727) , transferred the Seminary to Valletta. Bishop Fra Paolo Alpheran de Bussan and Grandmaster Manoel De Vilhena funded the building of the current building.  The building’s design is attributed to the architects Giovanni Barbara or Andrea Belli, although Barbara was dead when construction began, leaving Belli as the more likely candidate. The Mdina Seminary was inaugurated on the 20th May, 1742.

The Times of Malta talked to its curator, Mgr Edgar Vella and exhibition coordinator, Joseph P. Borg about its ethos and the recent bequest of the collection of John Bugeja Caruana. You may learn all about it in the article on The Times of Malta.

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2023 Hosts Global Forum Destination Has Been Announced

Hosts Global, together with Hosts Global Affiliate Colours of Malta, announced they will be heading to Malta in 2023 for the next Hosts Global Forum. Steeped in over 7,000 years of history, and having played host to the Romans, Phoenicians and the Knights of St John, Malta will also play host to the 9th annual Hosts Global Forum in this idyllic archipelago.

Let's go that extra mile!