Għaxaq is a quiet village in the south of Malta that, so far, has remained relatively undiscovered by the tourism sector. Things are set to change as Palazzo Castagna, a high-end boutique hotel, has now officially opened its doors. With directors Rudolph and Alison Spiteri Sacco at the helm, the historic Palazzo is now welcoming guests looking for luxury accommodation that’s close to Malta’s main landmarks, while still removed from the hustle and bustle of more obvious locations.
“As a location, Għaxaq offers the perfect base for guests who want to spend a weekend away while experiencing the historical cities and attractions of the area. The south is rich in culture, starting with The Three Cities and moving along the coast towards Blue Grotto, Mnajdra, Marsaxlokk, Tarxien Temples… there’s a lot to take in,” Alison starts off.
Rudolph elaborates that – up till now – the south did not quite offer any high-end accommodation available on the market.
“Palazzo Castagna is set to be a game-changer, attracting tourists and locals while also creating an opportunity for corporate tourism,” he says, adding that the village of Għaxaq itself is host to myriad cultural activities, such as the spontaneous carnival, two very well-organised village feasts and a number of other activities that enhance the magic of the village,” he says.
“Truly, Għaxaq is a gem. The place still holds many characteristics of a typical Maltese village. The local community, together with the local council which plays an active and integral part of village life, organises many events such as various concerts. There’s something happening every month, and guests at Palazzo Castagna will be very much part of this community,” Alison continues.
The hotel targets both local and international travellers, with guests likely to be those with an interest in history and good cuisine, as well as those who wish to spend some time living like a local. Thanks to its unique location, Palazzo Castagna is also perfectly situated for corporate travellers, placing them in close promixity to the corporate and industrial zones of the south while offering a gorgeous setting away from the actual work place.
What about weekend breaks?
“Why not? We have had a lot of interest from Maltese who live on the Northern side of the island. As a country, we still tend to travel north and to Gozo for a weekend getaway, leaving that side of the population with very few options to do the same in the south when they need a break,” Rudolph replies.
“Being so close to the airport, we also foresee an interest from those needing a one night stay for connecting flights. The market in the tourism industry is huge, and the location, together with the set up of the hotel, offer various advantages even though it might be viewed as a niche market,” Alison adds.
Located in the centre of the main square in Għaxaq, with the beautiful church in the background and a perfect view of all the activities taking place in the village, it’s difficult to imagine a more picturesque location for Palazzo Castagna. The building itself has been finished to an exceedingly high standard, to ensure that it’s in line with the high-end expectations of guests.
“We made sure no penny was spared in creating a lavish boutique hotel to offer great comfort to visitors,” Rudolph says. “We do believe in attention to detail.”
Alison agrees, describing the rooms with real wood, heated flooring and full insulation, the rooftop that can accommodate small events and weddings, a sala nobile that has been turned into a restaurant with art from the 1700s…the list is never ending.
“There is also an internal garden with a small fountain that creates a very calming effect on all the overlooking rooms, as well as a captivating fresh smell of flowers that sets the right ambiance for our guests,” she says.
With a building like Palazzo Castagna, it’s impossible to leave off without discovering a portion of its rich history. Alison recounts that the house was built in the 1700s, around the same time Għaxaq’s parish church was built. It replaced a smaller house that belonged to Angelo Castagna, father to the famed Filippo Castagna – a historical figure who played an integral part in the French colonisation of the Islands.
“The house was also used as the first każin (club) for Santa Marija and, in fact, the current St Maria club has even replicated parts of the house within their current premises,” Rudolph adds.
The house belonged to the clergy for quite a few years, and then eventually it was sold to the family who occupied it last, and from whom it was bought in order to make Palazzo Castagna a reality. In the process of transforming the old building into the Hotel it is now, the management team made sure to restore all the original paintings and affreschi found on the walls and ceilings, especially those within the small room that used to serve as chapel.
“A huge part of history in general gets left untold, since stories and memories are buried with the passing of time. However, we want to make sure that the history of the house will live on and that every visitor will experience the love and attention that was given to the Palazzo in the years gone by,” Alison concludes.