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/
Sixth Maltese restaurant gets a Michelin Star
A restaurant in Sliema – the Fernandõ Gastrotheque – has gained One Michelin Star status joining another five restaurants in Malta that also boast the star – Under Grain, Valletta; Noni, Valletta; ION – The Harbour, Valletta; De Mondion, Mdina; and Bahia, Balzan.
Five new restaurants also joined the Michelin Guide Malta 2023 selection. They are: Giuseppi’s, Naxxar; Loa, St. Paul’s Bay; Grotto Tavern, Rabat; Legligin, Valletta; and Rosamì, St. Julian’s. This brings the 2023 Malta selection up to 35 Michelin-recommended restaurants.
The Bib Gourmand status maintained the same restaurants – Terrone, Vittoriosa; Commando, Mellieħa; Grain Street, Valletta; and Rubino, Valletta. These restaurants represent good quality and good value cooking.
Michelin Guides international director Gwendal Poullennec said Michelin was proud to welcome a new restaurant to the large family of Michelin Stars.
“The development of the Maltese culinary scene is extremely exciting, with the selection of an additional five new restaurants that take their inspiration from the Mediterranean region, yet without holding back on the occasional touch of fusion to surprise and delight gourmets. Whether for its UNESCO-designated heritage, its status as a Mediterranean crossroads, its ancient history or its colourful and joyful cuisine, Malta has everything needed to seduce travellers,” she said.
Article credits: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/sixth-malta-restaurant-added-one-michelin-star-status.1017132
Secret Garden In Valletta Monastery Now Open
The Mysterium Fidei Monastery which has been secluded in the heart of Malta’s capital for over four centuries has just opened for the public… and the initial photos look incredible.
The secret garden forms part of Valletta’s Monastery of St. Catherine’s, home to the Augustinian Cloistered nuns. And after more than 400 years, it’s opening its rusted doors as part of an immersive experience called the Mysterium Fidei Museum.
Brought to life by Hidden Valletta Ltd., the new experience promises two tours. The monastery itself was founded in 1575 and was initially intended to care for female orphans. “From within the walls of this monastery, what is probably the last generation of nuns carry on the legacy to this day,” the tour says of the cloistered nuns who made an oath to lead a life of prayer within these walls.
Meanwhile, visitors will also be treated to a tour of the underground complex, which was originally used as a quarry to build the monastery above it. “From the ribbed vaulted rooms, the peaceful, central garden, the fiery ovens, and the undisturbed burial place, this complex is as fascinating as it is unique,” the museum explains.
Located on the corner of Strait Street and St. Christopher’s Street, the new museum is open on mornings and afternoons from Tuesday to Saturday, and from 8:30am to 2pm on Sundays. For more information – and a more detailed list of Opening Hours – check out their Facebook page and website here.Forbes Travel Guide 2023
The Forbes Travel Guide has returned for another year, awarding the world’s best hotels, restaurants, spas and cruises. And as for the luxury hotel department, one Maltese destination nestled right in the capital managed to yet again win the highest possible honour: a five-star rating!
Malta had 10 hotels featured in the 2023 Forbes Travel Guide, with five making the Recommended List and another four being awarded Four Stars. But in the end, the top honour went to only one: Iniala Harbour House, overlooking Valletta’s Grand Harbour.
Last year, the luxurious boutique hotel became Malta’s first and only to receive the top rating, with everything from beautiful bedding and helpful housekeeping to memorable drinks and thoughtful guest room amenities being among the things taken into consideration.
More than 2,000 properties in 70 different countries are asseessed, with up to 900 standards being taken into consideration. “Only the best of the best achieve the coveted five-star, our highest rating,” Forbes Travel Guide editor Jennifer Kester had said back in April 2022.
With 23 rooms and a Michelin-star restaurant, Iniala Harbour House offers everything from private plunge pools and jacuzzis to fully-equipped kitchens… and it sure looks like it’s managed to retain the top honour it won just last year!
Meanwhile, the Corinthia Palace Hotel managed to retain its four stars from last year, while the Hyatt Regency was bumped up from the Recommended list to four stars. The Phoenicia and The Westin Dragonara Resort, meanwhile, debuted on the list with the impressive four-star rating.25 years of Colours of Malta Villa Guardamangia – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s former home in Malta
It was one of their first marital homes and a place where the then Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip were able to live a relatively ‘normal’ life as husband and wife, before the sudden death of her father, King George VI, changed their lives forever. Now, Villa Guardamangia is set to be transformed into a museum, after falling into disrepair in recent years,
The couple lived in Malta for two years between 1949 and 1951, while Prince Philip was stationed there with HMS Magpie. An 18th century limestone villa in the style of a summer palace, Villa Guardamangia was loaned to the couple by Philip’s beloved uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, who rented it from the Schembri family. It was said to hold very happy memories for the couple, who looked back on their carefree time there fondly later in life. The Queen was a ‘regular’ naval wife, shopping in her Morris Minor and taking boat trips around the archipelago, while her husband worked hard in the Navy, one of his great joys, and a career that was cut short by his wife’s ascension to the throne.
The building was purchased in 2020 by the government and entrusted to Heritage Malta. The conservation and reconstruction works are already taking place but the main rehabilitation works are planned to start by the end of the year 2022 and are planned to last for the next 5 years and cost around €10mil to bring the villa back to its former glory. Conservators are currently working on the 1st floor uncovering the original wall paintings. This project will see the former royal residence transformed into a museum, exploring both Britain’s link to Malta (which gained independence in 1964) and will recreate what the house looked like when the royal couple lived there.
‘It’s in a very dilapidated state,’ Kenneth Gambin from Heritage Malta, told The Telegraph. ‘We’ve had to prop up the façade because it was threatening to collapse in places. We will have to replace some walls. It needs extensive work, it’s been falling to pieces for the last few decades. We calculate that it will cost somewhere between €5m and €10m and I would say it will be closer to the higher figure.’
Article credits: https://www.tatler.com/article/villa-guardamangia-malta-home-queen-prince-philip-renovation10 hidden gems in Malta
From finding secret beaches on which to enjoy Malta’s stunningly clear waters to knowing the best places to find a cup of coffee with a view or tuck into a late-night pastizzi-fest, this guide has got you covered when it comes to discovering hidden Malta.
The capital of Malta is, of course, a popular place to begin your visit to the islands. But for the authentic Maltese experience, stray from the busy thoroughfares and get lost in the winding, pretty backstreets of Valletta. Here family-run cafes, tiny restaurants and kitsch little shops are dotted around, just begging to be explored.
2. Ghasri Valley
Malta has no shortage of beautiful coastal spots for a swim, but the Ghasri Valley on Gozo is a must-visit. Here crystal clear, turquoise waters gently run through a steep-sided winding valley to create a secluded, natural s-shaped swimming pool complete with a tiny pebble beach. It’s also a great place for snorkelers and divers, as the creek hides several impressive underwater caves.
3. The Secret Passage at St Gregory’s Church
Malta has its own secret tunnel to rival Paris’ spooky catacombs; the thick stone walls of St Gregory’s Church in Zejtun have a hidden passageway inside, filled with human bones. With the skeletons believed to date back to the 1600s, the passageway was hidden for centuries before being re-discovered in the 1960s. Watch out for holidays and events when the church is open for visitors.
4. Fontanella Tea Garden
When visiting the city of Mdina, there’s only one place to stop for refreshments. The Fontanella Tea Garden is situated up high on the city’s stone bastions, meaning these al-fresco coffees come with the best views across Malta. Oh, and it’s also famous on the island for its delicious selection of home-made cakes – yes, please.
5. Il-Hofra L-Kbira
If you’re looking for a private slice of coastline, Il-Hofra L-Kbira will not disappoint. From the parking lot on the cliffs above, the beach is almost completely hidden below. Shallow warm waters and a flat, rocky beach with a little cave area providing some shade await visitors who find it. It’s not far from the super popular St Peter’s Pool in Marsaxlokk, so you could enjoy its hidden beauty after visiting the touristy site.
6. Crystal Palace Pastizzis
Pastizzi, a soft filo-pastry filled with mushy peas or soft ricotta, is Malta’s go-to snack. You’ll find them on sale pretty much everywhere, from bars to street food vendors, but Crystal Palace Tea and Coffee Bar has become a bit of a pastizzi icon. On the outskirts of Rabat, this cafe is open pretty much 24/7, so you can get your fix any time of the day or night!
7. Mnajdra Temple Complex
Malta has a long and rich history so the country boasts some incredible Roman ruins and beautiful crumbling architectural sites from different periods of its past, many of which get very busy with visitors. One hidden gem amongst these sites is the Mnajdra Temple Complex, near the village of Qrendi, where one of the three beautiful neolithic temples was built and designed around the movements of the sun. If you can, plan your visit during an equinox or solstice when special events are held.
8. The Jesus Tree
Yep, this is literally a tree that looks a bit like Jesus on the cross. Local legend says that the tree changed shape after being struck by lightning and locals now place flowers and gifts in homage at its feet. After being uprooted during a storm, it unfortunately lost its “head” and roots but the trunk was afterwards secured into a concrete base, so its holy shape can still be admired. If you’re after a quirky afternoon activity, set off to find the tree just outside of Mdina.
9. Seafood in Marsaskala
It’s no surprise that the seafood in Malta is famous for making travellers’ mouths water – with a huge array of Mediterranean fish and shellfish caught offshore each day, dishes here could hardly get any fresher! A great place to sample local dishes is in the small, relaxed fishing village of Marsaskala. Tuck into a swordfish steak or try traditional spaghetti with octopus sauce, before wandering along the promenade to spy the colourful fishermen’s houses and the boats that bob in the harbor.
10. Coral Lagoon
This perfectly-circular sea cave with an open roof is B.E.A.utiful. Either swim or kayak through what looks like a small cave from the sea next to Little Armier Bay and you’ll find yourself in a little round lagoon, harboring bright blue, clear waters. It’s worth getting there early before the tourists arrive – this highly Instagrammable hideaway isn’t going to stay a secret for much longer!
Article credits: https://www.ef.com/wwen/blog/language/10-hidden-gems-in-malta/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.Phoenicia Malta recalls Queen Elizabeth II’s dances in its Grand Ballroom
The Phoenicia Malta Ambassador Neville Juan Cardona featured on BBC World News on Monday morning, discussing the late Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to the hotel during her time on the island.
Mr Cardona spoke to BBC reporter Lucy Williamson about the Valletta hotel’s Grand Ballroom, where Prince Philip and the then-Princess Elizabeth “danced away many moons ago”.
He showed Ms Williamson the guestbook from the Queen’s stay at the hotel, featuring a number of photographs, during a time when “her signature simply read, Elizabeth”.
Queen Elizabeth II spent two years living in Malta while Prince Philip served as a Royal Navy Officer, a time that she described as some of “the happiest days” of her life. Just two years later she returned to London and prepared to become Queen, yet Ms Williamson remarked that while she will be remembered as “Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Head of the Commonwealth, and Queen, to Malta, she’s simply Elizabeth”.
Following her death on Thursday, The Phoenicia Malta recalled the Queen’s fondness for Malta, which “has long been known”, also expressing its condolences with The Royal Family and everyone around the world mourning her loss.
A member of The Leading Hotels of the World organisation, The Phoenicia Malta is an iconic 136-bedroom hotel located on Valletta’s doorstep that has “long been regarded as a national treasure”.
Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/phoenicia-malta-recalls-queen-elizabeth-ii-s-dances-in-its-grand-ballroom
AX THE SAINT JOHN CONSISTENTLY EXCEEDING TRAVELLERS’ EXPECTATIONS
AX The Saint John, a boutique hotel in the heart of Merchants Street, Valletta, is the recipient of Booking.com’s Traveller Review Award 2022 with a score of 9 out of 10!
A Traveller Review Award is won by having an average review score between 8 and 10 with at least three reviews left by Booking.com travellers by 1st December of the previous year. AX The Saint John managed to obtain a fantastic score, rendering the boutique hotel a recipient of this prestigious award.
Once a former merchant’s residence and shop, the accommodation was reformulated as the successful and hospitable setting that it is today but never losing its rich history. Rooms at AX The Saint John combine luxury, technology and style – ideal for the smart and independent traveller.