Valletta is the capital of Malta and it was built by the Knights Hospitaller after the siege of 1565 in order to strengthen the order's position on the island. It is a complex grid of Baroque, Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture with two natural harbours and a cruise-liner terminal. Valletta is the cultural hub of the island, and although there are many artistic, architectural and archaeological gems scattered all over the island, Valletta contains within its walkable parameters a great number of churches, palaces, museums and parks. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once described Valletta as 'a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen' and compared it to Venice and Cadiz. Today Valletta is a city for everyone.
I was attracted to Valletta because I find the juxtaposition of old and new to be truly incredible. When the restoration works on the capital took off, I began to see its beauty and elegance emerge out of centuries of being hidden under layers of weather and environmental deposit, I could see how Valletta must have looked to the people who saw it when it was built. I could then understand why the best architects and the best stone masons were employed for the project of the city. In addition, the installation of contemporary architectonic features attracted me to the capital and I began to see the possibility of moving here to live.
Valletta is a marvelous experience for any person living here or just visiting. One could either sit back and relax in one of the many piazzas at a restaurant, a cafe or a wine bar or one could have a hectic few days trying to comb the entire city to not miss out any of the detail. There is certainly lots for either type of visitor, from very vibrant, modern and trendy cafeterias, bars and restaurants, especially in the revamped district of Strait street, to fine dining restaurants with budding or established chefs, galleries housing the work of noted or emerging artists, museums that tell the narrative of the island from the dawn of prehistory, religious spaces that house world-famous artworks by great artists like Caravaggio and Mattia Preti to shops selling a range of goods from exclusive and luxury brands to affordable locally crafted items.
With Valletta being named the cultural capital for 2018, there is certainly plenty of drive and ambition to keep the number of events and their standard on the ascendant. Today, Valletta attracts young and old alike, and visitors will not get the feeling they are in a fossilised museum city but rather in a place inhabited by the increasingly cosmopolitan local population, where, as has always been the case, elements of different cultures meet to create what is truly and uniquely Maltese. In fact, Valletta is the location where activities such as carnival, local feasts celebrating the patron saints, fireworks festivals, wine festivals and boat races can be best enjoyed.
To me Valletta can best be described as the nexus of highbrow and lowbrow, of great cultural sites and events which are followed by drinks or a meal at one of the trendy local bistros or the revamped red light district. Even though I live here, I am always astounded by the overwhelming number of artworks or cultural events that one could see and attend, and always amazed at the variety and quality of food being offered in the restaurants that line the piazzas or found tucked in one of the narrow streets away from the crowded centres. It also a place of memories, of past traditions which are kept very much alive by the local lifestyle. Such echoes take me back to my childhood as my mother's family used to live in one of the palazzos here; it is interesting to note that these memories are also accessible to the the many visitors I have brought with me to Valletta, for whom the local flavor and traditions stand out in relief like an exquisitely crafted work of art.