Just as I have mentioned in a previous post, Malta is spotted with spectacular monuments. Almost every village hides a dusted architectural pearl. And these are usually richly decorated churches. Best admired over very characteristic and beautiful festas. And during the summer season there is a festa day practically every weekend.
Whole villages and towns are decorated with colouful ‘pavaljuni’. The celebrations revolves around the saint and his or her place in the village church. Outdoor festivities include food and drinks. Music and wonderful firework displays.
Mdina and the neighbouring Rabat are real gems. Well worth skipping the beach for a day. They date back to the first Phoenician settlements and Roman cities. Once inside the same defensive walls. They were separated during Arab times and grew to be uniquely combined yet very different.
The elegant and charming Mdina is perched on a high plateau. In the middle of the island. It holds one of the most outstanding views of Malta and the hazy Mediterranean Sea. Once a political centre and capital city of Malta. Today it is the ancient showpiece of the island.
Mdina is known as ‘The Silent City’. Mainly due to its relaxed and quiet afternoons and nights. But also thanks to the very small number of people living within its walls. Strolling along the narrow, cobble-stoned streets of Mdina. Lined with churches, monasteries, palaces and flower-filled balconies is like stepping back in time.
The most significant buildings of Mdina town. Such as Vilhena Palace. St. Nicolas’ Chapel. Carmelite Church and Convent. Palazzo Santa Sophia. Palazzo Gatto. The Benedictine Monastery. The Natural History Museum and St Paul’s Cathedral create a rich, limestone mosaic.
St Paul’s Cathedral stands proudly and dominates over San Paul Square. Built in the 11th century. Rebuilt in the baroque style after a severe earthquake. It was designed by Lorenzo. It impresses with its magnificent dome towers. With an ornate marble floor. Gilded carvings. 15th-century Tuscan panel paintings. Frescoes depicting the shipwreck of St Paul in the apse. And the painting of ‘The Conversion of St Paul’ by Mattia Preti.
Don’t miss Falzon Palazzo. Known as the Norman House. Built in the Sicilian style in 1495. It is an aristocratic mansion where you can admire a fine collection of art. And the way the Maltese nobility used to live. After exploring the Bastion Square and its amazing views, do stop for a tea and delicious cake at Fontanella Tea Garden.
Rabat. Originally the suburb of Mdina. Holds historical intrigue and unforgettable charm itself. Currently much bigger than Mdina. It is generally recognised as the birthplace of Christianity in Malta. The town’s heritage is all about Roman ruins. The Domus Romana hold well-preserved mosaic pavements. Which are amongst the oldest in the Western Mediterranean. And early Christian buildings, as many religious orders established themselves in the city. It is believed that the Apostle Paul lived here after being shipwrecked on the island.
The city of Rabat is known for the best pastizzi in the entire island. The Crystal Palace is the place to go. It is a genuine place where you can observe Maltese men watching football and smoking. My favourite is a mushy peas. I will eat the ricotta one as well. But the pea filling is to die for.
I loved the lazy Saturday I spent in Mdina and Rabat. Enjoyed both cities but preferring Rabat. Rabat seems more alive to me. Even though the main activities of the day here include sitting outside the bars and restaurants in the sun. Drinking coffee in the square in front of St Paul’s Church. Watching the tourists passing by. Oh well. As I always say: Mediterranean people know how to enjoy life.