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Maltese Villages

Birkirkara

Birkirkara

Birkirkara, being the largest population centre in Malta is hardly a village!  It is contiguous with both Sliema and Valletta.  If you are interested in Malta in the time of the Knights, it has one of the best stretches of the Wignacourt Aquaduct, which was built by Grandmaster Wignacourt to bring water to Valletta.  (The shortage of water on Malta has always been a problem: it has now been solved by extracting freshwater from seawater.)

If you are a train enthuisiasts, there is Station Garden, in which stands one of the remaining stations of the sadly closed Valletta to Mdina Malta Railway and probably the last remaining Malta Railway rollingstock: a restored third class carriage, unfortunately without its wheels.

The Three Villages

AttardLijaBalzan

The name is a bit of a creation for tourists, but it covers, begining at Birkirkara and heading west, the villages of Balzan, Lija and Attard.  These are not obviously touristy, but provide a very pleasant taste of how Malta used to be, albeit an upmarket one.

The major place of interest is St Anton Palace.  This provided the Grandmasters with a palace outside Valletta, and now houses Malta President.  Whilst the Palace itself cannot be visited, the gardens are Malta's largest public gardens outside Valletta.  A combination of mature trees and pools and fountains make the gardents a very pleasant place to stroll through on a hot day.   There are also glasshouses, an aviary and a small zoo, specializing in desert animals.  It is often used for exhibitions and during the summer part of it is transformed into an open-air theatre.

Naxxar

Naxxar

This is one of Malta's oldest villages, shown by the nearby enigmatic "cart ruts", which suggest it might go back to Punic or Roman times.  It was mentioned in the list of parishes of 1436.

Opposite the Baroque Parish Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary stands the Palazzo Parisio.  There was originally a palace belonging to one of the Grandmasters, but this was rebuilt towards the end of the 19th century by a Maltese banker.  Beer lovers may be intersted to know that his son gained the nickname of Ic-Cisk or the cheque, because his bank was the first Maltese bank to issue them.  When they took over a brewery in 1928, they started producing Cisk lager.

The house is very much over the top, in a magnificamt sort of way, justifying the claim that it is a min-Versaille.  The gardens alone are worth visiting, being in classical baroque style, providing a pleasant stroll and admire the fountains, hibiscus, bogainvilleas and citrus trees.

Close to Naxxar, stands the hamlet of San Pawl Tat-Targa, where St Paul was supposed to have preached (marked by a chapel).  Despite its small size, there are several things of interest to see, particularly to those with an interest in military hisory.  There are two towers the Torri Gauci and the Captains Tower.  The Torri Gauci was a privately built fortified residence, resembling a Border Pele Tower, built by the Gauci family in 1548 after members were enslaved by Corsairs.  The Captains tower was built under De Valette as a watch tower looking out over St Paul's Bay.

Just to the north stands the Victoria Lines.  This was built in the lattter part of the 19th century to protect Valletta and the south of the island from a sudden landing on the north.  It consisted of a linear fortification joining three major forts and a series of strong points.

Just to the north of the Victoria Lines stands the only WW2 pillbox to still retain its original camouflage, including fake painted windows.  Across the valley, near the village of Maghtab, stands a red painted wall.  This is Il Widna, the Ear, a rare example of an acoustic mirror.  It was built in the 1930's, prompted by the Abyssinian crisis, to provide early warning of aircraft from the sound of their engines before they were in sight.  By WW2, the technique was of doubtful value because of the increase in aircraft speed.  Fortunately radar had been invented by then.  (There are examples of contemporary ones in Britain at Denge near Dungeness and earlier ones, built to detect Zeppelins, near Kilnsea Grange, E. Yorkshire.)

 Mosta

Mosta

Mosta is Malta's second largest town, and its main attraction is the Mosta Dome or Rotunda.  This was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome and is Malta's second church to claim the third largest unsupported dome in the world.  (The other is the Xewkija Rotunda on Gozo.)  

In 1942 the church was hit by a bomb which penetrated the dome into the church where 300 people were attending mass.  Fortunately it did not explode and to commerorate this a replica of the bomb is displayed in the church.

Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is a pretty fishing village and it has some of the most popular fish restaurants on the island.  Its harbour is full of the traditional Maltese fishing boats and ringed by restaurants and cafés.  There is a daily market, selling fish, naturally, and many other local products.

The excellence of Marsaxlokk's harbour is testified to by the number of invaders who have landed there.  In 1565, it was the landing place of the Turks under Mustapha Pasha and in 1798, it was one of the five landing places of the French.  The Royal Navy used it to supply the British and Maltese forces involved in evicting the French.