But in the end, not all these recommendations are necessarily adapted to your tastes, your desires of the moment. It was a mixture of all this that determined the place where we settled in Malta, with one more essential criterion: the budget.
This time, the stars were aligned, we were very lucky by setting our sights on a small apartment in Vittoriosa (Birgu in Maltese), a medieval village near Valletta.
Vittoriosa, a contemporary tranquility….
On the one hand, it is superb, with houses dating back several centuries, narrow, quiet, cool streets, where it is delicious to get lost, breathtaking views of the surroundings.
On the other hand, there is still a real identity, a palpable village life, very Mediterranean, with papis talking in the main square and grannies on the balconies. Finally, and this is not a detail, the streets are almost free of tourists even in the middle of August, despite the proximity of the capital and the undeniable charm of Vittoriosa.
This charm undoubtedly comes from the many elegant decorative details that embellish the alleys and mark the entrance to the houses. From doorknobs to street signs, from the many plants on the doorstep to letterboxes, there is a wealth of ornaments to discover. The residents played the game so well that a sign from the municipality thanks them for their involvement in making the city beautiful.
As a festa (religious festival) is being prepared, the city is adorned with other decorations such as these astonishing columns, which seem to be mistaken for marble. When I knocked on it, I was amazed because it was painted wood. The illusion is perfect.
Built by the Knights of the Order of Malta from all over Europe in the 16th century (with a brief period of French and then English domination), the village owes its name to the family that founded the city, intended to protect Valletta as well as the neighbouring cities of Senglea and Cospicua. Vittoriosa (Birgu) was once the capital of Malta instead of Mdina (which did not have a strategic location).
The knights built inns and fortified Birgu Point even further. The forts of Saint Ange and Saint Elme were reinforced, which was very useful during the great Turkish assaults in 1565.
After this great siege, it was decided to establish the capital on the great peninsula opposite where Valletta is located today (one of the few cities built entirely on a plan at that time).
Today, strolling through the alleys, it is difficult to imagine the successive invasions and wars that this territory has had to endure. It is the many fortifications that remind us of this turbulent past. More recently, the docks have suffered significant damage during the bombardments of the Second World War.
History enthusiasts will be able to complete their knowledge at the Museum of Malta at War.
Afterwards, having talked to a lot of Maltese people, we think we did the right thing. Still accessible to small budgets, this historic city of the famous 3 cities is gradually recovering its former glory, with successful renovations (ramparts, a marina in particular). Housing prices are already skyrocketing and, likely, this jewel will soon attract many more travellers.
Surprisingly (to me), visitors turn en masse to the “modern” seaside resorts of the north coast: Sliema, Saint Julians and Paceville which I find ugly, expensive and overcrowded in summer. The only advantage of these places is that they have sandy beaches, but good luck finding a place to put your towel. I don’t think I’m doing much harm to the country by saying it’s not an ideal beach destination. Despite everything, many people go there in this perspective, while I think that the country’s assets are elsewhere, such as Vittoriosa, a nature road trip along the Maltese coast, Gozo, gastronomy, history…