Forget Malta's image of cheap holidays amid concrete carbuncles: Valletta is a seriously cultured, beautiful city, designed on an orderly grid with the sea on three sides: as you stroll the main Triq ir-Repubblika, blue water can be seen to both left and right. Start out at St John's Co-Cathedral, built by the Knights of St John to celebrate their 1565 victory over the Ottomans. Its interior is all lavish Baroque gilt and frescoes, and it houses one of Caravaggio's finest paintings, The Beheading of St John the Baptist. Sample, too, the Grand Master's Palace, now the seat of Malta's parliament; it is awash with marble, gilt and ornate coats-of-arms.
Culture vultures could stop in at the Museum of Fine Art and the National Museum of Archaeology, but be sure to leave time for the hilltop Upper Barrakka Gardens, which offer breathtaking views over the Grand Harbour.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Matthew Teller writes on The Observer why Valletta is the place to be in early Spring.