Malta - old knights, planned cities

Malta - old knights, planned cities

Malta is the 10th smallest country in the world, and it also qualifies as a microstate. When looking at a full map of Europe, Malta barely registers as a biscuit crumb under the Island of Sicily.This was my first time in Malta, and for this trip I just stayed on the island of Malta. There are three islands that make up Malta: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. I had enough things to see and do without feeling the need to go to every island.I based myself in Valletta and travelled around from there. As usual with my travel notes, this post covers thoughts and observations rather than "things to do in Malta", which you can find out anywhere.During my time of living in London I became aware that Malta was a popular retirement destination for British. As a former British protectorate and with one of the official languages being English, Malta is a natural choice as a place to retire.I also learned that Malta was a popular beach destination. In London I would always see travel agencies on high streets advertising resorts in Malta. As an Australian living Southeast Asia I have high standards for beaches, so I don't visit the islands of the Mediterranean for a beach holiday. I'm here for old churches and medieval castles (stuff I can't get where I live). Before I started planning my trip I knew I would stay in the historic capital of Valletta rather than a beach resort. Valletta is a World Heritage site, so there can be no new apartments built within the city. There is a lack of hotels in the old town, which explains why I couldn't find many places to stay. I ended up renting a room in an Airbnb, and from there I enjoyed wandering around the old streets at my own leisure. One of the things I was most interested to see were the actual streets of Valletta itself. The city is laid out on a grid, which is an unusual site for an old city in Europe. Valletta was built in the 16th century after the Great Siege of Malta, and the town planners of the day went with the grid format despite the new city being on an uneven peninsula.The main tourist site I wanted to see was St. John’s Co-Cathedral. There are so many good churches in Europe that are free that I rarely pay to go inside one. I made an exception for St. John’s Co-Cathedral as it’s so intertwined with the history of Valletta. The outside is rather plain, and it reminded me of the many churches in Rome whose exterior doesn’t hint of what splendour lies within.Inside the church is a dazzling display of wealth. Sections of the church are allocated to patron countries of the knights.But like many places that face overtourism struggles, you only have to walk a couple of blocks away and the streets were quiet. I walked around most of the streets and they were never overrun like the main street.10km inland from Valletta is the former capital of Mdina. Having only been in Valletta my mind hadn’t fully grasped how small this island is. On the map it seemed far away, but from the city wall you can see Valletta in the distance. If I had of planned better I would have considered walking back instead of getting the bus.Mdina is now home to around 300 people. There are no cars inside the city walls either, which gives the city its nickname of The Silent City. It’s the sort of place that would be an overtourism hotspot in the high season, but during my trip it didn’t feel crowded at all.

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