Fun things to do in Valletta

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Valletta

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    The Barrakka Lift

    by antistar Updated Dec 10, 2013

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    Malta is tough going at times with its forty degree inclines straining your hardening calves. But there is now at least some relief. In 2012 a new elevator was opened: the Barrakka Lift. And it's quite something. It looks like a lift without a building, like some great metal monolith stretching up over 50 meters to the streets above.

    It connects the newly redeveloped waterfront with the beautiful Barrakka Gardens in Valletta. It's currently free, but I saw what looked like ticket machines standing nearby but not operational. I'm guessing at some point they will sell tickets for it. At least then the enormous queues for the damn thing might reduce!

    The Barrakka Lift, Valletta The Barrakka Lift, Valletta The Barrakka Lift, Valletta

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    O touch of the UK in Valletta.

    by planxty Written Nov 16, 2013

    Apologies for the lateness in adding this tip, I really did think I had completed my Malta pages but a recent check through reveals that this was not the case, something I hope to rectify now.

    After a fairly long day sightseeing round central Valletta, I decided a pint would be in order. I really didn't fancy any of the establishments on Republic Street with all the "beautiful people" sitting outside sipping iced coffees or whatever, hoping to be seen and being attended to by stiff looking and equally "beautiful" wating staff in their starched "black and whites". No, what I wanted was a bar, a proper place to sit and have a large draught Cisk beer. Sure, I knew a great little social club up in Floriana but it just seemed like too far to walk!

    Wandering fairly aimlessly, I found myself in Ordinance Street and discovered the Ordnance Bar (yes,I know they are spelt differently) which looked like it might do. Ordinarily I am not a huge fan of faux British / Irish bars overseas but I was thirstly after all and wandered in to order myself a pint of the good stuff. I was served by a friendly young lady and took my pint to have a look round. There is a definitely British overtone here but there are plenty of old black and white photos on the walls of old Malta.

    The sign outside proudly declares that the bar was opened in 1979 although subsequent research suggests that it was refurbished as recently as 2012 with very pleasing results as you can see. Due to the time of day, day of the week and season it was pretty quiet. I did visit a couple more times when it was fuller and although I did not dine there myself, the menu was very interesting, a fairly equal mix of local and "foreign" dishes. The food served appeared to be well-presented and looked very appetising so I really must try it next time. Prices (for food and drink) do not seem exorbitant for what is a very pleasant establishment).

    People here also seem to be friendly and in addition to the staff I had informative conversations with a few expats here as well. The Ordnance seems to be popular with the British contingent in the city.

    If you want to avoid the "fashion show" in the main street and squares, this is definitely a good bet.

    Ordnance Pub, Valletta, Malta.
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    Valletta Living History

    by AlexisC5 Written Aug 13, 2013

    This 35 minute audiovisual show is the perfect introduction to the History, Culture and Lifestyle of Malta and the Maltese.

    The show include reenactment, action of the Great Siege between the Knights of St. John and the Ottoman Turks. It also included archive footage of the Second World War all the way up to Malta today.

    In a short time you will appreciate better the role of Malta in history, both as a European and Mediterranean nation state.

    The action and animation proved for entertainment and information for all the family.

    Being right in the centre of Valletta, after the show you will waste on time in carrying on your appreciation of the City and the History that is all around you.

    Valletta Living History was awarded European Regional Development Funds as it is a high quality production giving a wealth of information to its viewers. The show has also been awarded the Quality Assured certificate by the Malta Tourism Authority.

    What most people say is that "Valletta Living History is the best first stop to uncovering the City and the Islands history'

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    I didn't see the show.

    by planxty Written May 25, 2013

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    Being a military history fan, one of the things I had wanted to do on Malta was to visit the Saluting Battery in Valletta, the firing of which is the modern continuance of a centuries old tradition and would have appealed to me. Regrettably, I was not actually free in Valletta at midday any time I was there and had either misunderstood the signboard outside or it was erroneous, stating that it was possible to view the guns later in the afternoon (at 1700 hours). I cannot think I was alone in this idea as I saw a number of other travellers milling about apparently waiting for an opening that never happened. It is a shame I did not see the actual firing and something I intend to rectify nxt time I am on the island.

    However, in the way of these things all was not lost and whilst I could not actually see the battery up close or being fired, the surrounding gardens provided a very interesting experience. The Upper and Lower Barracca Gardens provides not only a very pleasant and relaxing place to escape the hurly-burly of Valletta's streets but also affords some wonderful views. I hope my photographic attempts do it justice. In addition to the very well-maintained open space, there really is a huge history here mostly defined by a number of quite poignant memorials to men long dead.

    The attached website give details of admssion prices etc. but you can wander round the rest of the site any time during daylight and for nothing which makes it a winner in my book!

    I should add that the actual battery is run by the excellent and charitable Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna who do a great deal for preserving historical sites on the island and are worthy of support. You should try to go for the firing, I certainly intend to having seen how well they carry it off at Fort Rinella elsewhere on the island (see seperate tip).

    Saluting Battery, Valletta, Malta. View from Saluting Battery, Valletta, Malta. Monument, Valletta, Malta. Monument, Valletta, Malta. Upper Barracca Gardens, Valletta, Malta.
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    A fascinating Museum.

    by planxty Written May 25, 2013

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    First of all, let me clear up a little confusion here. There are several "experiences" in Valletta which mention the Second World War in their publicity but this tip refers to the official War Museum located in the old St. Elmo's Fort and administered by Heritage Malta.

    My love of military history is well-documented on other pages and tips here in VT and so it was inevitable that I would visit the Museum whilst I was there and I am extremely glad I did. Whilst not huge, it is a very interesting place, cleverly laid out in a building that is itself of great military interest.

    Initially built in 1552 it has withstood seige by the Ottoman Turks and was still in use in the Second World War as an artillery battery repulsing and attempted Italian seaborne invasion in 1941. As you walk through what must have been the old main gate towards the Museum, just have a look at the thickness of the walls and imagine what a formidable obstacle to attack it really is. You will also pass a stone plaque bearing the badge of the Cheshire Regiment showing the long association with the British who controlled the island for so many years.

    When you get to the Museum proper you will be greeted by a friendly member of staff and pointed in the right direction. From there on, you are effectively on your own as I did not see any other employee present but do not worry, all you have to do is follow your feet. They have very helpfully painted a chronology on the floor, so just follow the years and you will be guided nicely through and miss nothing.

    Interestingly, the first exhibits I encountered were from the First World War. I had a reasonable knowledge of Malta's involvement in the Second World War, which is well-documented, but I had completely overlooked the part the island played in the first global conflict. Malta is very strategically placed in the Mediterranean which is what makes it so attractive to potential invaders. What interested me most and I suppose should have been obvious, was it's function as a hospital base for the casualties of the appalling carnage in the Gallipoli campaign. This room is pretty small but well worth a good look round.

    After this, you are then directed to the Second World War exhibits which are what I presume most visitors come here to see. Arguably the country's finest hour and rewarded by one of only two "communal" British George Cross medals ever awarded, it is still very proudly remembered by the Maltese. Undoubtedly, there was a lot of source material on the island when the Museum was opened in 1975 following an earlier 1974 temporary exhibition, but it is fascinating nonetheless and very well presented.

    I won't go through all the exhibits for several reasons. Firstly, it would make this tip very long. Secondly, I have constructed a travelogue on the Museum to showcase some of the many photographs I took (non-flash photography is allowed throughout, I asked) and finally the attached website gives an excellent overview accompanied by professional photography which is infinitely better than my efforts. Please do take a look.

    Having said all that, I will briefly mention a couple of items. Firstly, the actual George Cross as mentioned above, is on display along with the original citation letter from King George. It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of this medal in the Maltese psyche and to see the actual piece itself was a thrill. On a completely different scale but also dear to the hearts of local people is a Golster Gladiator aeroplane officially designated N5520 but named Faith which was one of three in service on the island at the beginning of World War Two. Almost inevitably the others were named Hope and Charity. Despite being woefully unsuited to the combat of the time, they fought valiantly until Faith was bombed in her hangar in 1941 which blew her wings off. She was then ignominiously dumped in a quarry but was subesquently restored and now has pride of place in the centre of the Museum.

    One final thing. You really should stop in the final room which showcases medals won by various Maltese people. Apart from the groups on display in the cases, you can pull out the drawers below to see many more groups which is fascinating.

    For the rest of the exhibits, well you should either visit or have a look at the website from where the following logistical details are also taken.

    Opening hours

    Monday to Sunday: 9.00-17.00
    Last admission: 16.30
    Closed: Good Friday, 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January

    Tickets

    Adults (18 - 59 years): €6.00
    Youth (12 - 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years and over), ISIC Card Holders, EURO26 Card Holders, ICOM Card Holders, University of Malta and MCAST Students: €4.50
    Children (6 -11 years): €3.00
    Infants (1 -5 years): Free

    National War Museum, Valletta, Malta. 'Plane, National War Museum, Valletta, Malta. G.C., National War Museum, Valletta, Malta. Medals, National War Museum, Valletta, Malta. National War Museum, Valletta, Malta.
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    One for the military buffs.

    by planxty Written May 23, 2013

    I have mentioned in other tips on this page that I had bought a combined Heritage Malta ticket allowing access to various attractions around Valletta and I do recommend this to the visitor as it attracts a decent discount. In fact, had I known about it earlier, I would have bought the combined ticket for the entire island as this looks like even better value. It is valid for 30 days and costs €35 for adults, €15 for children and €70 for a family.

    It will be no secret to anyone who has read any of my other pages here on Virtual Toruist that I have a great interest in military history of just about any period and so this was a natural place for me to visit. there are two things that really make this place stand out from so many other similar places worldwide. First is that the weapons are still held in the original building which has been an armoury for centuries as oppposed to a modern museum and second is that there is such a complete provenance for so many of the exhibits. In most places you will be informed that a particular suit of armour is "typical of that worn by a Knight in the mid 16th century or whatever, but here you are told exactly which Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John of Malta wore it. for example, the image I have included in this tip was actually the personally tailored suit of Grandmaster Jean de Vallette Parisot (1557 - 1668). The fact that Valletta, where the Museum stands, is actually named for this man only adds further interest.

    The building itself had a much more humble beginning that being an armoury, it was actually the Palace stables, the Palace being the HQ of the Knights mentioned above. It was one of the Orders more famous Grand Masters, Alof de Wignacourt (1601-22) who shifted the weaponry from the stables to upstairs of the space you can now visit. After removing the French from their brief control of the island, the British took about removing much of the inventory of the armoury to Britain although this was never fully completed and subsequently Governor Sir Gaspard Le Marchant (1858-64) recovered and restored some old pieces for display thereby making this place the first public Museum in Malta. In 1975, the decision was taken to move the remaining collection to it's present location to make way for the House of Representatives who wanted the upper floors for themselves. I fear it was ever thus with politicians!

    So what is there to see? Well, quite a lot ranging over many centuries in what is a country with a very militarily defined history. Armour, swords, muskets, rifle, cannon, bayonets, you name it and it is here. It is an excellent collection and one that will delight any military history buff, thereby giving rise to the title of this tip. Even for the non military history afficionado, there is plenty of interest and I really do recommend it.

    Should you want to visit, here are the logistics, taken from the excellent website.

    Opening Hours

    Monday to Sunday: 9.00-17.00
    Last admission: 16.30
    Closed: 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January, Good Friday

    Tickets

    Joint admission fees to the Palace Armoury and the Palace State Rooms are as follows:

    Adults (18 - 59 years): €12.00 or €17.00 with audio guide
    Youth (12 - 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years and over), ISIC Card Holders, EURO26 Card Holders, ICOM Card Holders, University of Malta and MCAST Students: €8.00
    Children (6 -11 years): €8.00
    Infants (1 -5 years): Free

    When the Palace State Rooms are closed the fees for the Palace Armoury are as follows:

    Adults (18 - 59 years): €5
    Youth (12 - 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years and over), ISIC Card Holders, EURO26 Card Holders, ICOM Card Holders, University of Malta and MCAST Students: €3.50
    Children (6 -11 years): €3.50
    Infants (1 -5 years): Free

    Photography (no flash) is allowed throughout and as the place is all on a single level so I think it would be suitable for mobility impaired visitors.

    Palace Armoury, Valletta, Malta. Palace Armoury, Valletta, Malta. Palace Armoury, Valletta, Malta. Palace Armoury, Valletta, Malta. Palace Armoury, Valletta, Malta.
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    In need of attention.

    by planxty Written May 23, 2013

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    I have mentioned in other tips on this page that I had bought a combined Heritage Malta ticket allowing access to various attractions around Valletta and I do recommend this to the visitor as it attracts a decent discount. In fact, had I known about it earlier, I would have bought the combined ticket for the entire island as this looks like even better value. It is valid for 30 days and costs €35 for adults, €15 for children and €70 for a family.

    I had been looking forward to visiting the Palace Armoury (see seperate tip on this page) as it had been recommended by a Maltese friend and I have an interest in military history and when I visited there I found out that the adjacent State Rooms of the Presidential Palace were also included in the price and so I naturally went to have a look. My initial and abiding impression was that this was a place that had seen much better days. I know that much EU money is currently being pumped into Malta, specifically for cultural projects, and I hope that some can be found for this building as it really has the potential to again be the magnificent edifice it once obviously was. Some of the images might give an impression of what I am talking about. Suits of armour rusting away, paintwork chipped and peeling, floortiles cracked and so on. Also, there were rooms that really deserved to have some appropriate furniture displayed but were totally bare, looking as if they were waiting to be dressed. I should mention, in the interests of fairness, that there were some very interesting artworks, just not very many in a place as important as this. Also, there was just about nothing in the way of signage.

    So what is the history of this building? Well, the first Magisterial Palace was commissioned by Grandmaster Fra Pietro del Monte of the Knights of St. John of Malta in the late 15th century on this site. subsequent Grandmasters added to and altered the structure until it looked like the structure you see today by about 1750. When the British took control of the island in the early 19th century it became the official residence of the Governor. Like most places in Valletta, the Palace suffered from the German and Itlalian Axis aerial bombardment of the Second world War although it was restored thereafter and was indeed the seat of Malta’s first parliament following Independence in 1964.

    Some of the above sounds very negative and I offer it merely to indicate to the potential visitor what to expect as I always tried to report fairly on VT. The State Rooms are certainly worth visiting and a little imagination will allow you to visualise the former glory of the place. I really do hope there is the finance and will to provide the necessary support so this historical structure and it's contents do not fall into total disrepair.

    Should you want to visit, here are the logistics taken from the website.

    Monday to Sunday between 10.00 and 16.00hrs. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time. Closed on Good Friday, 24, 25, 31 December and January 1.

    It also adds the following caveat which indicates the continued importance of the Palace.

    The Palace State Rooms may be closed to visitors at short notice due to the exigencies of the Office of the President or the House of Representatives.

    Palace State Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Palace State Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Palace State Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Palace State Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Palace State Rooms, Valletta, Malta.
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    Come write me down.

    by planxty Updated Apr 24, 2013

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    I have mentioned in other tips on this page the great Maltese love for statuary. Indeed, you can hardly walk round a corner without bumping into another one. I was wandering fairly aimlessly around Floriana one day and came upon this relatively modern looking work. If you have not read any of my other tips, I should explain that Floriana is the name of the area outside the walled portion of Valletta, named for the Pope's architect who laid out the area on behalf of the Knights of St. John of Malta.

    The gentleman commemorated here is a poet, priest and teacher called Carmelo Psaila but known as Dun Karm. Born in 1861 on Gozo he really did have an interesting life. After being dismissed from teaching (for reasons I have not been able to ascertain) he went on to run the National Library and was a prolific writer earning the soubriquet of "the Bard of Malta". He worked on the official Maltese - English dictionary and his sonnets in Maltese are regarded highly. He is, however, best known as having composed the lyrics for the Maltese National anthem.

    This is yet another fine statue in a city, indeed country, that seems to prize statuary and is worth a moment to look at.

    Dun Karm statue, Floriana, Valletta, Malta. Detail, Dun Karm statue, Floriana, Valletta, Malta Dun Karm statue, Floriana, Valletta, Malta.
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    The building is the star here.

    by planxty Written Apr 10, 2013

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    I have mentioned elsewhere on my Malta pages that there are many, many "experiences" (audio / visual type attractions) and Museums on the island and this is understandable as the country simply oozes history from pre-history onwards. One of the more enjoyable of the many I visited was the Museum of the Knights Hospitaller in Valletta, not because of it's advanced technological presentation (there is none) but because of the amzing and historical building in which it is housed and which give rise to the title of this tip.

    It is strange the way things happen actually. I had always known a fair amount about the Knights Templar having read many books and watched TV documentaries about them but I had known very little about the Knights Hospitaller, their contemporaries, until a few months before my visit to Malta when I visited their Church and associated Museum in Central London. I should add that this was not done in preparation to my Maltese trip which I had not even planned then, it was merely a happy circumstance.

    Having had my interest piqued somewhat, when I wandered past this place on a fairly random wander round Valletta, I decided to visit. I was greeted by a couple of very friendly men who spoke excellent English and bought my ticket. I was pointed in the direction of the entrance and almost immediately bumped into a large group of American tourists. As it turned out, they were going to sither the Conference Centre or Theatre that share this wonderful old building and I had the place more or less to myself, it being of-season and a midweek afternoon.

    I have spoken about the building and I hope the images do it some justice although again apologies for the image quality as I flash photography is not allowed. It is the Sacra Infermeria or Holy Infirmary and dates from 1574, built on the orders ot the then Grand Master de la Cassiere. Although it has suffered much over the years, especially during the Axis bombardment of the Second World War and a more recent fire but it restored magnificently now.

    As you go throught the impressive hallways, complete with suits of armour, do not be put off by the numerous police officers you may see, nothing is wrong, it is just that the police academy occupies the other end of the building. At least you should feel safe here.

    You then go downstairs to the Museum proper which is not huge but very interesting. I found it fascinating reading about the Knight's obligations. If you remember that they were nobles, priveleged, rich and powerful, it is almost unbelievable that they were required to perform at least one "nursing" duty for the patients who could be from any class. You could potentially have a Knight of this very powerful Order dressing the wounds of a beggar, which they saw as ther Christian duty. It was certainly an eye opener for me. There are many interesting artefacts from all periods of the Knights time on Malta, supported by some decently rendered tableaux.

    You then travel further down into the lower levels which weere used as shelter during the Second World War and also as a place of refuge during the 16th century seige by the Ottoman Turks. The plague of Malta is also well explained.

    Everything is very well explained on the information boards and if you are lucky enough to be on your own as I was, it is a really stimulating experience. I really do recommend it.

    To the logistics now.

    The Museum is open 0930 to 1630 Monday to Friday and 0930 - 1600 on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

    Although I did not enquire specifically, I would suggest that the very nature of the place would regrettably make it unsuitable for mobility impaired visitors. You may wish to check by contacting the venue with the attached details.

    Definitely recommended, an excellent place to visit.

    Knights Hospitaller Museum, Valletta, Malta. Knights Hospitaller Museum, Valletta, Malta. Knights Hospitaller Museum, Valletta, Malta. Knights Hospitaller Museum, Valletta, Malta. Knights Hospitaller Museum, Valletta, Malta.
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    A very national monument.

    by planxty Updated Mar 6, 2013

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    I write this tip on the island of Malta, which I have been reliably informed has historically been invaded 51 times. Everyone has basically walked in here and taken over ranging from the Romans, Ottoman Turks, Carthaginians, British, French and Heaven knows who else. Obviously, these are not in chronological order.

    The granting of independence to Malta therefore is a matter of great importance to what are a very proud people and is symbolised in this National Monument which is situated near the Triton Fountain that forms the central bus station. I do not intend to bore the reader here with a complete history of the political situation following the Second World War, there is plenty of information avqailable on that. I intend merely to guide the traveller towards an edifice which, in a city of much excellent statuary, literally stands out against the rest.

    Malta was granted independence on 13th December 1974, although their subsequent accession into the federal European Union (formerly the EC and EEC), in my opinion, render this independence obsolete. The fine monument to a brief time in the long history of this nation when it had sovereignty however remains and is well worth a look. Indeed, it is hard to miss it as most bus routes into and out of the city will pass it.

    It is the work of a sculptor called Bonnici and was unveiled on the 25th anniversary of independence in 1989. It is definitely worth a closer look than just driving past it on the bus.

    Independence Monument, Valletta, Malta.
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    I learn something every day.

    by planxty Updated Mar 6, 2013

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    I have mentoned many times on my VT pages that I learn something new every day, and this is undoubtedly true reflecting a maxim of my late maternal Grandmother that, "It's a bad day when you don't learn something, Fergy." This tip reflects that entirely.

    I am very familiar with the Mall in London, the road which leads to Buckingham Palace and is hugely well known to tourists. I had never even considered where the word Mall, now adopted by a lot of the English speaking world when referring to a large shopping centre, even came from. Allow me to tell you.

    I have spoken elsewhere in my Malta pages about the large and long association with the Knights Hospitaller (aka the Knights of St. John, aka the Knights of Malta) on the island and the word derives from what was effectively a pastime of theirs. They played a game calle Maglio, effectively a sort of English croquet on steroids using huge mallets and devised as a test of strength and skill. Well, such a test needs a ground to play it on and this piece of ground was laid out for the purpose.. It is long and thin and, in the Maltese fashion more recently, crammed full of statuary as the images show.

    Certainly you won't find medieaval knights throwiing large mallets about these days but what you will find is a delightful place in central Valletta (technically Floriana district) which is wonderful to spend a little time in and exercise your camera lens. I know that on the several times I have been there off-season there are more than enough camera-wielding tourists about. It really is worth a look around.

    It is free to walk along and is part of the Floriana walking tour which I have dealt with on another part of this page. Go and take a look, it's worth it.

    The Mall, Valletta, Malta. The Mall, Valletta, Malta. The Mall, Valletta, Malta. The Mall, Valletta, Malta.
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    Memory of a very hard time.

    by planxty Written Mar 5, 2013

    I have mentioned elsewhere about the Maltese love for statuary and monuments and the longer I stay here (I am writing this tip whilst still on the island) the more apparent this becomes.

    I have also become aware of the significance in the national psyche of the Second World War when the islanders, along with their British and Commonwealth allies stood resolutely against and almost unbelievable assault from the Fascist forces of Germany and Italy. Malta's resistance was pivotal in the war in the Meditteranean, allowing resupply to the Allied forces in North Africa and a subsequent staging post for the invasion of Sicily and then Italy, thereby opening the so-called "soft underbelly of Europe". That the islanders are very and rightly proud of this time is therefore hardly surprising.

    Of all the many monuments (and they are numerous) that I have so far come across, this is undoubtedly the most impressive. standing technically in Floriana i.e. just utside the old city walls of Valletta proper, it dominates the local skyline and, with it's permanently burning flames and flying flags, provides a very visible reminder of a not so distant past. As you can see from the images, the words of major world leaders regarding the bravery of the Maltese, are inscribed n the base of the monument.

    Certainly, you will see it if you visit Valletta but I would encourage you to brave the traffic (do be careful) and go and examine this monument closer, it is quite moving.

    War memorial, Valletta, Malta. Detail, War memorial, Valletta, Malta. Detail, War memorial, Valletta, Malta. Detail, War memorial, Valletta, Malta. Detail, War memorial, Valletta, Malta.
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    Another poignant reminder.

    by planxty Updated Mar 5, 2013

    Normally when writing tips on VT I can find any amount of information online to assist me but it seems that in regard to Malta there is not perhaps as much as I would have expected. This is one such tip.

    On a fairly aimless wander round Valletta (actually Floriana which is the area outside the old city walls) I came upon the monument you can see in the images. It is a memorial to the members of the Royal Malta Artillery who died in World War 2 when the island was beseiged and suffered horribly at the hands of the Germans and Italians. The recognition of the sacrifice of the Maltese is famously remembered by the award of the George Cross (a very high ranking British decoration) to the entire country and populace.

    Much of the country's defence in those terrible days was centred on it's ability to withstand the constant bombing of the Axis forces and the Royal Malta Artillery were at the forefront of that. In the nature of war, many of them lost their lives doing so, and this is their memorial. It is actually a little bit out of the way band takes a bit of finding. Should you wish to, walk to the bottom (lower) end of the main bus station and take your life in your hands crossing the road towards the sea and you will find it hidden in a little grove of bushes.

    I have mentioned elsewhere that the Maltese seem very fond of public statuary and memorials but, given the relatively recent history of the suffering of this place, it is probably appropriate. What made the place even more poignant for me was that many of the surnames commemorated there are extremely familiar to me as there is a large Maltese community in the East End of London where I live.

    Again, not a thing the traveller would necessarily seek out but, if you are in the area, it is worth a look and a remembrance of what this place suffered in times not so long past.

    RMA memorial, Valletta, Malta. RMA memorial, Valletta, Malta. RMA memorial, Valletta, Malta.RMA memorial, Vallet RMA memorial, Valletta, Malta.
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    So many reminders.

    by planxty Written Mar 3, 2013

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    Malta is a place with a huge and very ancient history. It is supposedly home to the oldest free-standing building in the world and is literally oozing the past out of every pore. It appears to me, however, that the defining time in it's long and fascinating story is actually relatively recent and dates back to the Second World War. You only have to look at the national flag to see the George Cross, a reminder and recognition of the stoic defence of the islanders with their British and Commonwealth Allies in the face of the fascist German and Italian forces. This was, to utilise an old phrase, "their finest hour".

    Obviously, war comes at a price and this is just one of many memorials I have found commemorating the dead of that conflict, both military and civilian. I happened upon it fairly much by accident during a wander round Valletta but is was pretty apparent even from a distance what it was. The eagle atop the monument was so close to the badge of the Royal Air Force as to leave little doubt. I approached and it was indeed an official Commonwealth War Graves Commission monument. This organisation commemorates British and Commonwealth war dead all over the world and I have visited many of their sites. If you are interested in the subject, you may also wish to visit the War Graves Photographic Project site. This is an excellent project which aims to photograph every British and Co9mmonwealth war grave round the world so that relatives who cannot visit can at least have a photograph of the last resting place or memorial of a loved one.

    The Royal Air Force were responsible for providing air support to repel the German and Italian bombers trying to bomb the island into submission and also in support of the convoys that were Malta's only lifeline for food and fuel.

    As always, I found this monument very moving when I looked at the row upon row of names. Maybe I am a little over-sentimental about these things but I cannot but think about the generation of young men who gave thier lives to stop what they perceived as a very great wrong. I thought the contrails of the modern airliners behind the moment made a nice image.

    Air Force War Memorial, Valetta, Malta. Detail, Air Force War Memorial, Valetta, Malta. Detail, Air Force War Memorial, Valetta, Malta. Detail, Air Force War Memorial, Valetta, Malta.
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    The place to plan a war.

    by planxty Updated Mar 3, 2013

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    I have mentioned elsewhere on my Malta pages that the history of the island is one largely associated with militarism and I have been told by someone here that the island has been invaded no less that 51 times in it's history. The one time it was not invaded, and probably the most important was during the Second World War when the fascist Axis forces of Germany and Italy did their level best to make the island capitulate and failed to do so. I was reading a book yesterday about the Malta supply convoys and came upon an excellent quote form a senior British naval officer named Cunningham who described the island as the "linchpin in the hinge of fate". I may well use this quote, later paraphrased by Churchill, as the title for my Malta page here.

    It is undoubtedly true that had Malta fallen in the early 1940's the Axis powers would have had free reign in the Meditteranean region, thereby allowing them free resupply of their forces in North Africa. Had that happened, who knows how the war may have turned out? Readers of my other pages here on VT will know that I have a great interest in military history and so a visit to the Lascaris War Rooms was very much on my agenda and one of the first places I visited on Malta.

    I should urge the reader not to be put off by the approach to the place which is currently the outskirts of a massive building site that smells like a public convenience and seems to be a hangout for deliquent (although timid) youths hell-bent on posting graffitii on any available surface. I am sure the Maltese authorities can do much to sort this out.

    I went and paid my entrance fee and I have a tip for the reader here. You can buy a joint ticket for the War Rooms, Rinella Fort, Saluting Battery and War Museum which attracts a discount. My combined ticket cost €25..

    As I was visiting off-season it was quiet and the ticket seller told me to go and join the tour which had recently started. The normal practice is to watch an old Pathe News film first, but I was able to watch it at the end and it didn't detract from the tour doing things in reverse order.

    The guide was extremely knowledgeable and took us through the wartime history of the place, which is completely fascinating. Initially, when the island was under a brutal aerial bombardment from the Germans and Italians, the War Rooms provided a control centre for the scant air defence that existed and also auxiliary services like the searchlight units and Royal Observer Corps units. A senior RAF officer here invented the theory of having a blanket of air defence albeit that he had very few resources to play with. The board shown is quite clever, being constructed out of louvres so that officers in the Air Room and officers in the main room could both see the states of readiness of the Units at their disposal by means of a very simple double metal tag system.

    Having resisted the punishing air bombardment, the tide of the war began to turn and attention was focused on how to invade Sicily and Italy, the so-called "soft underbelly" of Europe. This again was planned in the complex here and the guide did make many references to the similarity with the War Rooms in Dover which served a similar purpose about a year later in co-ordinating the invasion of France. I have been lucky enough to have visited the Dover site and the comparisions are obvious.

    I understand that many younger members and readers of VT consider the Second World War as somewhat ancient history but I have an elderly uncle still living who fought his way through North Africa and then up through Italy. For some of us this is only one generation ago

    The whole tour takes about one hour and the film, which is well worth watching, about another 25 minutes. For anyone with the slightest interest in military history or even just the history of the island, this is highly recommended.

    The War Roms are open Daily: 10:00 - 17:00, Last Admission: 16:00 with the last tour at 1615. Closed on Good Friday, Easter, Christmas and New Year. Due to the nature of the place, I would suggest that regrettably it is probably not suitable for wheelchair users.

    Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta, Malta. Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta, Malta.
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