Rain or Shine. We still love this City
We knew the weather would be changeable again today so, as before we decided it was best to visit the city. We’ve explored Valletta but we’ve yet to see the Three Cities up close and I’ve yet to visit the Cathedral. So as per usual, we walked down to our bus stop and waited for the number 91 to take us to the gates of the old city.
First stop was coffee and although there are coffee shops aplenty in Valletta we opted for Starbucks. I know some folks will frown on this; we should support the little independent cafes but I wanted a large coffee and I wanted a plant-based milk and I just needed a hot hot coffee… and I always know I can get this in Starbucks. So Starbucks it was.
After we walked down through the main street, window shopping and people watching and singing along to the Christmas carols that were piped into the street. I can’t help smiling. I simply love Valletta. It’s a city that makes you happy.
Gerry wasn’t worried about seeing inside the Cathedral but it was a must for me.
St John’s Co-Cathedral of Valletta
The Cathedral was commissioned in 1572 by Jean de la Cassière, Grand Master of the Order of St. John, the Knights of Malta. It was designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, who also designed many important buildings in Valletta. The church of St. John’s was completed in 1577 and the construction of the oratory and sacristy began in 1598 and completed in 1604.
For the first 100 years, the interior was modest but in the 1660’s Grand Master Raphael Cotoner ordered redecoration to rival the churches of Rome. Mattia Preti completely transformed the interior in the Baroque style, as we see today. During the bombings in World War II The cathedral’s exterior was damaged only just escaping destruction, although interior artwork had already been transferred elsewhere before the bombardment.
I paid my 15 euro and collected my audio guide. I wandered and listened and admired the interior for over an hour. This has to be one of the most ornate buildings I’ve ever seen; so much gold! It’s undoubtable beautiful but it definitely felt like a tourist attraction and not a church, although I understand that once the ‘tourist’ doors close it reverts back to a church for the local faithful.
Caravaggio and the Knights of Malta
One of the most notable works of art within the cathedral was that of The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, filling the end wall of the Oratory. It was completed in 1608 by Caravaggio. Considered one of his masterpieces, and is also the largest canvas he painted and the only painting that he signed
It’s possible to watch a short film about the life of Caravaggio and how he came to paint for the Knights of Malta.
From the Crypt to The Balcony
It’s possible to visit the Crypt, where many of the most important Knights are interned and it’s also possible to climb the spiral staircase up to the Balcony, for an amazing view of the entire church. I visited both! And when I’d seen as much as I could I decided it was time to return to Gerry!
The Ferry to Three Cities
Gerry had a plan. He decided that as the weather was due to change we should take the ferry over to Three Cities and eat lunch there. So that’s what we did. We took the fast ferry this time, not quite as romantic as our little boat last week but it was covered and warm and took just a few minutes. One on the other side we stopped at a restaurant that offered Vegan and Gluten free choices; it was a good choice as we sat in the warm and watched the heavens open! Once the rain has stopped we decided to go exploring.
Fort St Angelo to Gardjola Gardens
We crossed the bridge and meandered down beside the enormous ships that lined the harbour and I was reminded about my gig on Nero in Barcelona; three days singing on board one of the super yachts! It tried to rain but thankfully never very much but the rain from earlier made huge puddles and rivers of water tumbling down the streets and down to the sea. We walked and looked and meandered and wandered. We walked to the end of one side and up to Fort St Angelo and back again and then crossed the bridge and walked along the other side. We walked through the ancient gates and out to the Gardjola Gardens and then through the narrow streets on the interior. And once we’d walked enough and the sun was dropping in the sky we decided to take the ferry back and have a little glass of wine in Valletta.
We walked the streets looking for a suitable bar, some we loved the look of but the music was just too loud, others were too busy, others uncovered; not that we’re fussy! But we knew that we’d find the perfect place because there is something for everyone here! We found our bar. As we entered we heard Young Hearts Run Free and we sang along to More Than a Feeling and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. We sang and looked at photos and drank our wine and watched people walk by through the windows, tried to remember when we arrive in Malta and what we’d seen (thank goodness for the blog!) and we watched the owner struggling with his Christmas lights and life was good.
It was another glorious day. I can honestly say that Valletta feels like home. I love it here. I know that we’ll return, maybe for a few weeks in a little apartment here in the heart of the city. But for now it was time to find the number 91 bus and head home.