I promised Europe blogs were coming, so here’s one of Malta, as you soak up the last drops of the weekend, and while I take some time out to relax as well.
Enter the limestone gate of Valletta and walk down the cities great bustling streets lined with limestone buildings and brightly coloured, unique balconies, dating back to the 16th century. (Promise, I will make a full post of this amazing city.)
While new tourists to the island must go and visit all the larger main attractions of the city, once you’ve exhausted them (if you can ever actually be exhausted by them) then I have a pretty place in mind for you.
Tucked away along Republic Street is the most unsuspecting gem of a palazzo – Casa Rocca Piccola. Built by one of the Knights of St. John, Admiral Don Pietro la Rocca, it dates back to the 16th century like much of the city.
And also like many of the incredible sights of Malta, there is no amazing street front to grab your attention, but it’s a total treasure inside.
Casa Rocca Piccola was the first private palace of the Maltese aristocracy to be opened to the public and can now be enjoyed by us all, with tours running all throughout the week.
The tour starts in the courtyard – a vibrant hidden world of plants, flowers and statues.
We sat in the sunshine, just ‘lion’ around until it was time to explore.
As still a place of residence for the de Piro family, it’s a haven for art work, artifacts and trinkets old and new and the friendly guides give you all you need to know about the tales and intricacies of each room.
You’ll hear stories of the family throughout history, such as their strong connection with the Vatican and their invitation by the Queen of England for her coronation among many others.
The place feels very much like a home, a truly beautiful large home at that, but still a place intimate enough to feel cosy, unlike the sometimes over opulence and extravagance (if that’s possible in my opinion) of the grand palaces around Europe.
The thing that struck me the most winding through these wonderful rooms was the amount of artwork upon the walls. I was in heaven!
Making some further inquiries, we found out that a number of the pieces were the works of the renowned and much-loved Maltese artist, Edward Caruana Dingli – my grandfather’s art teacher! Dingli was an incredibly talented portraiture artist and his works really stand apart. To see them made me rather excited.
The ‘piece de resistance’ of the place is the summer dining room.
Bright and airy, it has a table arrangement many of you, for Thanksgiving, or Christmas Day, would be seriously envious of.
And taking centre stage on the far wall are the beautiful portraits by Dingli of Jerome de Piro, the previous Baron and Marquis, and his wife, Phyllis. Dingli’s painting style was incredibly accurate in likeness, while creating soft features of his subjects. I found it so captivating.
And the rest of the room is just as captivating, don’t you think?
But alas, we soon had to take our leave to finish the tour.
Returning to the courtyard, we were lead down the mysterious stairs I had been intrigued about earlier.
Underneath the beautiful palace is a far more practical side to the ancient family and their history.
Malta was the most bombed place during WWII and the de Piro family took measures to make a shelter for the people. You are invited to explore the length, breadth and depth of the place, and it’s dark dampness really awakens one to the discomfort and horror the previous generations withstood during the last century.
But after, up we came to the sunlight and fresh air once again.
Casa Rocca Piccola was a wonderful place to explore. And if you visit, be sure to keep an eye out for the Baron (if he doesn’t do the tour himself!) and his bright charismatic macaw!