As I might have mentioned a time or two, Malta was never really on our travel radar. I like to think of this stop on our Adriatic cruise as a bit of bonus...mostly because we had no clue what to expect from the country, but also because it gave us a good excuse to add another exciting destination to our ever-growing list of places we visited while living in Europe. When I started researching the port of Valletta and sights we "couldn't miss" prior to sailing, photos like this and this from Pinterest kept popping up in my search. What are those GORGEOUS balconies doing here and why is this city FULL of them?! Instantly the architecture of Valletta was fascinating. Not only is the city surrounded by stone walls and Mediterranean Sea, but the streets are narrow, hilly, and lined with these colorful balconies. I've never seen so many in my life! More on those in a bit...
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Valletta has much to offer the history buff. With over 320 monuments and numerous well-preserved 16th century buildings related to the founding of the Renaissance, you'd be hard pressed to see and learn about it all in just one day. Sadly, we had just one afternoon to explore. Per the usual...all I wanted to do was wander around and snap photos. So, that's precisely what we did!
In the 17th century, Valletta became the epicenter of the Maltese balcony architectural trend. The increasing influence of the Baroque movement had much to do with these ornate, and in many cases, colorful, verandas popping up on buildings all over the city. In addition to balconies being a prominent architectural feature, they also held important socioeconomic roles in determining certain classes of individuals. Today, those roles are much less a factor for their existence, but remain an important part of Maltese history nevertheless. Keeping with tradition, the balconies also provide a canvas for showcasing religious and parochial favor during feast days. There are dozens of types of them adorning city buildings across Valletta, but the most common (and the most interesting to photograph, in my opinion) are the closed wooden balconies. They're reminiscent of the Victorian bay windows famous to San Francisco, but with a hint more charm and in much greater number per square foot of city street. I was the epitome of a tourist that day...with my camera and head turned to the sky down every alley we wandered. Hard not to be transfixed on such a eclectic place like Valletta.
Valletta gave off such a cool vibe, even aside from its captivating architecture. I loved standing atop one of the city's many hilly streets and peering right out over the water. The shops, the restaurants, the streets...all bustling with locals and tourists alike. Even though the city was compact, it felt quite large, especially looking at the city from the bow of a cruise ship. City walls have a way of making any community feel commanding. Would I recommend a visit to Valletta? In a millisecond. This city (can Malta as a whole) was such a pleasant surprise to us.
I've got one last post to share from our time in Malta. For one 10 hour day, we sure did cover a lot of ground! Coming soon...the caves of the Blue Grotto!