Malta (known as the Republic of Malta) is the world’s tenth smallest country. It was made part of the British Empire in 1814 and became independent in 1964. One of its official languages is English and another is Maltese (who knew?).
Valletta, the capital city of Malta, has a population of about 7,000 people, and the city consists of just 0.61 square km, making it the smallest of the European capitals. The island is just about smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean, about 100 miles from Sicily and 200 miles from Tripoli in Libya.
Valletta’s 16th century buildings were constructed by the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Knights of Malta. Its gorgeous Royal Opera House was destroyed in World War II, and the interior is now used as a car park. There were plans to rebuild the opera house, as well as plans to renovate the entrance to the city. All of the plans were subsequently scuttled due to various controversies.
We visited the island in November 2015. You can see in the street scenes that Valletta is very mountainous, and climbing some of the streets takes the wind out of you! We had to climb a hill to get from the port to the city center. It was a gorgeous Mediterranean day, with dark blue ocean and light blue skies. As you can also see, (1) the easiest way for the local police to get around is on motorcycle, (2) Jamie Oliver has a restaurant in Valletta, and (3) there are some beautiful and wild sculptures in the city!
There is quite an “old world” feel to Malta. As we were sitting in a coffee shop we struck up a conversation with an older lady with a strong British accent. She talked very affectionately about seeing Queen Elizabeth (a princess at the time) and Prince Philip, a military officer at the time, walking through the streets as a young couple in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Recently the government of Malta has had some scandals, which resulted in the car bombing murder of a reporter in 2017 who was cataloging the corruption among the political elite. The event, rather than quashing further news about the corruption, ended up causing a worldwide outcry. Under pressure from street protests in 2019, the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, resigned, effective January 2020.
During the time we were there, none of that was visible to us and the island seemed a quiet testament to old world elegance and calm.