No one who has ever received a postcard from Valletta or read a guide book about Malta would be unfamiliar with this vista. It was taken from Sliema, a very popular area on the next peninsula from the heart of Valletta, crawling with tourists; although I don’t completely understand the attraction. With none of the Baroque charm you see in this photo, Sliema is still a tourist magnet which I admit appreciating for all the crowds it drew away from the old city where we stayed. We beheld a magical place that almost emptied at dusk, we never had to wait for a table at a restaurant, and we always had a good night’s sleep, all thanks to Sliema. It was truly thrilling to walk along deserted streets of the old city at night, imagining it as it may have been in centuries past.
Sliema itself seems overhyped and the modern apartment complexes are without architectural merit. It is also loaded with mediocre restaurants with uninspired menu items, and bars that are also crowded with tourists. Perhaps, the attraction is the fact that many condos are for rent and people can stay for long term at reasonable prices, but it is out of the loop for easy access to the old town, which I see as the very best part of this World Heritage Site. In fairness, Sliema is within walking distance of some beaches just around the end of the peninsula. Now, back to our classic view of Valletta.
The two strongest elements of this magnificent cityscape are the bell tower of Saint Paul’s Pro Cathedral, the Anglican cathedral, and the elliptical dome of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Roman Catholic church directly across the street. These behemoths of spiritually necessitated architecture could have used more space between them, as they visually merge upon the landscape. However, as they stand, they serve as a reminder of the preciousness of land on this island nation, along with the rivalry begun during the Reformation and the ecumenical embrace of modern times.
Until I walked into the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the size of its dome dominated the landscape in such a way, it seemed excessively out of proportion. While it is large, it appears more so because of its ovoid shape, which came as a surprise after seeing it from afar. St Paul’s was understated but rich and warm with its wood paneling.
Here are some photos of the interior of The Sanctuary Basilica of Our Lady of Mt Carmel. After bombardment during World War II, the church that was heavily hit was rebuilt starting in 1958. It is open daily between 6:00 a.m and noon, then again from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Sanctuary Basilica Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Old Mint St, Valletta, Malta +356 233808