Three Cities Malta
Right outsider of Valletta Malta’ city walls are the “Three Cities”, only a short ferry ride across the harbor (or you can take a longer bus ride too. Our second venture outside of Velletta’s city walls came with a short ferry ride across the harbor to “The Three Cities”. These ancient, walled cities of Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea occupy two peninsulas in the harbor just across from the most newer (16th century). Vittoriosa, the largest of these cities, was originally known as Birgu. Originally settled by the Phoenicians, the Order of St. John designated it as the capital of Malta in 1530. They fortified its walls and built Fort St. Angelo, which they held against the Ottoman Siege.
Birgu aka Vittoriosa
The highlights of the lovely, historic city (which, along with its two smaller sisters) are now effectively bedroom communities to Valletta, include:
- Fort St. Angelo, originally built in the medieval period, it was effectively rebuilt by the Order of St. John. It was later used by the British and was severely damaged in WWII. It has since been renovated and is now a tourism site.
- The Collegiate Parish Church of St. Lawrence served as the Order’s official church in that era, and its Oratory (the Oratory of St. Joseph) still proudly displays the sword and hat that Grand Master La Valette left in thanking the Lord of the victory in holding out against the Ottomans in the Great Siege.
- The Inquisitor’s Palace, built by the Knights in the 1530s over Medieval remains, was the home and the tribunal offices of the Grand Inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition, which fought the spread of Protestant ideas. The Maltese Inquisition (which was finally banished when Napoleon took over the island) was so important to the church that 27 of its 62 total inquisitors went on to become cardinals in the Catholic church and two of these became popes.
- Malta Maritime Museum, the largest building on the city’s waterfront, profiles the country’s naval history, all the way from prehistoric times.
Senglea is the second largest, and second most strategic of the cities, and also held out through the Greater Siege. It is anchored by Fort St. Michael (also renovated as a tourism site). Its basilica, meanwhile, is home to the Jesus Christ the Redeemer statue.
The third of the cities, Cospicua, was founded in medieval times and was fortified by the Knights. Less interesting and scenic than its two sisters, it is now primarily used as the city’s dockyards.
Three City’s Restaurants
Although we had a hard time finding a good restaurant (or for that matter, even a store) that was open on the weekday that we visited, we were quite happy with the one that we did find.
Il-hnejja is a harborside restaurant at which we had two nice dishes: octopus stew in tomato sauce with black olives; and garganelli with maltese sausage, goat cheese, tomato sauce and cream.