Valletta: a capital and world heritage city

The Capital city of Malta, my home-country and also a UNESCO world heritage city. Some time ago I was thinking about the UNESCO sites I have visited around the world and and what better way to start this list than with my Capital city.

From the UNESCO website:

Valletta is pre-eminently an ideal creation of the late Renaissance with its uniform urban plan, inspired by neo-Platonic principles, its fortified and bastioned walls modelled around the natural site, and the voluntary implantation of great monuments in well-chosen locations.

The capital of Malta is one of the rare urban inhabited sites that has preserved in near entirety its original features. It is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John. The city has undergone no important modifications since 1798, the date when it was abandoned by the Knights of St John.

Within the confines of the fortified peninsula of Valletta, which constitutes one of the most attractive natural sites of the Mediterranean, dominating the two ports of Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour, the density of the buildings dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries is impressive. After the great siege of Malta in 1565, the new city, based on an orthogonal urban plan, was founded by the Italian engineer Francesco Laparelli of Cortona (1521-70), the planning being carried out by Girolamo Cassar. The fortification and the uniform urban plan of Valletta were inspired by architectural principles of the Italian Renaissance in combination with techniques of contemporary city-planning and aesthetic considerations of urban theorists. The buildings of the order are harmoniously integrated within the uniform grille of the streets: the Cathedral of St John (former Conventual Church of the Order, 1573), Palace of the Grand Master (end of 16th century), Auberge de Castille et Leon (1574), Auberge de Provence (1571-75), Auberge d’Italie (1574), Auberge d’Aragon (end of 16th century) and Infirmary of the Order (end of 16th century).

The same is true of the great religious buildings as Our Lady of Victory (1566), St Catherine (1576), and Il Gesù (1595). The improvements attributed to the military engineers and architects of the 18th century have not disturbed this harmony (Auberge de Bavière, Church of the Shipwreck of St Paul, Library and Mantel Theatre, etc.). The total of 320 historic monuments within a confined area of 55 ha is among the most strongly concentrated of this nature in the world.

Valletta was the first planned city in Europe with a  street grid system. The long straight streets allow the cooling sea breeze to circulate, acting like an air conditioning system for the whole city.

In the last couple of years it has been undergoing changes including the ‘Renzo Piano Project’ to renovate the City gate and also build a new Parliament. I love how the new architecture mingles with the old especially at night with perfect lights.