With a sixtieth birthday coming up in about five weeks, retirement still seems a long way away but I’m already being asked by daughters and friends about where I would like to retire.
Having lived in Spain for many years, I´m obviously happy here; sea, sunshine and good quality cheap red wine by the bucketful! Who could ask for more? However, since my first visit to Malta more than forty years ago, I have been in love with Malta’s old capital M’dina and, with a little luck that cirrhosis of the liver (caused by the aforesaid red wine) doesn’t finish me off early, this is where I will put my old bones to rest…….
M’dina, Città Vecchia, Città Notabile, the “Silent City”, whatever name you like best, is truly unique. With a history of more than 4,000 years, M’dina is one of Europe’s best examples of an ancient walled city.
Malta, as the centre of the Mediteranean, lying between Sicily and North Africa, has been prized and occupied by just about everyone; Phoenicians, Romans (the Roman Governor’s villa is here and can still be visited), Sararacens Normans, Crusaders (The Knights of the Order of St John), French and British have all been and each has left a little of their cultural legacy.
The Apostle St. Paul is said to have been shipwrecked on Malta and lived inside the grotto, Fuori le Mura, St. Paul’s Grotto, in neighbouring Rabat with its fascinating and extensive catacombs, once used by early Christians to hide from the Romans.
Home still to the island’s gentry and nobility, M’dina’s closed and silent doors intrigue while impressive palaces line its narrow, shady streets. The city gates are locked at night and no motor vehicles (other than resident’s cars, emergency vehicles, wedding cars and funeral hearses) are allowed entry. If you are averse to walking there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages.
The fabulous Cathedral of the Conversion of St Paul, which rivals the Vatican in its internal decoration, dominates this lovely ‘city’ which only has about 300 residents.
Not a great place for window shopping, M’dina is a ‘must’ when visiting Malta, you’ll be hard-pressed to experience anything like it!
Because of its proximity to equally fascinating Sicily, with which it has much in common, my recommendation would be a combined tour of the two. Specialists Italy Travel Tours have a great new programme for 2014. Take a look at: https://www.italytraveltours.biz/sicily-and-malta
Do try and visit and don’t miss the wonderful Bacchus Restaurant, set in the old Roman dungeons. If you return in about five years, you’ll hopefully see me propping up a bar somewhere (there are only three or four). The red wine is on me.
With special thanks to Claire Kadoch for introducing me many years ago to this enchanting place.