We figured we had to visit Malta’s capital sometime, so today set off for the fortified city of Valletta. As we were staying on Gozo it took a while to get there but, as many buses went there, it wasn’t too bad. Our first task was to find lunch, and there were many restaurants to choose from — albeit most of them appearing very similar in menu. Lots of rabbit stews (Stuffat tal-fenek), pasta and pizza, with the odd bragioli/bragjoli here and there. We plumped for an outside table on one of the city’s main streets, at a restaurant serving rabbit in a number of different ways.
Table service as it should be
I had rabbit in a traditional sauce, while Steve had it in a white wine and bacon sauce (both variations of Fenek moqli, or fried rabbit). Both were very tasty, although the traditional one was quite oily. They didn’t have the wine that I ordered, so instead offered me an entire bottle of Rose, which I foolishly took — well, like all wine in Malta, it was a bargain anyway. Thankfully, the waiter was happy to both pack up the food I hadn’t managed to eat and find a cork for the half-empty bottle, for us to take with us. I wouldn’t expect such friendly and conscientious service back in England.
Exploring the city
Using the various maps inside leaflets we’d accumulated, we walked around the outer edges of the city, strolling along the waterfront and exploring the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, which gave good views over the port and the sea. We spent rather a lot of time playing with the various cats that were milling around, particularly those sat on top of a piano stood in the middle of the Upper Barrakka Gardens (this was free for anyone who so wished to play).
Cats, it is worth mentioning, are a very common sight just about everywhere in Malta and Gozo. As well as being popular pets, a lot of those wandering the villages are wild, noticeable by their thin frames and scruffy fur. They were everywhere in the Gozitan village we were staying in, Għajnsielem.
Not our cup of tea
Beyond that, I have to say there wasn’t much we wanted to do in Valletta. The streets are not that different to any other Maltese city, except for perhaps being more Western in appearance, and the gardens nothing to get excited about, primarily comprising grass, some shrubs and some statues. I found Gozo’s capital, Victoria, far more rewarding. Even the views, when we’d previously been spoilt with the spectacular natural views from places such as the Dingli Cliffs, were rather dull in comparison.
As the capital and inevitable tourist honeypot of Malta, Valletta has many churches, museums, galleries, theatres and other tourist attractions that aim to teach you about the country’s history — however these all cost money and aren’t really our thing. If those kind of things float your boat, however, you’ll have plenty to do here.
We, on the other hand, decided the best thing to finish our visit off was a nice cup of tea and some cake. It was around 5pm and most of the cafes were closing, so we found one of the few outside tables where they still appeared to be serving. This was a cafe in a square on Republic Street, where we sat outside and had traditional Maltese cakes (I had a stodgy and fruity bread pudding, or Pudina tal-ħobż, pictured) brought to us by table service, while, in true European style, we people-watched. Eventually the sky began to dim and feather-light rain to fall, so we caught the bus back home.
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2011. All rights reserved.