Here’s Azamara Journey docked in her port of registry, Valletta, the capital city of Malta. This 16th-century city is a living history lesson and the guided walk we took around the streets and key sights was well worth the $41 charge.
We learned about the Knights of St John, how much of their wealth was derived from piracy and the constant battles for European power and position with the
Ottoman Empire. It took 10,000 workers four years to build Valletta and despite 3,000 air raids in World War II it remains one of the most historic areas in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the many highlights was seeing the Caravaggio painting of the beheading of St John in St John’s Co-Cathedral. Following coffee in one of Valletta’s many charming cafes we took a taxi to the centre of the island, to visit Mdina, Ta’Qali and Mosta.
Mdina is a medieval walled city, and fascinating to speculate what life is like for its inhabitants today; Ta’Qali is a collection of nissen huts housing craftsmen such as glass-blowers (could have lived without seeing that, most of the work was pretty tacky); and Mosta is famous for its church, which features a 39.6m dome intended as a replica of the Pantheon in Rome. The church escaped destruction when it was bombed in World War II, as it failed to go off – you can see a replica in the sacristy, which was presided over by a slightly sinister man selling postcards and wearing dark glasses.
Onwards to Sicily – so much to absorb, so little time!