An undulating and fascinating city seemingly floating in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s ties to Sicily are evident but this wonderful country and city have established their own identity. As I traversed the narrow streets of Valletta, I constantly wondered what it reminded me of? Was it a little bit of Portugal? A touch of Southern Italy? More than a hint of Morocco? I couldn’t say, but it is a lovely and tranquil place to stroll and relax which is what I needed.
There’s a lovely newer chain of boutique hotels in Malta, the newest being the Roselli AX Privilege (https://rossellimalta.com/) right in the center of Valletta on Merchants street. The hotel is very vintage with art deco touches which is just my style. The rooms are gorgeously appointed and my request for a room with a small balcony on Merchant street was met which made me very happy. (Ear plugs are advised if you’re a light sleeper, especially on weekends.) You can book on a bed and breakfast plan, or I think you can book for full board, but I’m not sure why you’d want to eat at the hotel every day where there are stunning places throughout this little city. (One disclaimer: the hotel advertises a pool and through the miracles of modern photography and angles, let’s just say the pictures look bigger than it really is. I could have “sat” in the pool but that would have been one step up from a large whirlpool, so don’t come her for the pool in the middle of summer.)
I did a lot of research in advance of my trip and truly had trouble narrowing things down to just three nights.
If I only had one night in Valletta, I’d have to make it Zero Sei Trattoria Romana (https://zeroseimalta.com/). This lovlely Roman restaurant is set off the main streets, creating a calm and enchanting dining experience. They don’t speak much English but they do speak Italian, and they have all of my favourite foods: caprese, cacio e pepe, and tiramisu.
A very close second in the “what’s Craig’s favourite restaurant?” category is, hands down, Beati Paoli (https://www.facebook.com/beatipaolirestaurant/). Set on another side street on the “other side” of Valletta, the food was gorgeous and the staff perfection! So why, you ask, is this second? Solely because I wanted to sit outside and there were only 2 tables outside, both on a small sidewalk and a sometimes busy street. When I return, I will feel more comfortable dining indoors and things may change.
Fifty-Nine Republic (https://www.fiftyninerepublic.com/) is a real stunner on the Valletta restaurant scene. I sat outside on a balmy Saturday evening and thankfully, was never interrupted. They’re not really equipped for vegetarians, despite the menu suggesting that you ask the waiter for alternate options, but the service and presentation were divine and when they have truffled mashed potatoes on the menu, can you really go wrong?
And lastly, but just as importantly even though it is not really a place for bites, if you fancy a cocktail before or after dinner, you must seek out Alchemy on Straight Street (https://www.alchemyvalletta.com/). They don’t take reservations and seats are somewhat limited but the cocktails are worth the wait. The “Ancient Kiss” is insanely memorable (I’m still salivating) and the mixologists are so knowledgable and creative that they deserve all acolades possible.
There aren’t really a lot of sites to see in Valletta, other the city itself. Well, after you see the stunning works by Caravaggio in St Johns Co-Cathedral, that it is! Which, by the way, gets crowded very early and very quickly so if that’s what you’re here for – that was the case for me no doubt – arrive at the opening and ask for the Caravaggio paintings and then, when you’ve absorbed as much as you can of these masterpieces, take in the remainder of this baroque wonder.
The Upper Barrakka is a gorgeous place to look out over the city and across the harbour to the Three Cities. Likewise, the Lower Barrakka offers the obverse view and provides a different vantage that I really appreciated as it was away from the tourist hustle and bustle. And near the Lower Barrakka is the Seige Bell and tomb of the unknown soldier commemorating recent wars.
There is a hop on/hop off option that you can take from near the bus terminal that will make seeing this wonderful island a lot easier (and which couldn’t be accomplished by foot).