Monday, July 25, 2011

The Maltese Connection-capers and Caravaggio

Azamara Journey docked at  La Valletta, Malta

 I recently  gave the  sail-in commentary  as  we arrived  in the magnificent harbor of  La Valletta aboard my favorite luxury cruise ship.
mysterious doorway in the  Palazzo 

 Although  Malta  is  far away, an English island  halfway between Sicily and Africa,  it  felt like a homecoming for  the   harbor  and  the entire  city  were  dotted with  connections to central Italy.

courtyard  Grand Masters Palace
There were  capers covering  the walls of  the fortresses with  Italian names and Caravaggio paintings decorated  the  main church, St. John's Co-Cathedral .

entrance  to Grand Masters Palace 

piano nobile  in the palace

Caravaggio  was  a novitiate in the order of the Knights  in 1607 and  his huge  "Beheading of St. John"   is the  drawing card  for  tourists who flock  to the Cathedral today.

  The Cathedral's   marble  inlaid   floors  record  the numerous  knights who lived and died here, while  the mortal remains  of   Michelangelo Merisi ( Caravaggio's real name)    have recently been discovered in   the crypt  of S. Erasmo  church in Porto Ercole.
 For more on  the Spanish  past  of  the Tuscan promontory see  my latest book "Etruria-travel, history and itineraries  in central Italy".Copies can be ordered  directly through the website using paypal. 

armor  belonging to Ranuccio Farnese
The Palazzo  of the Grand Masters  holds memories of the Knights  who made it their headquarters  between   1530  and  the arrival of  Napoleon.

Another  local lad, Ranuccio Farnese,  is  rememebered in the  Armory  museum, where numerous   magnificent coats of armor  are displayed.

portrait  of  one of the  Grand Masters

Renovated  waterfront 
bus   La Valletta    to Naxxar .42 cents

 The pubs and shops  were still closed  along the newly restored  waterfront    as  we  boarded  a local bus  to reach the central square with its  huge fountain.

 From there   an even  more  ancient bus  took  us for  a 30 minute  ride through the  suburbs past  the   Mostar   church    where  an unexploded  bomb from the  Second World War  siege is  remembered.

Cathedral  Mostar  with unexploded  bomb
 We arrived to  the village of Naxxar  and Palazzo Parisio,  a magnificent  private palace where  a film   shoot was underway.

garden entrance 
facade Palazzo Parisio
entrance and family  portrait
Ballroom Palazzo Parisio, Malta

reception  in the Palazzo  garden

carriage, Palazzo Parisio
  The gardens are similar to   those of Villa Lante  or  Castello Ruspoli  with parterres, bougainville and  elegant rance ways.

Have you  been to Malta?  What is your favorite thing to do in Malta ? 

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