Valletta places seventh in top European destinations
The Times, 30 March
been voted as one of the top 10 European destinations by
travellers who participated in an online competition
organised by a Brussels-based consumers’ organisation.
Malta’s capital ranked seventh and, by placing in the top
10, won the right to be promoted by the European Consumers
Choice, a voluntary organisation that works to give
consumers a voice and reward companies. The top 10 also
win the right to use websites and official documents bearing
the European Best Destinations 2013 logo.
the paradise! Nice weather, a country with a lot of history,
the people are friendly, beautiful sceneries surrounded by a
wonderful sea,” one tourist wrote. Another wrote:
“History, harbour and hidden treasures, all in one.”
countries participated in the competition. The winner was
Istanbul, Turkey, that got 12.4 per cent of votes. It was
followed by Lisbon, in Portugal (12.2 per cent), Vienna, in
Austria (9.5 per cent), Barcelona, in Spain (8.3 per cent),
Amsterdam, in the Netherlands (7.2 per cent), Madrid, in
Spain (6.5 per cent), Valletta (6.3 per cent), Nice, in
France (6.2 per cent), Milan, in Italy (5.9 per cent) and
Stockholm, in Sweden (5.3 per cent).
great news. Even if it may seem to be a trivial matter,
positive coverage by a leading European consumers
organisation is useful.
interviewed tourists for my doctorate research and I can
confirm that Valletta does provide a most enjoyable
experience. One of the questions I asked was to mention
something negative about Valletta. Most of them struggled
to mention anything. This is not to say that there is
nothing that needs to be improved. Far from it. Valletta,
however, does have many requisites to offer an exceptional
experience to visitors.
by John Ebejer for VAF)
A day out by any other route
6 January 2013
excellent article by Mark Anthony Falzon. It gives a
flavour of what experiencing a city like Valletta is all
about. It merits being reproduced here in its entirety.
the Valletta-Cottonera ferry service and the Baracca lift,
Valletta now offers yet another experience for Maltese and
tourists to enjoy.
minutes is how long it took me to get from my doorstep in
Cospicua to Barrakka Gardens in Valletta the other day. It
took me considerably longer to get my head round the thought
that I hadn’t forgotten my car keys at home, that I wouldn’t
be needing them at all for that matter.
The new sea
connection between Cottonera and Valletta is one of those
things that remind one that innovation and ‘development’ do
not necessarily require grandiose projects. In this case I’m
not sure even ‘innovation’ is in order. It’s simply a
resuscitated connection and one that has been long, possibly
too long, in the making.
Nor do I
think the sea connection will do very much to ease the
perennial headache of traffic jams to, and parking in
Valletta. Most of us will still opt to use our cars and
that’s not least because car use is now too embedded in
practices like convenience shopping to cede territory just
magic. The trick is to suspend all boring arguments from
traffic management and weather conditions and boat legroom
and such, and take it in as the unique experience that it
is. Many were doing just that last Saturday and, hand on
heart, it’s a while since I’ve seen people enjoying their
city so much.
the big thing really. A city should properly serve up as
many different species of experience as possible. The
challenge for Valletta 2018 is that the city enhances known
faces and present new ones in stimulating and playful ways.
The sea connection is a tremendous point of departure in
currently reading Edward Said’s excellent Subterranean
Valletta (Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, 2012). Said tells
how in 1642 Grandmaster Lascaris had a tunnel cut through
the rock and a road extended down at the Victoria Gate (at
the time Porta del Monte) area. He also had warehouses and a
wharf built and an exquisite garden laid out which came to
be known (aptly) as Ġnien is-Sultan.
later initiatives turned the waterfront and its neighbouring
streets into a hive of commercial activity. It was the point
at which the sea and its various inhabitants (sailors,
bumboatmen, and such) came in contact with the city.
was by far the most colourful entrance to Valletta. As
lovers of Ellis’s photographs will know, the romance only
ended in the mid-20th century. The dockyard’s large
workforce and the population density around the harbour
meant that the sea connection between Cottonera and Valletta
lingered on for another 20 years or so.
I grew up
in Valletta in the 1980s. By that time the maritime link had
been relegated to a staple of tourist itineraries. Il-lanċa
was a receding memory and the derelict and rusting Barrakka
lift was primarily associated in our minds with a convenient
drop should life get too rocky.
link, the sea became an obstacle. The only way to enter
Valletta was through Putirjal (City Gate). Compared to that
of our grandparents, our city was decidedly monologous and
why my morning outing turned out so rewarding, in at least
three ways. First, the sea crossing itself. I happened to
share a boat with people who remembered the lanċa of their
childhood and spent the entire seven minutes reminiscing
about the harbour as they knew it, crowded with British navy
ships and dgħajjes tal-pass (local boats) and criss-crossing
routes and routines.
something special about approaching Valletta by boat. One
really feels the tension between the need to fortify and
protect from sea attacks, and that to enable easy access to
the sea and its commercial opportunity. Like a ship,
Valletta simultaneously embraces and negates the sea.
Perhaps most tellingly, one experiences the harbour area as
one integral social and urban unit made diverse by complex
walls and linguistic and territorial distinctions.
ends at Lascaris Wharf. Or it doesn’t really because the
next leg is equally strong in character. The new lift
manages to look restrained and elegant while retaining the
industrial aura of its predecessor. The few seconds it takes
to breach the walls have all the qualities of a ritual
siege. Indeed the lift itself looks somewhat like a siege
tower from across the water.
Valletta like I had never experienced it before. Readers
will pardon my florid enthusiasm but even the requisite
espresso at Ellul’s on Strada Santa Luċia tasted better. I
just wanted to walk and breathe the city. My defence is that
I wasn’t alone. There were crowds of people at the lift and
the mood was that in which conversations with strangers are
thing was very nearly marred by the monstrous new monument
to de/la Valette. A piece of unbearable and worthless kitsch
that looks like something the festa armar people left
behind, this is just the type of temptation we need to
resist, one that pushes us in the direction of a facile
rhetoric that makes no attempt whatsoever to engage with the
matter, Renzo Piano’s work in progress (our best ever spent
tax money in my opinion) and the newly-restored church of
Santa Caterina d’Italia were at hand. Again I saw people
just drifting in and out of the sites as if they were
tourists in their own land.
There is a
certain implicit optimism about urban interventions of this
kind. I don’t just mean political optimism – although truth
be told, urban projects and politics are rarely divorced for
long. Rather, it’s a way of living and engaging with one’s
morning was an eye-opener for me. I realised I had been
starved of urbanity in its creative and explorative senses.
was no longer my city as Żebbuġ is to the Żebbuġin, that is,
as a site of local attachment. It was my city as a Maltese
person and, dare I say it, as a human being.”