We woke up the morning of our fifth full day in Malta to cold. Not Chicago, Polar Vortex cold. But cold for us Northern Californians. It was 50 degrees Fahrenheit and windy. So we put on layers, hats and gloves, and came to find our tour guide for the day was dressed like an Eskimo. (To be fair, she was originally from Ecuador, so this was even worse for her). But we were determined to enjoy our day promising to be full of sun (unlike the rain the previous day).
As we drove along the sun filled windy roads of the island, we looked out and listened to her history, while watching the green and limestone pass by dreamily. Then we pulled over. We all got to get out and take a look at Mdina from the distance. We could see the great walls and buildings of the medieval city and knew that we were in for a treat.
Mdina is an ancient fortified city that was the capital of the island from antiquity until medieval times. Built by the Phoenician settlers, you an actually see the ancient walls that were built and rebuilt by the Arabs, Romans, and finally the Knights of Saint John. Just outside Mdina is Rabat, which literally means suburb. This too is an ancient city, but with more life and everyday people living in it. Our bus pulled into a parking lot in Rabat where we got out to walk.
Rabat defiantly had a lived in feel. Our first stop was a Pastizzi shop, were we ordered some peas, ricotta, and even chicken liver pastizzis. After that we walked around were the guide showed us the architecture of the city and the lived in look. She wanted to prepare us. Soon we were outside the gates of Mdina. Here we learned that Mdina is called the silent city. No car traffic was allowed. So we crossed the bridge and entered into a different era.
Walking into Mdina, you can see how old it actually is. All of the buildings have been preserved to pristine condition and our tour guide told us many are still held by the dependents of the original families that own the building. However, due to cost to upkeep the buildings as required, may have converted the bottom floors to restaurant or shops. Others have closed off parts of the house so they only need to heat and maintain a smaller size. There is a rule that no grocery stores can be opened in the city, so to get your basic needs you need to go outside the city. But many do not want to sell or lose the property due to the history and prestige of owning a home in Mdina, so the homes are still passed down and the city retains it’s pleasant local charm.
From behind St. Paul’s Cathedral, one is able to go up near the top of the town wall and see views of the island of Malta. One can easily see why this was the capital of the island for so long. Mdina is at the top of a hill on the island, and from this point, you could see a 360 degree view of the island, and see anything coming in the distance. Here you could warn your residents that invaders were coming, and get everyone to safety in time. While it’s not near a point, it’s the perfect position to see all that is coming on this small island.
Afterward, we had to leave this quiet haven to pick up a friend from the airport and continue our tour of the island. But we loved the quiet, the beauty, and the history in this Silent City. And we left with a respect for all this island has and all it’s been through.
This was a stop during my Girls Trip to Malta