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Mdina - A view from our expert author


Mdina Malta by Clive Vella, Viewing MaltaThe fortified walls of Malta’s former capital contain a labyrinth of narrow streets. © Clive Vella, www.viewingmalta.com

This is an extraordinary place. Strategically perched on the edge of a plateau 150m above the surrounding countryside, it is a striking sight as you approach by road: sitting on top of its rock, impenetrable, lording it over all it surveys.

Mdina is a medieval walled town, but its history goes back far earlier. This was Malta’s first capital, its main town from at least Roman times, when it was called Melite, until the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530. The Knights needed to be closer to their ships and so based themselves in Birgu (Vittoriosa) on the Grand Harbour. The Maltese aristocracy, however, remained in Mdina and it continued to be an important centre.

This is an extraordinary place. Strategically perched on the edge of a plateau 150m above the surrounding countryside, it is a striking sight as you approach by road: sitting on top of its rock, impenetrable, lording it over all it surveys. Within its fortified walls there are very few shops and offices; it is mainly palazzi (grand old houses) and religious buildings set in a labyrinth of narrow streets, many of them (wonderfully) too small to take a car. There are almost no vehicles by day and just a few in the early evening as some of Mdina’s 400 residents (the only people allowed to drive here) come home from work. Mdina’s nickname, the Silent City, remains well earned.

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