Monday April 9 and Tuesday 10
Well back to Rome for two nights. Handy rooms near Piazza Navonna - ok but tiny shower. Dreaming Navonna. Lots of walking. Unfortunately the two sights I really wanted to visit -Nero’s Golden House and the 6th century church of Santa Maria Antiqua are closed due to damage. The later was only opened to the public in 2016 and Helen and I were lucky to spend just about 20 minutes there in August 2016 before it closed for the day. I had wanted to return ever since. The following link gives a good outline and lots has of frescos.
Explored around the Forum again as I usually do and just wandered the streets and piazzas stopping for the occasional wine or gelato.
Wednesday April 11
Ryan Air flight to Malta
Shuttle to Onyx Apartments in Paceville, St Julian’s which turned out to be a mistake as this area is party central. So far only really bad on Friday night. The apartment is very modern and spacious and very handy to public buses. It’s nice to prepare my own breakfast and the occasional dinner. Can’t say I’m very impressed with Maltese food. The scenery here is very impressive, so much coastline, lots of little bays. It has an amazing history -the Phoenicians, Greeks, the Normans. the Knights of St John, the Ottomans,the Romans, the Sicilians, The French and finally the British before they obtained independence in and it’s people proved very resilient in defending their island against invaders to the extent the island was awarded the George Cross for the heroism shown by the Maltese during the Second World War. It’s a very barren, rocky land, little rain, no rivers, all water from desalination, very small agricultural holdings. They import lots. Quite a poor country with low wages, highish prices, low unemployment, mostly Roman Catholic. Many work two jobs to make ends meet. Education, health are free.
Took Hop On Hop Off bus on the north route which was not as it should have been but won’t go into details. Interesting town of Mosta with a beautiful large church. Wandered around Valetta. It has a Renzo Piano designed Parliament House which is rather lovely. Old buildings, narrow steep streets, water, water everywhere one looks, flowers, sandstone of a golden colour, lots of Ottoman looking enclosed balconies, lots of churches and religious markings on houses, fortifications, outdoor cafes including lots by the sea. Why don’t we do that? Malta is this years European city of culture and there are many works of art about the streets. Nice fish meal Republic Street
Friday April 13
Went to “the 3 Cities “across the water from Valetta and went on a little train around the hilly areas. Cospicua, Vittoriosa ( or Birgu) and Senglea are collectively known as Cottonera. Vittoriosa was settled very early and extremely important logistically.
At night I went to a Maltese Folkloe night at Mosta. Nice to meet up with other people but the evening was nothing special, very ordinary food and some old Maltese dancing.
Saturday April 14
To Valetta again and the interesting Malta Experience - an historical video show. Followed by a tour of the Sacra Infermeria where The Knights of St John established a hospital to care for the sick in 1574. It’s main ward was 155 metres long. It was here that supposedly the use of honey to treat wounds and serving food on silver plates to prevent the spread of bacteria were introduced. Maybe hospitals should do so today! Dinner at home. Very rough seas and strong winds today
Sunday April 15
On a Maxrsaxlokka and Blue Lagoon tour this morning. Marsaxlokk a is a fishing village which has a big Sunday market which has good fish and food and loads of junk. A pretty port though with brightly painted boats. The Blue Grotto part of the tour was cancelled because the sea was too rough to take the boats out. Afterwards wandered around Sliema then took a bus to Bugibba and back. Dinner at home
Monday April 16
Full day tour to the island of Gozo which is a 20 minute ferry from Malta. Was a total stuff up. I had booked a luxury defender jeep because of my bad back and they put me on an oordinary jeep. Cancelled the other without consultation. It was very uncomfortable and not a very interesting tour with little information. Disgusting lunch. I wasnt the only one unhappy but i complained and got my money back. That night I had only the second decent meal in Malta - Mary you will laugh at this - at Wagamama. Great food and service. They could teach the rest of Malta a thing or two about both
So as you can see i was not impressed with Malta. I think they are a victim of there own success and havent managed the infrastructure or service training to cope with the number of tourists coming. And its not even peak season.
Anyway off to Bologna