In November of 2012 I boarded a container ship in Singapore, and in December I disembarked in Malta. My original plan had been to land in Port Said, after sailing through the Suez Canal, but the political situation in Egypt dictated otherwise. To clarify, I would have gotten off in Egypt had they let me, but I wasn’t allowed off the ship and it was a great disappointment at the time. The up side of not being allowed off in Egypt was that it necessitated going on to the next Mediterranean port, Malta. It wasn’t on my list and, as sometimes happens, by accident it became a very interesting chapter in my travel life.
I stayed in 3 very different places during the weeks I was on the island. First, closest to the container port, the fishing town of Marsaxlokk. Next I went inland for a few days in the side-by-side towns of Rabat and historic Mdina. Lastly I stayed in the capital, Valletta. My transportation was all by bus or on foot. In Marsaxlokk I stayed in a studio apartment owned by the proprietor of a restaurant, Duncan’s, on the harbor. In Rabat, I stayed in a hotel, the Point de View, steps from the beautiful old city of Mdina. And in Valletta I had a huge room in the venerable Castille Hotel, at winter rates and close to everything.
Valletta is a walkers paradise. Main streets are pedestrianized and every stroll is interesting because of the wonderful architecture and interesting terrain with views of water all around. I’m from a beautiful hilly city surrounded by water, San Francisco, and Valletta is even more beautiful.
On one of my walks I came upon a building flying a banner which read, Casa Rocca Piccola, Open. I was standing by the entrance to the shop and went in to enquire. There would be a guided tour soon, I was told, I could not resist and bought a ticket.
It was off-season and we were a group of two, both solo travelers. Our tour was conducted by a well-spoken young woman who gave us an introduction and led us up to the large family apartment, the home of Nicholas de Piro d’Amico Inguanez, 9th Marquis de Piro and 9th Baron of Budach, his English wife, Frances, and their family.
Shortly after our tour began, it was clear our guide was having difficulty speaking. She asked us to wait and left. After a few moments a gentleman, the Marquis, wandered in and, looking surprised and obviously puzzled by finding two unaccompanied strangers in his hallway, asked who we were. We explained and he went on his way. Soon thereafter a lady arrived, introduced herself as the Marquise, apologized for keeping us waiting and told us she’d be giving us the tour of her home, as the guide had been stricken with laryngitis. We didn’t mind.
The lady of the house, above, and in the portrait, right, below.
Casa Rocca is beautiful and lived in. It is not a museum, but a family home with history as well as souvenirs of it’s current occupants. We were conducted though the house at a leisurely pace, shown ancient books in the library, heirlooms in cabinets and the 8th Marquis’ framed invitation to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A portrait done some years before of our new guide hung on the wall amid works from over the centuries. We investigated the interiors of enclosed balconies, like those that had intrigued me all over the island. And we were taken into subterranean chambers before being shown the garden at the end of the tour.
Afterward, it was lunchtime. While walking through a ground floor corridor on our way to the lower level, I’d looked through an inside door, seen a cosy restaurant and that’s where I headed. After a delicious lunch of traditional fava bean soup, bread and a glass of wine, I left Casa Rocca full and happy and continued my wanderings around what may be Europe’s most lovely city.
Click here for Casa Rocca Piccola’s own website, where you
can read much more about the house and the de Piro family.
For more of PortMoresby’s contributions, click here.