The Three Cities, or Bormla, Birgu and Isla, are certainly the richest areas in history, the most fascinating and characteristic in all of Malta. It is precisely for these reasons that they are included in the list of candidates for UNESCO heritage. Nevertheless, they are visited only by one out of 10 tourists visiting Malta. How is such a thing possible?
The reasons are many, but the main fault is certainly to be attributed to the so-called “tourism industry”, which simplifies everything and implements a stereotyped reduction of the Maltese archipelago, to maximize its profits. The whole of Malta is replaced and replaced by an artefact of its own, and it is, unfortunately, the latter that is visited by almost all tourists.
We for our philosophy are opposed to all this, and we hope that people will have the curiosity and the desire to discover the real beauties of Malta.
We are talking about three truly central areas for understanding the history and culture of Malta, prior to the construction of Valletta, highlighting and bringing to the present day an extraordinary wealth of architecture, military monuments, colours and gastronomic delicacies. It is enough to see the imposing series of defensive walls to understand what importance they should play over time. They are areas that are not really easy to visit if they are not accompanied by people who know them, not because they are dangerous, but because it is not at all easy to find monuments and navigate the maze of streets.
Birgu is considered to be one of the most monumental areas of Malta, like nearby Valletta, and revolves around the fortress of Sant’Angelo. Walking through its streets, between the Marina and along its walls, is an experience that cannot leave you indifferent, especially after understanding its fundamental historical role, both in the Great Ottoman Siege of 1565 and during the Second World War. Forte Sant’Angelo is a large fortified bastion considered the flagship of the Order of San Giovanni. Not far away is the Inquisitor’s Palace, a unique building of its kind: home to the court of the Holy Inquisition in Malta, it is worth entering.
Isla was once an island, in fact, today it is connected to Bormla by a road. The limit of Isla consists of the bastion of San Michele. It is worth going all the way to the Guardiola gardens, with a splendid view over Valletta. The Basilica of Our Lady of Victory commemorates the Maltese victory of 1565. Built around 1580, the church was consecrated only in the 18th century. The Guardiola Gardens are located on the ramparts of Senglea, and offer a spectacular view across the bay: Valletta, Marsa and Fort Sant’Angelo a Birgu. These gardens were built under the reign of the Grand Master de la Single in 1551, with a watchtower on top of the ramparts.
Bormla has two fortification lines: the internal and older Santa Margherita Lines, and the outermost Cottonera Lines. The Church of the Immaculate Conception is the main monument of the city, incredibly survived by the bombings of the Second World War. The church dates back to the end of the sixteenth century, with expansions of the following century, and was consecrated in 1732. It contains fine works of art and frescoes, such as the altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Child.
- If you go to Malta during Easter, you should attend the various processions held in the three cities, which are certainly very suggestive. Obviously, during Easter we organize special guided tours.
- The patron saint of Isla is the Virgin of Victory (in Maltese simply called the little girl ), celebrated on 8 September . On the same day a regatta is held in the bay between the Three Cities and Valletta, and normally one or more monuments, in rotation, have free or very reduced access. If you have the chance we suggest you go there.
- In October the Birgufest takes place: on this occasion the whole Birgu is lit with candles, certainly very nice to see. The Birgu weekly market is much less famous than the Marsaxlokk Sunday market , in fact it is not very touristy and people really go there to do their shopping. For those on the go, the best products to buy are olives, capers, dried tomatoes and cheeses.
The visit to the Three Cities is a demanding visit but it offers unique emotions, even to those who, like us, are now used to visiting these places. We repeat that it is not easy to visit them alone , often the names of the streets on the maps are wrong or are not marked, there is the risk of running in vain and wasting a lot of time.