Ancient catacombs and medieval citadels provide a theatrical backdrop for gatherings with gravitas
Malta’s ancient citadels provide a theatrical backdrop for gatherings with gravitas
In the past few years, the Mediterranean islandnation of Malta has leapt into the 21st century. A Smart City business park is under development in Kalkara, for example, and Renzo Piano, architect of London’s the Shard, has redesigned the main gateway into the walled UNESCO World Heritage capital city, Valletta. But at the same time, Malta has not abandoned its remarkable history – in fact there has been a frenzy of restoration and renovation, protecting and enhancing its range of historic buildings and fortifications, spurred on by Valletta’s designation as a European Capital of Culture this year.
Lying in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, just 60 miles south of Sicily, Malta, with its superb natural harbors, has been visited, owned or besieged by every power with designs on the Mediterranean – and each culture has left its mark.
From extraordinary Stone Age temples (older than Stonehenge and a lot more sophisticated) to Roman villas and medieval citadels, Malta has it all. But it was 1530 when the island was given to the Knights of St John Hospitaller, who soon became known as the Knights of Malta, and their unique architectural and artistic legacy still characterizes the islands today.
These warrior monks ran Malta, and its little sister island of Gozo, until Napoleon kicked them out in 1798, only to find himself ejected in turn by the Maltese together with the British. The result of all this fascinatingly checkered history is that Malta has the greatest density of historic sites of any nation. And more are now open to the public – and for private events – than ever before.
Within the towering bastion walls of Valletta, historic houses and palazzi are being renovated and turned into boutique hotels as tourist numbers keep increasing. Malta, with a population of just 435,000, has welcomed a rising number of visitors – more than two million visitors last year, some 140,000 of them for meetings and events.
An English-speaking nation well-connected with Europe and the UK, yet surrounded by azure seas and blessed with 300 days a year of sunshine, Malta will continue to attract visitors of all kinds. Its USP, however, is undoubtedly its history, so here is a selection of historic venues you can book for your next event.
MEDITERRANEAN CONFERENCE CENTRE
Malta’s flagship conference facility, and a member of the exclusive group of Historic Conference Centres of Europe (HCCE), this venue began its life in the 1570s as the Sacra Infermeria, the hospital of the Knights of Malta. Here, almost at the tip of the Valletta peninsula, the Hospitallers ministered to the sick. Even their leader and ruler of Malta, the Grand Master, was expected to take his turn working in the wards.
The 508-foot-long Great Ward was, at the time of its construction, famously the longest room in Europe.