Secret life of the noble Maltese
Owners of grand Maltese residences have opened their doors to allow visitors behind-the-scenes access. Liz Gill had a nose around
IT’S NOT every day you get to look round a house which the Queen once wanted to live in. The 450-year-old Villa Parisio in Malta, though charming and interesting historically, is not grand, certainly not by royal standards. But the Queen, then a newly married Princess Elizabeth with a naval husband stationed on the island, apparently thought it would be just right for them.
The owner, however, although a friend of the couple, declined to hand it over.
The redoubtable Mabel Strickland, newspaper owner and editor and MP, was not a woman in thrall to anyone: during the Second World War she had had the governor of Malta removed from office because he was about to surrender to the Germans.
We have heard this story during our tour of the villa with Ms Strickland’s nephew the sculptor Robert Strickland who also shows us other fascinating memorabilia including a collection of all the Royal Family Christmas cards Ms Strickland received over the years. She had remained friends with the Queen and Prince Philip and sent them a basket of oranges and avocados from the villa gardens every year until her death in 1988.
Our visit is part of the Private Malta experience. All the residences have been picked for their historic connections, their noteworthy architecture or their art collections and for the insights they offer into different aspects of Maltese life. For a nosey-parker like me it’s the perfect opportunity not just to see behind the scenes but to get a real feel for people’s lives.
So in Mdina, for instance, we wander around an impressive property packed with the treasures noble families accumulate over the generations: weaponry, suits of armour, ancestral portraits, collections of Venetian glass and “guinea clocks” (so called because that’s what they originally cost), and a table which once belonged to Napoleon. Many of the spaces seem chilly and dark, the atmosphere heavy with the responsibility of being the custodian of all that tradition, so it is a nice con- dinner at a palazzo with transfer by classic cars; visits to five residences, guided tours and, depending on the season, a yacht trip, cooking in a private home or an afternoon in private gardens with such activities as archery and boules. trast to get a glimpse of the owner’s small cluttered bedroom and cheery sitting room.
Mdina, once the island’s capital, private.malta@ corinthia.com corinthia.com BOOK: visit beyond3sixty.com FLY: Air Malta flights start from around £110 return airmalta.com MORE INFO: visitmalta.com is perched on a rock nearly 400 feet above the countryside. It has glorious views, labyrinthine cobbled streets and a gate set in fortified walls so
The gated city of Mdina is perched on a rock nearly 400 feet above the countryside