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

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

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@ BOOK: visit be­ FLY: Air Malta flights start from around £110 re­turn MORE INFO: vis­it­ 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

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