Valletta, which is the capital of Malta, embraces the famed charm of an Italian city, its many Baroque palaces set on narrow steep streets that form a grid pattern. Together with the Knights of the Order of St John, the founder, Grandmaster Fra Jean de la Valette, carefully planned the city.
Valletta, Malta © Boguslaw Garbacz
As the saying goes, the city was 'built by gentlemen for gentlemen', with the first stone being ceremonially laid in 1566 after Ottoman forces withdrew their siege of the Maltese Islands and the Knights of St John took over.
The purpose of the city, built in a short span of 15 years on a plateau between two harbours on Malta's northeast coast, was primarily to fortify the island. Secondly, it was to provide palaces, inns for the eight Knight's groupings, churches for worship, and gardens for recreation.
These grand remnants of the Knight's occupation still adorn Valletta in the form of some splendid Baroque buildings and fortifications. But the majestic architecture manages not to overwhelm the island's carefree personality.
Valletta balances its sombre grandeur and religious tone with colour and jollity. The city has a fun but not raucous nightlife, along with some great restaurants and magnificent chances to see the sights. It's a very safe and friendly city, welcoming of tourists, and well-equipped to host them.