This tiny island has a great deal to offer. Famous throughout history as one of the most fought over pieces of land in the Mediterranean, Malta's turbulent past has seen it colonized by, among others, the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Knights of St John and the British (Malta finally gained independence from United Kingdom in 1964). All have this has left the island with much to tempt the modern day invader: from the grand palaces and majestic harbour of the capital Valetta to the tranquil beauty of the old town of Medina.
Join a walk through Malta's capital of Valletta, a city packed with historical interest. This World Heritage Site is dominated by two magnificent buildings: the Baroque St John's Co-Cathedral and the Grand Master's Palace.
Valletta was founded in 1566 by Jean Parisot de Vallette, the 48th Grand Master of the Knights of St John, who was captured at the siege of Rhodes in 1522 at the age of 28, became a slave on a Turkish galley, and fought during the 1565 siege of Malta. This last encounter with the Turks revealed the weaknesses in the Knight's original base at Vittoriosa, so they moved across the harbour and established Valletta, an impregnable stronghold that has survived the centuries.
This morning, visit the Grand Master's Palace, designed by Gerolamo Cassar, with its luxuriously furnished State Rooms and portraits of past Grand Masters. Continue by foot to St John's Co-Cathedral. Admire the magnificent Baroque interior and Caravaggio's masterpiece, The Beheading of St John.
Drive next to Mdina, Malta's former capital, where much of the architecture dates from the Middle Ages. Around 60AD, the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked off these coasts and lived in a cave near Mdina.
During his stay he converted the Roman governor, Publius, to Christianity. Stroll Mdina's narrow streets to visit St Paul's Cathedral, built, according to tradition, on the site where Publius once lived. Then stop for a panoramic overview from the ramparts and take in the strategic position of this island coveted by both Rome and Carthage before returning to the ship.
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