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From the moment I saw a photo on Pinterest of the teeny tiny alleyway streets of Cospicua, I just knew I had to explore them. Cospicua is one of the three cities that make up the infamous Three Cities in Malta. The Three Cities are located across the Grand Harbour in Valletta and are made up of Vittoriosa (Il-Birgu), Senglea (L-Isla) and Cospicua (Bormla) and provided a fortress for almost everyone that settled there.
As I was about to set out for the day, the skies were dark, cloudy and rain was falling hard and fast onto the streets below. Rain never stopped me from exploring before, so I bundled up and got ready to brave the elements.
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As I boarded the Sliema-Valletta ferry, I got a good taste of how windy it was outside and almost broke my umbrella. Once I arrived in Valletta, the wind seemed to slow down and ease up as I made my way into the walled city where I was shielded. I stopped off to grab a couple of pastizzi pastries to eat as a lunch on the go and they were delicious, not to mention, super cheap too! For anyone travelling to Malta, I highly recommend eating a few of these while walking around. Pastizzi pastries are a Maltese food made into diamond shape pastries filled with either ricotta cheese or slightly spicy pea filling, known in Maltese as pastizzi ta’ l-irkotta and pastizzi tal-pizelli. The pastry is made using a puff-pastry dough that is so nice and crispy and crumbles in your mouth. Damn, I sure do want one of those now!
As I wolfed down the pastries, I made my way to the Upper Barrakka Gardens and took the new, large glass elevator down to the Valletta-Cospicua ferry terminal, which would take me to The Three Cities across the harbour. Once I boarded the ferry, we set off across the Grand Harbour, leaving Valletta behind in the distance with a fantastic skyline view of the city.
Once the ferry docked, it was time to get out and explore the quiet, historic streets of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. Looking on to Valletta from the Cospicua harbour, you can’t help but notice all the massive yachts surrounding these tiny cities. I swear that some yachts were actually bigger than the cities themselves! As I made my way through the streets of Cospicua, the brutal gale force winds picked up again. I quickly ducked into a side street and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. It was almost like I had stepped into a secret maze of stairs that led me higher and higher through the city.
Cospicua is the largest of the Three Cities and is known to most by its earlier name, Bormla. The city was actually renamed as Cospicua by the Knights of St. John because of the brave (‘conspicuous’) role played by its people during the Great Siege of 1565. The crumbling stairways that lead up to other hidden streets feels as though you’ve been transported in time.
After wandering through Cospicua, I somehow ended up in Vittoriosa without even realizing it. Vittoriosa, otherwise known as Birgu, is the oldest of The Three Cities with its origins reaching back to medieval times. At approximately 800m long and 400m wide, Vittoriosa is easily navigated by foot and enjoyable as you make your way through the old streets with windows lined with bright flower pots. Birgu occupies a portion of land with Fort Saint Angelo at its head and the city of Cospicua at its base. The view of the Grand Harbour from the Fort is definitely a site to see, as you’ll get a full panoramic view of Valletta. Birgu was later named Citta’ Vittoriosa, or Victorious City, because of the Knights that managed to resist conquest during the invasion of the Turks in 1565, famously known as the Great Siege of Malta.
After a lot of walking and exploring, it was time for lunch. I headed down to the Birgu waterfront for a bite to eat at Cargo restaurant. As I sat along the waterfront gazing at the massive yachts docked along the water, I dined on an amazing mushroom risotto that was cooked to perfection. After a cold, windy and rainy day, it was nice to eat something hot under a covered patio. After a relaxing lunch and a much needed cappuccino, I had one more city to explore, the city of Senglea, otherwise known as L-Isla.
Senglea, like Valletta, is formed in a grid pattern, so it’s easily navigated on foot. The city was pretty much destroyed during WWII, so there are very little historic elements left, but one famous thing Senglea does have is located at the very tip of the peninsula and is one of the classic sights of Malta; the little vedette (watchtower). The watchtower is located in the Gardjola Gardens in Senglea. It is decorated with carvings of eyes and ears, which symbolize watchfulness. It has a view to the west over the length of the Grand Harbour and southern flanks of Valletta.
If you love history and walking through cities that ooze character, have been around since the middle ages and are far less populated with tourists than the major attractions, then wandering around The Three Cities is the perfect day trip for you.
Have any of you been there? If so, which of the Three Cities was your favourite to get lost in? Let me know in the comments below! xo