If you have ever travelled around Malta there is surely one place you cannot miss. High, near the centre of the main island on top of a hill, the old capital city of Malta, Mdina. The silent city. Way before Valletta came into play Mdina was the centre of all that was Malta.
You can see it prominently in the skyline from miles around and the old grandeur hits you even before entering throughinside the walls via the Mdina main gate.
An ancient settlement
There has been evidence of settlement here going back to around 4000 BC but it was the Phoenicians whom are thought to have first fortified the place. The present day layout and most of the architecture is owed to the Arab occupation from around 900 – 1000 AD, after the Roman occupation (when it was called Melita).
Narrow alleyways and streets that is much like a lot of Islamic medieval urban architecture. Fascinating to wander around and even more so on a quiet day as I had.
It was when the Order of St John arrived and took over the island in 1530 that the once great city of Mdina started to lose its prominence. The order didn’t use the city to settle as an administrative base but instead used the town of Birgu. In fact, even before then, the neighbouring Rabat was bigger and more populated than Mdina the supposed capital.
There is something quite remarkable about wandering through the streets here seeing the old narrow architecture intertwined with times since. The Normans and onwards. After an earthquake in 1693 the ruined Norman church for instance was taken away to be replaced by one of the most famous buildings here, St Paul’s Cathedral.
As well as wandering the streets within, there are many great points to walk the walls that surround the City. A perfect spot is to look out over from the old capital to the new, Valletta. It was guns of the defenders of Mdina that sent the Ottomans running back towards where Valletta is now in the Great Siege of Malta, 1565.
The present day population of Mdina is under 300 and no cars are allowed except a few of the population, emergency vehicles and wedding cars etc. This gives rise to the affectionate local nickname for the place, The Silent City.
If ever in Malta, it is a must visit.. If ever in Mdina, you must take time to wander the many streets and side streets. You can get lost for hours and hours exploring within the walls of this city. Wonderful buildings, restaurants and shops are abound everywhere, A big tip from me, go for a cake at Fontanella Tea Garden. Absolutely delicious.
On every trip to Malta I take the time to come and explore the historic Mdina. Away from the beaches and bars of the coast but a place to visit full of interest and especially the discover the real history of the Malta you have come to see and stay at.