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Report 2012: Five Days in Malta

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 12 of 24: Floriana

photo by MAW

St Publius Church

Floriana lies to the south west of Valletta between the defensive wall across the neck of the peninsula and the Floriana Lines. These were built in 1634 when the Grand Master thought the Turks were planning another attack on Malta. A planned town was laid out. Although it suffered enormous damage in the Second World War, the street plan survives. We spent a pleasant hour walking round the city.

Outside the City Gate into Valletta is the Triton Fountain, although it never seemed to be working when we saw it. This area is now the City Bus Station. To the south is the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial, a prominent landmark. It is a 15m marble column with a gilded bronze eagle on top and a memorial to the 2,298 Commonwealth aircrew who lost their lives in the various Second World War air battles and engagements around the Mediterranean, but have no known grave.

Two parallel streets, Il-Mall and Triq Sarria run the length of Floriana. They have a narrow tree lined garden between them. These were laid out in 17thC as a place for the younger Knights to exercise and play pall mall (an ancestor of croquet) in hope it might keep them from the temptations of wine, women and gambling.

To one side is the large barren expanse of St Publius Square which covered the granaries. The bell shaped reservoirs were capped with a large stone which can still be seen in place. When the granaries were full of wheat this was sealed with mortar to keep the wheat dry.

At the end of the Square is St Publius Church which was the last important church to be built by the Knights between 1733-68. The pillared portico and bell towers were added later. The church was damaged by bombing in the Second World War and had to be restructured.

At the end of the street is the small circular Chapel of Sarria dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Across the road is Robert Samut Hall which houses cultural events and was originally a Methodist church. Both buildings were shut.

The Winacourt Water Tower marks the end of the 17thC aqueduct bringing water to Valletta. At the base is a water trough used by horses pulling tourist carriages.

The entrance to St Philip’s Gardens is behind the water tower. These are rather scruffy, unkempt gardens below the main wall of the Floriana Lines. Citrus trees grow in the ditch behind locked fences. Part of the garden is built over the top of a triangular bastion. Views from this were disappointing and often obscured by trees.

The Argotti Gardens above are much nicer and better tended. These were originally the private gardens of a Knight who had a summer residence here. In the 19thC they were converted into a botanical garden with exotic trees and plants. They have a series of paths with hedges, flower gardens, tree lined walkways and fountains. There are views down into the lower bastion and along the line of the fortifications.

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