Located in the heart of the island – between Valletta and the old capital city of Mdina – Attard is a quaint and romantic village brimming with history.
While the town’s original name, Casal Atardu, can be traced all the way back to the year 1419, the area itself was occupied by locals for centuries prior. In fact, burial tombs dating to the prehistoric era (3,500 BC) were discovered on the outskirts of the village during recent reconstruction works.
Attard was also home to much of Malta’s nobility, which led to the construction of many lavish villas and gardens. This helps make Attard one of the country’s most beautiful residential locations.
With so much to explore (and all within walking distance), we’ve developed a bespoke trail to transport you through time and so you can witness the wonders that one of Malta’s oldest villages has to offer.
1. San Anton Palatial Gardens
Located just a stone’s throw from the Corinthia Palace Hotel at the centre of Attard, this picturesque garden boasts a wide array of exotic plants, trees, and other forms of greenery. Built in conjunction with the lodge beside them, the gardens were established between 1623-1636 by then-French Knight and future Grand Master of The Order of St John Antoine de Paul, and they make the perfect location for a pleasant afternoon stroll.
The premises was initially used as a hunting lodge for the Grand Master and his many guests. But, years later, it became home to an array of British Governors and, eventually, the official residence of the President of Malta – which it still is today.
2. Villa Bologna
Over the years, numerous noblemen and women on the island set up their residences in Attard, and the grandiose Villa Bologna is a prime example of that. This fabulous manor house, which is home to the largest private garden on the island (and is often used for weddings and private functions), is particularly striking and has a colourful story to match.
Villa Bologna’s gardens boast an array of exotic plants and trees, building fountains and other water features. At the same time, its halls are embellished with a collection of beautiful antique statues and artistic pieces.
In addition to the gardens, Villa Bologna is also home to a series of fascinating bomb shelters from World War II. Impressively, the shelters were entirely dug out by hand (using a pickaxe) and are quite large.
During your visit, be sure to also pop by the Villa’s pottery/souvenir shop and enjoy a coffee at their own organic eatery, ‘The Farmer’s Deli.’
3. Villa Barbaro
The next location on our trail is the renowned Villa Barbaro on Main Street (also commonly referred to as Villa Bellosguardo). The premises was home to wealthy Italian historian, antique collector, and archaeologist, Marquis Carlo Antonio Barbaro (1720-1793), and is known for its European art, tapestries, bohemian glass, and lavish reception rooms.
A brief history:
The Marquis had a great appreciation for fine art and antiques and would often invite other European connoisseurs to view his vast collection. His personal ‘museum’ was so frequently visited that he erected a plaque with a Latin inscription above the staircase of the ‘museum’ to direct visitors towards it.
Interestingly, the Villa’s gardens served as the backdrop to a meeting between Maltese insurgents who proposed the first military offensive plans against the French in 1798!
4. Casa Bonavita
Just a few meters away from Villa Barbaro you’ll be greeted by the 18th-century masterpiece that is Casa Bonavita. This home, formerly owned by the distinguished Bonavita family, is graced with a large orchard and a small formal garden at the front of the house. Such gardens were typical of houses at the time and allowed owners to enjoy light, privacy, and fresh air from both sides of their residence for most hours of the day.
The Bonavita house was ransacked following the insurrection in Malta and severely damaged as a result. However, the family were quick to restore it to its former glory. It remains privately owned and isn’t open to the public.
As you walk the streets of Attard, notice the many detailed ceramic niches gracing the house facades – imitations directly inspired by the works of the Della Robbia family in Florence, Italy. Additionally, along Triq il-Mithna (Mill Street) you can also observe many examples of the intricate wrought iron work that has become synonymous with Maltese architecture.
5. Parish Church – Our Lady of the Assumption
Your next landmark is the Parish Church of our Lady of the Assumption. As a country with a heavy Catholic influence, churches can be found at the centre of all major towns or villages, with over 350 churches scattered around the island! This particular church is a prime example of renaissance architecture and features five church bells and a functional clock designed by renowned Maltese clockmaker Michael Sapiano in 1872.
A brief history:
Works on the church began in 1610 with architect Tommaso Dingli at the helm and took roughly 18 years to complete. Additionally, the famous sculptor Casanova is responsible for the stunning architectural backdrop of the main altar.
6. Villa Corinthia - Villa Refalo
The last stop on our trail is none other than the majestic Villa Corinthia (formerly known as Villa Refalo) situated beside San Anton Palace. This Grecian-style villa was built at the cusp of the 19th century by Gozitan Chief Justice Professor Michelangelo Refalo and is an undeniably distinct architectural structure.
While the Villa was temporarily taken over by the British in the second World War, it was eventually acquired by a local businessman, Paul Pisani in 1959. After his passing just a year later, Alfred Pisani and his brothers took over the property and converted it into Malta’s first fine dining restaurant on 6 December 1962. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Suffice to say that Pisani’s concept was a resounding success and, thus, the Corinthia Hotel was born. The Hotel was officially opened in 1968 by H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh and actor Roger Moore and has been welcoming guests from around the world ever since.
Now that you’ve got your journey all mapped out, it’s time to grab your camera and take a stroll under the warm Mediterranean sun to discover the charming secrets this unique Maltese village has to offer!
Escape to the blissful sanctuary of Corinthia Palace, your home away from home in the heart of Malta.
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