It was February when I landed on the tiny island of Malta for the first time. Renowned as a summer destination, I did not know what to expect in winter; all I had heard was that the island promises 300 days of sunshine.
During my three-month internship, I had the time to visit the main attractions, starting with the inescapable capital city of Valletta and then journeying to the older ‘Silent City’ of Mdina. I also explored the cliffy parts of the island – the southern and the northern areas by the sea – and this is an activity I would certainly recommend to visitors in springtime.
Working at Corinthia Palace gave me the opportunity to discover a part of the island that left me pleasantly surprised. Just across the street from the hotel, one finds the gardens of San Anton Palace - the presidential residence built by Grand Master Antoine de Paule in the 17th Century. I loved walking around this garden before or after a day’s work. It is from this spot that I started wondering around, discovering the area on foot. Known among locals as the Three Villages, Attard, Balzan and Lija are situated far away from the busy coast.
The Three Villages are centrally located, and they are the perfect place to start your day before visiting the island’s better-known attractions. In the evening you can enjoy ‘golden hour’ here with a refreshing drink or dinner. It was a warm Saturday in Spring when I set out to discover the Three Villages on foot. The walk turned into a play of finding shelter under the trees or taking in the sun rays.
The best way to appreciate the Three Villages is to get lost in the narrow streets, and to let yourself be guided by the smell of bread from the village bakeries. Every corner takes you to a row of houses with wooden Maltese Balconies, and everywhere you look offers something to admire. I loved looking at the detailed carvings in the stone and the colour composition from the flowers in the front gardens. But a particular favourite was the bursting pink from the climbing Bougainvillea’s decorating the house façades!
While walking through the villages from one corner to the next, I got a sense of time travel, moving from one period to the other. The most distinguishable for me was the stretch of Wignacourt Arches that date back to the 17th Century, and which were used to supply water to families living in the capital city. Most of its arches still survive and still stretch along the villages of localities of Attard, Balzan and further on towards Birkirkara, Fleur-de-Lys and Santa Venera.
The multiple churches and chapels, all unique in size and architecture, were also fascinating. Sometimes I stumbled into an imposing church in the middle of a square, other times I found myself surprised by a smaller chapel hidden behind houses and trees.
San Anton Garden always came as a refreshing break during my walk. Entering the garden is a complete experience: the nature supersedes the sidewalk I previously trod, flowers perfume the alleys and catch your eye from the left to the right with their vibrant colours, and birds’ songs escort you at every step. If you are lucky, you may meet a peacock making the wheel as you make your way past the antique fountains.
Flowers are not the only things to bring colour to the Three Villages. My eyes were consistently caught by the main doors at the front of the pretty houses that prevail here. Blue, yellow, green; they are all distinctive with delicate details that make them unique and probably reflect their owners.
Everyone seems to know each other in this area. I often saw groups of people in the terrace of a coffee shop or on a colourful bench. It looks like they have met there day after day to talk passionately about one topic or another. This was the first time I felt this convivial and warm atmosphere since I arrived.
Now, after three months in Malta, it is time for me to return home to France. I will not have the chance to experience the famous summer season on the island, but I have the feeling that I enjoyed one of the best times of the year here. I will still come in spring for my next visit, to ensure I can admire the flowers and the soft light. However, I will extend my stay until summer to be able to dive into the turquoise sea I explored on my many hikes.