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Experience the chivalry, antiquity and vintage charm of the Three Cities

Three Cities Aerial View

On the Maltese islands there is no better place to be transported back to the era of the Knights of the Order of St John than the fortress of Cottonera. Widely known as the Three Cities, the area is made up of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua – Birgu, Isla and Bormla in Maltese. These medieval towns sit on two peninsulas jutting into Grand Harbour and their history is marked by alternating periods of greatness and decadence.

The Three Cities offer an intriguing insight into Malta and its history. Left largely unvisited, these cities are a slice of authentic life as well as a glimpse into Malta’s maritime fortunes.

The Three Cities can rightly claim to be the cradle of Maltese history, as VittoriosaSenglea and Cospicua have provided a home and fortress to almost every civilisation that settled on the Islands.

Their harbour inlets have been in use since Phoenician times: the docks always providing a living for local people, but also leaving them vulnerable when Malta’s rulers were at war. As the first home to the Knights of St. John, the Three Cities’ palaces, churches, forts and bastions are far older than Valletta’s.

For your own private tour of the 3 Cities, step back through the mists of time as you drive through the roads and experience the cities in all their glorious authenticity. You will be driven around the meandering streets in a Vintage Car,  with your own private guide, well versed in history and local culture.

Vintage car from John's Garage

Photo Credit John’s Garage

Vintage car 2 from John's Garage

Photo Credit John’s Garage

The Knights and their entourage will greet you on arrival and walk you to the attractions.

The first stop will be Vittoriosa, nestled in the shelter of the high and impregnable walls of Fort St Angelo encircled by some of the finest fortifications in Europe. It is the oldest the Three Cities and the richest in historical sights. Because of its strategic location in the harbour, it has suffered at the hands of Malta’s enemies numerous times during the course of history. The Great Siege of 1565 and World War II, in particular, reduced its majestic palaces and splendid churches to ruins.

Couvre Porte (15) - Credit Mario Galea

Photo Credit Mario Galea

Then we will proceed onto Isla (or Senglea) the smallest of the Three Cities. Also situated on a peninsula protruding into the Grand Harbour, facing the charming walled city of Valletta. This locality is truly one of the jewels of the Maltese Islands, being also one of the oldest cities dating back to the 16th century, with many structures undertaken by the Knights themselves, making it one of the heaviest fortified areas on the Island. It is indeed a gem enclosed by spectacular bastions, with commanding views still guarding the Grand Harbour as it did centuries ago. Even the approach to the city itself bears testament to its forgotten grandeur. Going for a stroll to Ġnien il-Gardjola (the look-out garden) at the tip of Senglea Point, one can savour a blend of history and the Mediterranean Sea that stretches out beyond the confines of the Grand Harbour.

Gardjola - Credit Philip Pryce

Photo Credit Philip Pryce

The final leg of this journey back through history is Cospicua (also known as Bormla). This double-fortified city is located on the East side in the Grand Harbour, also opposite Valletta. Cospicua was already inhabited during megalithic times. In fact, three megalithic structures and a number of tools and flints were found together in the area. It was the most recent city to be fortified, with the bastions built by the Knights.

Colours of Malta - 3 Cities - Easter Procession Bormla 2014 (1)

Any trip to the Three Cities had to include the Heritage Malta sites of The Inquisitor’s Palace and The Maritime Museum.

The ideal lunch stop on this tour is the Vittoriosa Marina surrounded by the luxury yachts moored on the adjacent pontoons. Restaurants in the Marina are situated in the old quarters of the Knights’ Treasury buildings. Vaulted ceilings and old walls embrace these lovely historical establishments adding to this memorable experience.

After lunch if one fancies a spot of modern fun, an interactive tour of the cities in Rolling Geeks electric cars is a great way to close off the day!

Contact Colours of Malta to organise your personalised experience of this gem of Maltese history, architecture and heritage.

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