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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Malta - Day 6: Naxxar, Mdina, Dingli Cliffs

We had to wake up early, as we had planned another day of sightseeing in Malta. From Sliema we took bus 203 to Naxxar. Just at the main bus stop in Naxxar is the huge Naxxar Parish Church. Opposite of the church is, what was our first sightseeing stop - Palazzo Parisio.

The Palazzo Parisio was designed by the Portuguese Grandmaster Manuel de Vilhena and built in 1733. It was later enlarged in 1898 by an Italian architect and artisans. We entered it and, after paying, got information about the palace and were told, which way to go for a self-guided tour. We first checked the entrance hall where you are welcomed by marble statues, that represent the four seasons.

A staircase with the longest piece of single marble coping in Malta led up to the rooms, where the noble family lived. The different rooms were just lavish - each. Wonderful paintings, mirrors, marble floors and art. I loved it and certainly would move right in! One can dream, right?

After taking our time with the rooms and resting on the balcony, overlooking the garden, we walked into the cellars, which were less exciting. But from there we went further into the gardens, which are beautiful and include stone fountains and an orangerie. The gardens also include a restaurant, where we enjoyed coffee and the wonderful ambience.

Not so relaxing was the next bus trip, as we walked back to the bus stop and entered a bus 202 to Rabat. The bus was completely crowded and we barely got in and then had to stand the whole trip and hang on so not to fall into other people at the curves and sudden stops. Fortunately, it didn´t take long, until we reached the main bus stop in Rabat, which is just in front of a park, leading to Mdina.

Mdina was once Malta´s capital and is a fortified city full of history. It is also easily walkable and full of wonderful sights. We entered through the main gate, the Mdina Gate, which was built in 1724. Just to the right after the entrance was already the next sight, the Museum of Natural History. The museum was included in our Malta Heritage Pass, so, of course, we had to visit. It is rather huge and shows a variety of items, from fossils to snake skeletons.

After visiting one wing of the museum, consisting of several floors, we decided against the next wing, as we couldn´t wait to see more of the Mdina old town, which looked especially promising. We walked past tiny St. Agatha´s Chapel to Mdina Cathedral and bought the tickets for it at the Cathedral Museum, next to the cathedral. We decided for a combi ticket and started with the Cathedral Museum, which showcases some of the treasures of the church (no Photos allowed, unfortunately). From the museum, we walked to the cathedral, which is really impressive inside - full of ornaments, beautiful paintings, and marble.

When we were finished with the cathedral, we walked further into the north of Mdina and made a short stop at another church, Church of St. Roque. Then we reached the wall, where you have a great view.

To make a round trip through the wonderful old town, we walked through a small alley and decided to enter The Knights of Malta. After getting an audio guide, we walked inside along different scenes of Malta´s history in the era of the knights and the Order of Saint John, which ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798. It was quite interesting and a presentation I haven´t seen before. At the end of the walk, they also showed a short movie.

I was getting hungry but my friend wanted to see another sight first, so we exited Mdina and found the Domus Romana just a short walk away. The Domus Romana is a museum, built around the remains of a rich, aristocratic roman townhouse. It was included in our Heritage Pass and offers artifacts and information on the Roman presence in Malta, but also the Moslem presence.

Finally, it was time for a (very late) dinner inside a patio, which we found while walking southwards from the Domus Romana through Rabat. With new strength, we continued past the Ta` Giezu Church and the Collegiate Church of St Paul to the nearby Wignacourt Museum, where we saw signs for St. Paul´s Grotto and Catacombs. We couldn´t enter there for free with our Heritage Pass and they sent us to the parallel street, where we found the right entrance.

It was already late and nearing closing time, but they still let us in, fortunately. St. Paul´s Catacombs proved to be especially exciting. They are a complex of interconnected, underground Roman cemeteries. They also have a nice and modern museum, where we started, before we went underground. 

To get to the last sightseeing stop for the day we walked back to the Wignacourt Museum and followed the street southwards to the Ferris Bus Stop at the end of the street and waited for the next Bus 201 to Maddalena Bus Stop. It then was just a short bus ride with our convenient 7-day-bus pass and we were at Saint Magdalene´s Chapel and the Dingli Cliffs. We walked around and enjoyed the great view and later also music, when we waited for the next bus back (quite some time), as someone was filming his music video there.

From Maddalena Bus Stop we took the bus 201 back to Rabat and changed buses there (Bus 202) back to Sliema, which took about 90 minutes combined. After a long day of sightseeing, we had dinner in our wonderful apartment at the Pebbles Boutique Aparthotel and went to bed early, as we had more plans for the next day.

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