Looking out over the waters from Ursulino's rooftop terrace, one gets a full view of the majestic natural harbour - the Grand Harbour - as well as an expansive view of the fortified buildings across the sea. The first question comes spontaneously..... Where is that?
That is the entirety of The Three Cities, cities which existed even before the construction of Valletta itself. The Three Cities are located in what is known as the Cottonera region and comprise Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea, alias Bormla, Birgu and Isla respectively. The first set of names was coined by the Knights of St John, the second set was the one coined by the locals over the centuries prior to the time of the Knights. The old names have stuck nonetheless.
These are three of the harbour cities which have lived exclusively and pretty comfortably off the work and labour generated by the harbour itself. Built to embrace the shoreline and lead down to it, even the sports connected with these cities involve the sea. Consider the September Regatta, a sea race involving able men and colourful boats which strongly resemble the Venetian gondola. There is also the shoreline Carnival game of the greasy pole called Ġostra, where nimble-legged young men still try to clamber up a heavily greased wooden pole set precariously over the waters. This effort, in order to grab a prize at the very tip, traditionally one which would be given to their beloved. Failure would plunge them into the sea, and that is not very enticing during the month of February.
Today, the trio of old cities is a great attraction to visitors, not least due to the authentic features that characterise them - narrow alleyways, long stairways, beautiful old palazzos, great architecture from across the decades, a great deal of history. And, if you are staying at Ursulino Valletta Boutique Hotel, you are very privileged since the Three Cities are only one short and delightful boat trip away.
Immerse yourself in the experience of these cities by visiting any one of the following sites:
- Birgu's underground WWII Air Raid Shelters which form part of the Malta at War Museum. With its 1.5km of hand-dug rock passageways and cubicles, the shelters even include a birthing room for women who entered labour during an Air Raid.
- Birgu's Maritime Museum provides a condensed tour of what has sailed the Maltese waters over time – the largest museum in Malta boasting a collection exceeding 20,000 artefacts.
- Isla's seashore promenade walk past Fort St Michael, up to the point of no return, just past the ancient Gardjola, an emblematic watchtower high in the bastion walls.
- Isla's Senglea Garden which provides an amazing 360° view of the Grand Harbour and Fort St Angelo from its vantage point.
- Bormla's newly restored promenade, created out of a space previously occupied by the Dockyard responsible for restoring much of the British fleet during WWII.
- Bormla's grand stairway leading from the dock/street level right up to the Immaculate Conception Parish Church.
Ursulino Valletta Boutique Hotel is an elegant townhouse promising luxury B&B accommodation to 5-star hotel standards, yet also offering the warmth and the personalised service of a family-run boutique B&B. Feel free to Contact Us or Book your ideal room now!