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City Spotlight: From Barren Land To Garden Paradise, Here’s Why Floriana Is The Place To Visit

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Living in Malta, it is nearly impossible to not have taken the drive through the grand avenue of Triq Sant’ Anna on your way towards Valletta. Yet have you ever stopped to consider the true splendour and beauty that lay around you in Floriana?

Though it only boasts a population of around 2,600 people, Floriana boasts the largest pjazza in Malta, the largest number of monuments of national importance and the largest number of public gardens.

Despite its size, Floriana also has been the birthplace of numerous notable Maltese, including the likes of Oliver Friggieri, former Bishop of Malta Dun Mauro Caruana and Maltese pop singer Kevin Borg.

The City is also known by its title Borgo Vilhena after Grandmaster António Manoel de Vilhena who permitted the founding of the city of Floriana in 1724. Yet this is only scratching the surface of the city’s rich and prestigious history.

1. From Barren Land To Flourishing City

The Porte des Bombes in the 1870s Credit: Bay Retro

The Porte des Bombes in the 1870s Credit: Bay Retro

Following the Great Siege of Malta, the Knights desired to build a new, fortified city to strengthen the Knight’s position in Malta as well as make successful invasions of the islands to be that much more difficult.

The extensive fortifications that were constructed for Valletta were considered to be some of the most robust and extensive of their time. Despite the strength of the defences, the Knights desired to further strengthen and improve their fortifications.

By the early 1700s, under Grandmaster Perellos, the Floriana Lines were constructed. Designed by Italian Military Engineer Pietro Paolo Floriani, the city’s namesake, a double buffer line was created. This thus created a large gap between the Floriana Lines and the walls of Valletta.

This large space is known as a Glacis which would essentially force invaders that broke through the Floriana Lines into a large area to be helplessly taken out from the Valletta walls.

Yet, as Valletta grew and became over-populated, the glacis – which demanded completely barren land to be effective – became a big talking point. In the end, Grand Master Vilhena gave permission for the city of Floriana to be built in 1724.

At this point, only Wignacourt Water Tower, the Mall Gardens, Sarria Church and the Capuchins Convent stood. Nevertheless, further buildings were allowed to be constructed which led to the structure of the city that we see today – in which all buildings are set in a grid formation.

This is also the reason for a vast unbuilt space between Floriana and Valletta that still stands to this day, as a smaller glacis was allowed to be kept. The British stay in Malta saw a few more buildings to the Floriana area, including the barracks (which are home to government departments) and the Catholic Institute.

2. The Feast of Floriana

The Archipresbyteral Church in Floriana

The Archipresbyteral Church in Floriana

Floriana celebrates the feast of Saint Publius which kicks off the Festa Season around the end of April and the start of May. The Archipresbyteral Church is also dedicated to him.

Consisting of a week’s long celebration, the feast celebrates Saint Publius who is widely considered to be the first Bishop of Malta and is acknowledged both as one of Malta’s Patron Saints, yet also our first acknowledge Saint.

According to tradition, Publius was the man who received St Paul when he was shipwrecked on the island and is even mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Publius’ conversion to Christianity is said to have led Malta to be the first Christian nation in the West at the time.

3. What Should You See In Floriana?

The Argotti Botanical Gardens

The Argotti Botanical Gardens

Whenever visiting Floriana, there are countless sites to see. From the many gardens to enjoy a relaxed walk or the seaside vistas to enjoy the summer – Floriana is definitely an underrated yet beautiful city.

Of note, a must-see spot in Floriana is the Argotti Botanical Gardens. Originally established by the Knights of Malta, yet it was properly established and further developed over the years under British Rule. The gardens act as a quiet respite to the otherwise busy buzz of the streets of Floriana.

It also houses an array of dozens of Mediterranean plants including shrubs and cacti. A small horticultural museum is also housed within the nearby Villa Sarria.

Aside from this, one can enjoy the Our Lady’s Garden of Rest which houses the final resting place of Mikiel Anton Vassalli – an 18th-century writer and reformer who is associated with the formation of the Maltese national identity.

These gardens, which used to a 19th-century Protestant graveyard in Malta, nowadays offers a venue for film festivals as well as acting as a scenic public garden to enjoy.

Yet, if gardens are not your thing, il-Fosos (the Floriana Granaries) has long been a venue for a slew of concerts, including Elton John, Ronan Keating, Joseph Calleja and, of course, Isle of MTV. 

Given the proposal to turn Floriana into a Green City, we can only expect more gardens and peaceful recreational areas to enjoy in the future. Only further adding to the stunning array of activities already available to the public.

4. Where should you get a bite to eat?

For any traveller, what may interest you most is the knowledge of the best eateries and hotels in the area. While it does not sport a massive selection of restaurants at the heart of Floriana, the nearby Valletta Waterfront is easily accessible in a short walk.

For those who’d wish to stick around in the area though, two restaurants of particular note are Olive House and Il-Gażin Vilhena Band Club.

Olive House offers a delicious selection of Lebanese food, offering everything from falafels to shawarma, burgers to Mezza’s. Il-Gażin Vilhena Band Club meanwhile offers a highly affordable option for people who just want to enjoy the atmosphere of a typical Maltese Band Club with a jazz and blues twist.

If you want a taste of a Floriana-owned restaurant, then you must put La Loggia on your list. In the morning, this establishment is a café and bistro that serves everything from coffee to a plethora of delights for you to enjoy.

In the evening on weekends, however, the place transforms into a full-on restaurant. Owned by three Floriana-born guys, La Loggia has the bold concept of striving to help revitalise the Floriana they love so dearly.

Due to COVID-19, they have even opened a street food menu that lets patrons enjoy everything from pizzas to burgers and everything in between.

5. And where should you stay?

For anyone looking for a place to stay, there are three notable hotels located in Floriana: The Phoenicia Hotel, The Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta and 23 Boutique.

Both the Phoenicia and Excelsior offer captivating luxury hotel settings for those who want to enjoy their stay in Malta in all of the holiday bonuses. Yet, for those who enjoy the style of a boutique hotel or even a more low-key and personal hotel experience, 23 Boutique is definitely your best bet.

Each of the hotels is perfectly situated throughout Floriana to offer easy access to Valletta or public transport.

With all this in mind, it becomes truly clear just how much Floriana has to offer. Whilst it may sometimes go unappreciated or unnoticed, Floriana is definitely a gem for the Maltese islands that should be properly enjoyed.

What Maltese town should we focus on next? Let us know in the comment section!

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An avid lover of food, music, film and gaming with a staunch belief in a greener future.

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