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From St. John’s Cathedral To The Siege Bell: A Family Legacy Behind 75 Years Of Business

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It is common knowledge that World War II sent waves of mass destruction and devastation across Europe. In Malta, an island that sustained the worst hits, one family went on a mission to, quite literally, rebuild the nation, flourishing into one of the island’s leading companies.

This is the vibrant history of the Vassallo Group.

Celebrating 75 years since its ambitious inception, Vassallo Group has gone from clearing out rubble from World War II to a far-reaching portfolio: property, care, construction, energy, catering, hospitality, property, and education.

Here’s a brief but potent look at their achievements through the years.

1. Where it all started: building the nation back to glory.

It all began in 1946, when the late Piju Vassallo formed a partnership with his nephews Mikelang and Guiseppe Gatt, to clear out war debris from public buildings. Fast-forward two decades and the partnership ends for another, keeping within the construction business.

In 1971, Vassallo Builders is born and incorporated as a limited liability company, led by Nazzareno Vassallo, now its group Chairman. The decade sees the company spill into joinery and woodworks, while 1979 sees it entrusted with the building of Danish Village, an iconic commerce centre in Mellieha.

2. The Vassallo Group contributes to Malta’s major sector: tourism.

In 1982, it built and kicked off tourism operations with the Bugibba Holiday Complex, which was eventually grown to host 450 beds. Partnering with Winston V Zahra, Island Hotel Group Ltd. was formed, leading to the complex to double in size to 1,000 beds. Today, the group still has substantial involvement in hotels in Malta.

Meanwhile, N.O.V.I.T.A Construction Co Ltd was established and Nazzareno Vassallo was appointed as executive chairman. It was entrusted to build the new Air Terminal at Malta’s only airport in Luqa.

3. The preservation of Malta’s history.

Besides working on public buildings, hotels, and the airport, Vassallo Group stuck to its roots in Malta’s history, restoring important artifacts from the past.

In 1990, the group leads major restoration works in St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a church full of ornate Baroque art from the Knights of St. John and home to Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John.

Two years later, it is commissioned to build the Siege Bell Monument, which is now found in Upper Barraka Gardens in Valletta. Upon completion, it was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II.

More recently, it reconstructed St Elmo’s Bridge, which was destroyed in World War II. 

4. Providing homes to Malta’s elderly.

Malta has an aging population, so the demand for places to house the elderly has long been in demand. Vassallo Group also formed part of the island’s history when it built Casa Arkati in 1993, the first purposely built home for the elderly.

It also built the second purposely build an elderly home, Villa Messina, three years later. It then signed agreements to manage two other care homes in Zejtun and Bormla. Less than a decade later, Prince Of Wales Residence in Sliema and Dar il-Madonna tal-Mellieha were erected by Vassallo Group.

Today Care Malta Group runs around a dozen facilities for the Island’s elderly and persons with disabilities.

It also created the second, purposely built elderly home, Villa Messina, three years later. It then signed agreements to manage two other care homes in Zejtun and Bormla. Less than a decade later, Prince Of Wales Residence (now Casa Marija) in Sliema and Dar il-Madonna tal-Mellieha were erected by Vassallo Group.

Eventually, CareMalta, the Vassallo Group subsidiary running the elderly homes, also opened and began running a number of other elderly homes. It also started offering care for persons with disabilities through the subsidiary HILA with other new homes.

Today, the CareMalta Group runs some twelve homes.

5. A renewed focus on education and sport.

While there are considerable other landmark projects taken on by the Vassallo Group, their dedication to education is an important facet of their legacy in Malta.

Back in 1993, the group ventured into the education sector with the creation of Magister Academy, the first English Language school in Malta, in partnership with Paul Fenech. Exactly two decades later, Learning Works was set up as a learning institution for courses from health and social care to management and sport.

Currently, the group is constructing the Campus Hub within the University of Malta, and has just unveiled a new project – a new private dedicated sports college is being developed at St Aloysius College Sports Complex in Birkirkara.

Under an agreement between the college and Learning Works, the Mediterranean College of Sports (MCS) will see spanking new sports facilities, including a football ground, swimming pool, dynamism, a sports science centre, and dormitory for students.

75 years since its inception, the company remains at the forefront of innovative business that cares, under the direction of Nazzareno Vassallo, this year’s EY Entrepreneur of the year.

Today, Vassallo Group employs more than 1,850 people in catering, construction, disability and elderly, property, and education demanding top-quality work with the dedication expected from a family-run business.

No wonder it’s still going strong nearly a century later.

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Sam is an over-caffeinated artist fighting for a cooler and freer world, one article, song or impromptu protest at a time. Hit her up with thought-provoking ideas or dreams at [email protected] or @princess.wonderful on Instagram.

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