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Trail of the Knights

3 Day Tour
3 Days (7/8 hours each day)
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Stunning views from the Vedette in Senglea

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Tour Description

Day 1
Senglea, Birgu & Traditional Dghajsa Harbour Trip

Discover all about the Knights on this fabulous comprehensive 3 day tour.

We start with a visit to Senglea, which is one of the ancient Three Cities overlooking the Grand Harbour. Here will visit the Vedette, one of many watchtowers constructed around the Grand Harbour. Here you can admire views of the harbour and Valletta's magnificent bastions. We proceed onto Bormla, the second of the Three Cities before reaching the most important city known as Birgu or Vittoriosa. In 1530 when the Knights first arrived in Malta, they went to the island's capital Mdina but after just two years, Grandmaster L'Isle Adam moved to Birgu and this is where they settled. Here we will do a walking tour of the 'Collacchio', the historical centre of Birgu which is a maze of narrow winding streets.

During our tour you will pass the original Auberges which the Knights lived in and the first hospital of the Order. We will visit St Joseph's Oratory which is a small church museum containing various relics of the Knights and other items of interest connected with the Church and Birgu. The actual magisterial hat and sword used by Grandmaster de Valette during the Great Siege of 1565 have been recently restored and are exhibited here. At this point we make our way to the Birgu Waterfront. This is lined with majestic buildings including the Maritime Museum which was originally the site of the Arsenal of the Order.

An optional short boat trip on a traditional Dghajsa boat is also possible. This will take you around the two harbours surrounding Birgu...the ideal way to appreciate this magnificent and ancient maritime city. Our tour will end with a panoramic drive around the Cottoner's bastions which are over 5km long. These massive fortifications were a glorious achievement in defence design.

Day 2
Valletta

On this day we will visit the modern city of Valletta.

Valletta was built by the Knights of St. John in 1566 to further defend the harbour. The construction of the city was commissioned by Grandmaster de Valette. We start our tour with a visit to the Upper Barraka Gardens which offer stunning views of the Grand Harbour and impressive fortifications. This is followed by a walk through important streets so you can admire the beautiful palaces and other historical buildings built during the period of the Knights. We will include an internal tour of some very important sites such as the magnificent St. John's Co-Cathedral, which was the church of the Order and also home to Caravaggio's masterpiece "Beheading of St. John" amongst other treasures and also a visit to the Grand Masters Palace State Rooms and Armoury(this houses one of the best arms collections).

After a lunch break we continue with our tour of the city which will include a visit to the Sacra Infermeria and the exhibition The Knights Hospitallers.

The Sacra Infermeria which was the Holy Infirmary of the Order was originally constructed in 1574 during Grandmaster La Cassiere's reign. It achieved fame as one of the foremost hospitals of Europe at the time and the only one to admit patients of different creeds, religions or nationalities. Food was served on silver plates for the sake of hygiene. Housed in the Sacra Infermeria is the Knights Hospitallers Exhibition. The exhibition records the achievements of these medieval medics who performed advanced operations, routine amputations and treated war wounds.

Day 3
Lija, Balzan, Attard, San Anton, Buskett & Mdina

Today we will visit the central part of Malta. Our day will start with a drive through the three villages called Lija, Attard and Balzan. These charming villages surround the President's Palace and San Anton Gardens. You will notice some magnificent private palazzos which where built during the 17th century. The Palace and surrounding gardens where built for Grandmaster Antoine de Paule who was proclaimed head of the Order in 1620.

We then proceed to the woodland area of Buskett. This is the only woodland garden on the islands. Most of the trees were planted here during the reign of Grandmaster Lascaris after 1636 but now they regenerate naturally. This small wood was used by the Knights to practise their pastime of hunting. It comes alive during the national feast day of St Peter and St Paul, known as Mnarja, where on the eve the gardens are all lit up and the locals all head here to spend a night of folk music, dancing and eating, On the feast day an agricultural show is held which is very popular to this day.

After a lunch break we will visit the medieval city of Mdina. Mdina is built on a plateau in the centre of the island. The city's old Baroque buildings, cathedral and magnificent bastion walls dominate the rural skyline. Mdina, once the capital of Malta until the modern city of Valletta was built by the Knights had many names including Melite (Roman occupation), Medina (Arabic occupation), Citta Notabile and later Citta Vecchia (after Valletta was built). During our walking tour of Mdina we include a visit to the cathedral which stands on the main square of this walled city. It is a gem of baroque architecture which was built in 1694. During our tour you will also see other important buildings related to the period of the Knights.

At this stage our tour comes to an end.

© 2013 Joan Sheridan Freelance Tour Guide. All rights reserved.