There is a place, where the silence dominates, where it’s enough getting a medieval town to go back to the time when knights rode their horses struggling to defend their territory… all this exists, welcome to Medina.
Medina (Maltese Mdina or L – Imdina) is the ancient capital of Malta, also known as the “Silent City”. Thanks to its location, 190 meters above the sea level, Medina surmounts the whole island and the view is beautiful.
Inhabited by a few hundred people who often live on their own and rarely mix with tourists, houses with closed windows often fully tightened, then giving the impression of being uninhabited. Within its austere Arab walls, you can breathe so much history as Phoenicians, Romans, and Saracens invaded Medina, leaving their architectural mark.
The city owes its name to the Arab people (Mdina in Arabic means walled city), who arrived in Malta around the year 870, raising high walls and digging a deep ditch all around, dividing it from the surrounding villages and strengthening the defensive in case of unwanted attacks.
It is said that here used to live St.Paul the Apostle in 60 a.C. who, after shipwrecking in the surrounding islands, gave rise to the Christian religion. There is a village here in Malta that bears the name of the Holy Apostle and where a monument testifying his passage has been erected on a small promontory in the sea.
The beauty of exploring Medina is just to walk in the narrow streets that run through the town, stopping to look at the bright colours of the characteristic doors of the houses, the bow windows (terraces, enclosed balconies protruding from the facade) featuring the whole Maltese architecture.
Among places Cocco on the road has been visiting, there is the Roman House (Roman Villa), where inside we found the ruins of the ancient civilisation that here has also left traces of its passage.
Another obligatory stop is the beautiful Cathedral of St. Paul, located in the main square. It was built in 600s by the architect Lorenzo Gafà over the ruins of a much more ancient Norman church. Later in 1693 it was destroyed by the earthquake and rebuilt on the site where, according to tradition, the Roman governor Publius was converted to Christianity by Saint Paul. Inside you will find the art works of the Italian Mattia Preti and the particular floor made of marble-inlaid tombstones with coats of arms and inscriptions of the Maltese bishops, enhancing the charm of this cathedral.
If you’re still looking forward to see more, you can visit the National Museum of Natural History, located in the Palace of the Grand Masters (or Palazzo Vilhena). Exhibitions dedicated to human evolution and insects, in effect more than 10,000 rocks and minerals, 3,500 species of fish and birds and 200 mammals are part of the museum collection. Learning and discovering while rising the knowledge of adults and children who enjoy taking pictures and are fascinated in front of display cases containing bones or human skulls and animals.
Very close to Medina, there’s the village of Rabat that actually adjoins the citadel. Here we drowned in the catacombs, used in Roman times to bury the dead, and dedicated to St.Paul and St.Agatha where the martyr hid during persecutions. Tunnels dug into the ground, where as soon as we got in, we had the impression of entering a sacred place with a full of energy. The sense of claustrophobia increases gradually in the deepest tunnels, but there is no danger, impressing for somebody. Absolutely mystical!
In spring, alleys in Medina fill with ladies, knights, jesters and alchemists who give rise to the famous Medieval Festival, where the charm of the performances and costumes combine with the landscape of the old town transporting visitors into the past.
Beautiful display of colourful glass objects of Mdina Glass which showroom is in St Publius Square. Since 1968, glassmakers produce handcrafted vases, bowls, perfume bottles, plates, clocks, frames, etc. With their play of colours every single piece is a truly unique masterpiece of its kind.
Opening hours of Mdina showroom
January-February – from Monday to Sunday from 9.30 to 5.00
March to May – from Monday to Sunday from 9.30 to 6.00
June to October – Monday to Sunday from 9.30 to 8.00
November-December – from Monday to Sunday from 9.30 to 6.00
For thrill-seekers like us, we tried the Dungeon Museum, where you relive the history of Malta with its dark and terrifying sides, including torture and cruelty inflicted to the people. Located at the right of the main entrance of the city, St Publius Square, the attraction provides an interactive display of the various historical periods from Roman times to the Arab one, where you can find represented the plague, the Inquisition, the Spanish flu, together with superstition and witchcraft, other than the Order of the Knights and finally the French domination. A beautiful and thrilling historical / cultural experience through images, sounds and human figures reconstructed through traditional clothes and placed in the midst of torture or in cells, all walking the underground thus increasing the perception of suspense and mystery. Suitable both for teenagers and adults but not for children, because some scenes are gory and not appropriate for a little explorer. Open every day from 9.30 to 4.00.
Medina has been a great discovery that Cocco on the road strongly recommends if you pass by Malta. Good exploration and have a nice trip!