The magic of BirguFest 2019

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There is just one day to go before Birgu’s 2019 edition of BirguFest - known by locals as the candle festival - kicks off on Friday, 11 October.

An annual event that has been running in the hamlet since 1994, when the evening would be held in alternation to the Mdina Festival, it has become one of the most highly anticipated festivals of the year.

For the occasion, alleyways, streets and squares across this charming town (one of the oldest of the island) are bedecked with hundreds of candles as lights are switched off for the evening.

This year’s edition will include an artisan’s market, live music, and an infiorata - a floral display that will be organized by the Italian town of Vignanello, which hosts its own version of the floral festival each year.

To view the full schedule, head to the event page here.

BirguFest 2019 will be held across Birgu from 11 to 13 October 2019.

Of Caravaggio's escape from Fort St Angelo

Fort St Angelo

Fort St Angelo

Inscriptions in Fort St Angelo’s prison

Inscriptions in Fort St Angelo’s prison

Just a short stroll from our doorstep sits one of Malta’s most notable historical landmarks - the Fort of St Angelo. Located on the very tip of Birgu’s peninsula, it was fortified in 1530, when the Order of Saint John came to the island. The site, which has been occupied since pre-history and was a prominent place of worship in antiquity with the building of a temple dedicated to the goddess Astarte, was rebuilt in 1530 and became the residence of the head of the Catholic military order.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Beneath the fort itself lies a prison, the ‘guva’ which was greatly feared and housed many high-ranking offenders within the order. It was chiseled out of stone underneath the fort and could only be accessed through a trapdoor in its ceiling. The oval-shaped prison is situated opposite the Chapel of Nativity and was originally a water cistern.

One of the most notable prisoners who served some time in the guva was the infamous artist Caravaggio, who was confined there in the early 17th century following a brawl in Valletta in which he injured a knight of a senior rank.

However unbelievable it may sound, Caravaggio managed – with the help of others, undoubtedly – to get out of the guva after a month, climb the Fort’s ramparts, and scale down the exterior wall of the fort, possibly with a rope or a rope ladder. He then probably got into a boat waiting for him in the harbour and left the island that was guarded by the most skilled warriors of Europe. All of the artist’s biographers acknowledge that we have no idea how he planned and executed this endeavour, or with whose support. The one documented fact is that, somehow, in October 1608, he reemerged in Sicily, unscathed.

Fort St Angelo in Birgu is open Monday - Sunday, 9am to 5pm, excluding public holidays.

Birgu in August - the month of village feasts

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Summer in Malta is the season of the village festa - an annual religious celebration that pays homage to the patron saint (or saints) of the town.

In Birgu, August is marked by the feasts of St Lawrence and St Dominic, and as July draws to a close, preparations are well underway ahead of the first feast of the month.

Traditionally, it is said that most probably Birgu began patronising St Lawrence sometime between 1283 and 1410, during the rule of the Aragons, where the Saint was born. This was presumably brought about both by Aragon and local sailors, whose ships would sail to and from the Iberian Peninsula. Devotion to this Saint became so strong that during the subsequent years, one of the churches in this city was dedicated to this Saint, and later the parish was started around it.

On the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530, who had a large number of prominent Spanish members, the feast in his honour in the church dedicated to him in Vittoriosa were held solemnly. These were celebrated by the Great Prior of the Order with three masses, a vigil and an octave.

The local band club, in collaboration with members of the parish, is tasked with organizing all preparations ahead of the big celebrations. As flags are raised, banners unfurled and garlands hung, this centuries-old tradition is brought to life and a piece of Maltese heritage celebrated.

Feast of St Lawrence - 9, 10 August // Feast of St Dominic - 24, 25 August

A Grand Harbour cruise to celebrate a unique anniversary

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The the tip of the peninsula upon which Vittoriosa’s Fort St. Angelo has been built has historically always been a significant site. Once a place of worship housing the temple of the goddess Astarte, when the Order of St. John arrived on the island, it became the seat of the Grand Master and subsequently their primary fortification. Fort St. Angelo withstood the attempted invasion by the Turks in 1565, and when the British colonised the island, it was used as a base by the Royal Navy.

On July 19, to mark the fortieth anniversary since the departure of foreign military forces from Malta on 31 March 1979, Heritage Malta is organising a one-of-a-kind harbour cruise. It will focus on the various former Royal Navy establishments and facilities spread around the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour, covering docks, hospitals, fortifications, supply facilities and other structures in use until 1979. After the exhibition and a light refreshment, attendees may visit the Behind Closed Doors exhibition.

Meeting point at the quay below Fort St Angelo at 18:30.

Tickets at €20 Adults, €15 Seniors, Students, Children and HM members. Tickets can be purchased from all Heritage Malta museums & sites or https://shop.heritagemalta.org/index.asp?eventid=594

Ticket price includes the harbour cruise, a glass of wine and access to the exhibition. Light snacks will be available for sale.

The exhibition catalogue will be for sale from the shop at a reduced price. The exhibition’s merchandise, and other Heritage Malta merchandise, will also be available for sale.

The Fort will close at 22:30

Of 7,000-year-old temples and percussionists: Malta International Arts Festival 2019

Image by Stephen Buhagiar

Image by Stephen Buhagiar

Set against the mystical backdrop of 7,000-year-old temple Hagar Qim, genre-defying percussionist Beibei Wang delivered an incredible performance last night as part of this year’s edition of the Malta International Arts Festival.

Beneath the night’s carpet of stars, listeners were treated to a diverse repertoire of music that ranged from all four corners of the globe; from Greece to China, Japan to the United Kingdom.

As a soloist, Beibei has embarked on numerous highly successful international tours, and has been listed as one of the top 50 Chinese musicians in the world.

Intense, electrifying and inspiring, Beibei’s performance did not fail to impress. She will be performing alongside the Malta Philarmonic Orchestra on Saturday, 6 July, presenting Tan Dun's hypnotic three-movement Water Concerto using water as a musical instrument.

For further details and tickets, visit the Malta International Arts Festival website.

Images by Stephen Buhagia

Images by Stephen Buhagia

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Behind Closed Doors: Event at Fort St Angelo

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Vittoriosa represents a treasure trove of history and culture waiting to be discovered. Wandering out of Locanda La Gelsomina boutique hotel in Malta, historical relics such as Fort St Angelo, the jewel in the crown of The Maltese Islands’ military heritage can be found. According to legend, the fort stands on the site of a fortified Roman settlement.

Back in 2015, as Fort St. Angelo was being restored, a clay smoking pipe was found hidden in one of the walls, still filled with tobacco, with a matchbox wrapped in the 3rd March 1920 edition of ‘News of the World’, and a handwritten note dated 19th April of that same year.

Written by a stone mason who was working on the construction of the cinema all those years ago, the note revealed the mason had left the pipe hidden there on purpose for it to be found by a lucky antique lover in the future.

This is just one of the fascinating relics you can see in person until September 8th at 'Behind Closed Doors' an exhibition at Fort St Angelo marking the 40th anniversary since the departure of foreign military forces from Malta.

For more information can be found by visiting Heritage Malta: http://heritagemalta.org/whats-on/

Birgu offers a charismatic backdrop to VOGUE Italia's shoot

Image by Stephanie Galea

Image by Stephanie Galea

Birgu’s Easter Sunday procession is infamous across the island, for it marks the culmination of three days of religious events that have been celebrated by the hamlet for centuries.

Earlier this spring, London-based Maltese photographer Stephanie Galea immersed herself in the colours and dynamic energy that characterize this annual event, snapping a series of shots that capture the intensity of the morning’s procession and festivities.

Published by VOGUE Italia, her latest work offers a distinct insight into Birgu’s charismatic corners and age-old traditions that continue to fascinate both locals and visitors alike.

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Images by Stephanie Galea

Images by Stephanie Galea


Mgarr's Strawberry Festival 2019

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Spring has sprung across the island, and with it - strawberry season.

Now in its 11th year, the annual ‘Festa Frawli’ - or Strawberry Festival - is set to take place on Sunday, April 28. in the main square outside the Parish Church in Mġarr. An agricultural village located the north of the island.  Mġarr is renowned for its excellent quality strawberries, which boast a unique sweet taste. As the festival approaches, the Mġarr locals eagerly prepare for the much-awaited event. Thousands of strawberries are picked, prepared and packed. Children rehearse for performances to be staged on the church square and attractive stalls are set up to welcome Maltese visitors and foreigners alike. 

To find out more, visit the event page or drop an email to mgarr.lc@gov.mt

Creative Circuit ep. 02 set to return to Valletta in April

Image courtesy of Te fit-Tazza

Image courtesy of Te fit-Tazza

The Malta Creative Collective has announced the second edition of its Creative Circuit, which is set to take place across Valletta on 5 April 2019 from 6pm.

Bringing together both Maltese and international creative talent as well as well-known and off-the-beaten-track venues, Creative Circuit ep. 02 shall be a celebration of what the collective believes in the most - collaboration.

Who's involved? La Bottega Art Bistro, SON Architecture, Valletta Design Cluster and Cru Wine Bar, along with the creativity of Elsa Allen, Inigo Taylor, Gulja Holland, Daphne Bugeja, Sergio Muscat, JAD, Robbie Mazzaro and Margerita Pulè.

As you stroll across our capital and into 5 different venues, you'll have the chance to discover lesser-known corners of the capital (including one of its oldest surviving bakeries), marvel at live sketching and have a drink (or two).

For further details, visit www.maltacreativecollective.com.

The history of Carnival in Malta

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March has kicked off with the vibrancy of Carnival, which has filled the streets of Valletta with show-stopping outfits and floats of every shape, form and colour imaginable.

The word ‘carnival’ originates from the Italian phrase‘Carne vale’, which literally means ‘meat is allowed’, for during Lent, meat consumption was prohibited by the Roman Catholic church and carnival was a way of celebrating ahead of the austerity.

Historically in Malta, Carnival can be traced back to the early 1400s, where we find the Università issuing directives about the selling price of meat during carnival.

Encouraged by the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1530-1798), Carnival declined in the 19th century, although it managed to survive the period of British rule (1800-1964) and has thus been handed down in an almost unbroken tradition of about six centuries.

Today, many traditions remain true to their roots – defined by loud, colourful parties in Nadur (in Malta’s sister island of Gozo) and colourful parades and floats through the streets of Valletta.

Valletta hosts the first Malta International Photo Award exhibition

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The recently-launched Malta International Photo Award is a photo award that strives to showcase and promote the very best photography from across the globe. Earlier this weekend, an exhibition showcasing the top 15 submission for the 2018 edition was unveiled.

Currently running at the Malta Postal Museum in Valletta, the exhibition shines a spotlight on the judges’ top picks from the categories of Cities, Nature, People, Abstract and Storytelling.

Running until March 16, 2019. Admissions fee of €5 for adults and €3 for children.

Malta Postal Museum, 35 Archbishop St, Valletta

International Baroque Festival returns to Valletta and beyond

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The seventh edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival officially launched on 11 January 2019; a festival that has in a few short years captured the imagination and support of an ever-growing public.

The Festival will again this year venture out of Valletta to other baroque venues including Mdina, the old Siculo-Norman capital, Birgu and Senglea which lie across the Grand Harbour from Valletta and form part of The Three Cities; and Rabat, Ghaxaq, Qrendi and Zejtun – all boasting exquisite examples of Malta’s baroque heritage.

This is what makes this festival so special. Listening to a great Handel or Bach work in a black box may be edifying enough, however it will never attain the magic of being set in a cathedral that is a heraldic and hagiographic paean to the glory of the most illustrious chivalric order the world has ever known.

The Festival shall run until 26 January 2019.

WICCNA / Our Face exhibition explores multi-faceted spheres of Maltese identity

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WICCNA / Our Faces - an exhibition currently running at Valletta’s BLITZ contemporary gallery and creative space - is an incredible photographic project that shines a spotlight on Malta’s inspiring diversity.

Shot by Yugo-Maltese photographer Zvezdan Reljić, WICCNA is at once an intimate and collective compendium of lith-printed photographic portraits; a quiet celebration of the immeasurable variety of faces that inhabit or pass through the the Maltese Islands.

The project includes an accompanying book of over 200 portraits alongside aesthetic, anthropological and literary essays on aspects of physiognomy, identity and photography, each written in languages that have influenced Malta throughout its history – Arabic (Walid Nabhan), English (Alexandra Pace), French (Philippe Parizot), Italian (Virginia Monteforte), Maltese (Leanne Ellul), and Spanish (Antoine Cassar). WIĊĊNA features portraits of individuals from different backgrounds, generations and ethnicities, accompanied by a caption taken from the individual’s answer to the often complicated question “Where are you from?”

Running until 13 December 2018. BLITZ, 68 St Lucia Street, Valletta.

Magnificent Memories Machine lands in Kalkara

A stone’s throw away from our doorstep, the photographic exhibition A Sense of Place: Kalkara by Magna Żmien is currently running in Kalkara.

Featuring snaps from photographer Emanuel Borg, know for his incredible talent in capturing Malta’s everyday life in a personal and genuine spirit, Kalkara has been chosen as the exhibition’s location for it was the beloved hometown of Borg.

Offering a glimpse of Maltese life of decades past, the exhibition also features an installation by Tiny Island Studio and Robert Farrugia.

The exhibition runs until November 11. Parish Hall, Kalkara.

Modern, classic and jazz music blend into The Three Palaces Festival 2018

Image by Kael Bloom

Image by Kael Bloom

Summer may be behind us and the year is close to wrapping up, however the island is still bursting with a multitude of cultural and musical events across differing venues.

This weekend shall see The Three Palaces Festival kick off, which will bring together lovers of classic, modern and jazz music as an array of concerts will showcase exceptional musical talent within inspiring historical buildings.

Now in its sixth year, the Festival has become an important appointment in Malta's cultural calendar, as it aims to bring chamber music closer to the public.

For further details and to view the full schedule, visit https://www.3palacesfestival.com.

The Three Palaces Festival shall run from 2 to 11 November 2018.

A historic city lit by candlelight - Birgufest 2018

It’s that time of the year, with the ancient city of Birgu alit with candles - Birgufest is happening this weekend! All the streets and houses are lit up with candles, chandeliers hang in the streets, and music ruminates throughout the winding pathways. 

Most of the museums and historical buildings will be open this weekend, which includes the magnificent architectural gem of Fort St. Angelo as well as the Inquisitors Palace.

Locanda La Gelsomina will be celebrating this event with it’s own display of candles. An event that cannot be missed, come join the festivities this weekend starting from Friday the 12th of October and ending on Sunday the 14th.

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Birgufest

Art Moderne architectural beauty of Cospicua's Rialto Cinema

The Rialto Cinema, 1956

The Rialto Cinema, 1956

La Gelsomina is set in one of the oldest hamlets of Malta, and surrounded by architectural beauty that spans the centuries. 

A short stroll away from our doorstep in neighbouring Cospicua - one of the Three Cities alongside Birgu and Senglea - lies the Rialto Cinema. Built in 1956 on the site of an earlier cinema that was destroyed by the bombs in World War II, the building is an incredible example of the Art Moderne architectural movement.

Designed by architect Edwin England Sant Fournier, it included Cinemascope widescreen features and a stereophonic sound system. One of the largest cinemas of the time, the Rialto could hold up to 1,100 spectators and was the go-to place of the time to catch the latest flicks.

The cinema was closed in 1988 and later acquired by the local Labour Party, which has now transformed the venue into a conference hall. Although very little remains of the original fixtures and the hall is not open to the general public, a visit to admire the external Art Moderne façade is an absolute must.

Rialto Theatre, Triq il-Pellegrinaġġ, Cospicua

Views of history from Suite One

Image courtesy of Brian Grech

Image courtesy of Brian Grech

Locanda La Gelsomina is housed in a building bursting with history, and dates as far back as to the 1500s when the Knights of St John had made Birgu their base and the capital of Malta.

On their arrival in Birgu in 1530, the Knights concentrated their main buildings in an area which became known as the Collachio, which Locanda La Gelsomina formed part of.

At the time, Birgu was bursting at the seams with a population of over 3,500, and during their 40-year stay in the hamlet the Knights erected auberges, a state-of-the-art hospital on the outskirts of the Collachio and magnificent palaces, including the Università.

From the balcony of Suite One you can catch a view of the the Università - or Council of Jurors - which at the time was mainly responsible for the provision of essential commodities, mainly grain, for the population of the area. It was established in 1538 after Grand Master D’Homedes did not see eye to eye with the Mdina Jurors.

Step back in time and across 500-years of history. Book your sojourn at La Gelsomina by dropping us an email at info@locandalagelsomina.com.

Diving into Malta's deep blue waters

Locanda La Gelsomina scuba diving

With its unspoilt dive sites, underwater cliffs, shipwrecks and clear waters, Malta is a diver's paradise. The isles are consistently ranked as one of the top dive locations in the world, alongside other hot dive spots such as Egypt and the Maldives, and in 2018, Malta was awarded the Destination Award for diving at the BOOT tradefair in Germany.

Locanda La Gelsomina scuba diving in Malta
Scuba diving

To offer our clients a glimpse into this fascinating underwater world, we have teamed up with dive experts Malta Blue Diving, without a doubt one of the isle's best scuba diving professionals around.

Offering everything from night dives for certified divers to scuba explorations for complete beginners, our unique packages are tailored to all levels and personal preferences. Between them, Malta Blue Diving co-founders Luiza and David speak 5 languages, including French, German and Dutch, making them a truly international team.

To find out more about our customised scuba diving packages, please email us at info@locandalagelsomina.com