The expression ‘when the boat comes in’ has a real resonance in the Maltese port of Valleta. Cruise ships the size of high-rise flats make this port a regular stop, disgorging around 3,000 passengers at a time. In high season up to six of these leviathans can all be in at once, that’s 18,000 wobbly-legged tourists all hungry for food, drink, sightseeing and souvenirs. It’s a big litre of the lifeblood of this town, a historic port, once a vital British naval base and home of the Knights of St John.
Behind the busy seafront though, away from the tourist spots that have made the town a bit of a byword for ‘costa’ style excess, there is another Malta visible. One where the Italian, British, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman influences have created a unique place in the middle of an azure sea, and also an island that surprises the traveller who’s prepared to look beyond the clichés.