This is what we had been waiting for – clear blue skies and a warm sunny morning, just perfect for our visit to Mdina which is easily accessible by bus (No.186 taking 45 minutes) from Bugibba. As vehicular access is limited to residents in Mdina, buses stop alongside the Howard Gardens in Rabat which are located just outside the ancient stone archway to the silent city known as the Cittadella. This archway is known as the Mdina Gate and was constructed in 1724 as the main entrance to the fortified city.
Mdina traces its history back 4000 years and it is here where St. Paul the Apostle was said to have become shipwrecked and lived on the islands. Strolling through the golden stone arch we were transported into a miniature walled city with it’s mix of Medieval and Baroque architecture where time has stood still. It was home then and still is today, to Maltese noble families with impressive palaces lining its narrow, shady, stone paved streets and was the Maltese capital until the Knights of Malta arrived in 1530. Mdina’s current population of 300 preserves its cultural heritage, being on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Taking a walk along the walls where extensive restoration work over the last 8 years has just been completed we enjoyed far reaching views from the Bastion over eastern Malta. Descending the steps from the wall we arrived at the elaborate French Baroque Palazzo Vilhena built in 1727 and now home to the National Museum of Natural History.
Close by, we came to Cathedral Square, dominated by the Baroque style, 12th century Roman Catholic St. Paul’s Cathedral dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle. The original church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and the one we see today was built in its place. Moving on, we explored the labyrinth of narrow, twisting lanes before leaving the Silent City and taking a look around the small town of Rabat which we approached through the attractive Howard Gardens. The park has an open air cafe and is the starting point for horse drawn carriage rides through Mdina. It was extremely warm as we settled down for cups of coffee in the main square overlooking the Church of St. Paul and we enjoyed soaking up some rays of sun before our return to the cooler climate of Northern Europe in a few days time.
On our way back to Bugibba we stopped off in Mosta as we wished to see the Rotunda (The Parish Church of the Assumption). This huge church has the third largest unsupported Dome in the world. Disappointingly, the church was closed to visitors so we were unable to view its interior. Mosta itself seemed to be more of a commercial centre and lacked the charm of the smaller towns in the north of the island. Returning to Bugibba from here was very quick and easy as up to six buses pass through the town. After a late lunch we sat in the sun awhile reading before relaxing in the spa later.