A tour of Pietà

On the periphery of Malta’s very own Capital City, tucked away between Floriana and Msida lies the historical town of Pietà. Over the coming months, this locality will be in the limelight, as the PA restarts its popular educational walking tours. Event organiser, Maria Spiteri shares some interesting insights into why this tour should be on your to-do-list for one of your upcoming Sundays


Pietà is a relatively small town along the coastal stretch between Floriana and Msida. The locality started out almost immediately after the Great Siege of 1565 mainly due to its close proximity to Valletta which had started being planned and built. Although disrupted by two plagues, the area witnessed a population growth, so much so that a chapel and rectory dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows (La Pietà in Italian) was built. For a period, the chapel also served as vice-parish to St Paul’s Shipwreck church in Valletta. So significant was the chapel, that it ended up giving its name to the locality.

“Many locals tend to take an added interest in visiting cultural places such as Valletta and Mdina known for their baroque architecture and rich historical aura but tend to know much less about the lesser tourist-frequented towns. They miss out on places such as Pieta which is a charming old residential neighbourhood with some magnificent architectural buildings.” highlights event organiser Maria Spiteri.

“What is so fascinating about these walking tours, is that they give participants the chance to experience first-hand the history, architecture and culture of the locality. Our heritage experts manage to uncover the rich, vibrant stories attached to the historical buildings and sites.” explains Maria Spiteri.

In the late 1920s, the British government decided to build a new General Hospital and due to its strategic position on the Island selected a site on the upper part of Pieta. This led to the creation of a new rapidly populated urban settlement which took the name ‘Guardamangia’.

The three-hour walking tour will take visitors to places which are not easily accessible to the public. One of the stop overs will be Villa Guardamangia, a residence that had housed Princess Elizabeth from 1949 to 1951 when her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was stationed in Malta as an officer of the Royal Navy. The Villa will soon be undergoing an extensive process of restoration.

Along the route, participants will also visit two cemeteries; the Ta’ Braxia cemetery which was designed and planned by renowned Maltese architect Emanuele Luigi Galizia in the late 19th Century. It is one of the few multi-faith cemeteries on the Island and the final resting place of prominent personalities, including Russian ballerina Princess Natalie Poutiatine. The other burial place, the Pieta military cemetery is a stone throw away. This cemetery has over 2,000 graves of which 1,300 were servicemen who fought in the first and second world wars.

Participants will also learn to appreciate not only the beautiful baroque and neoclassical architecture of some of Pieta’s unique buildings such as Villa Frere, but ‘modernist’ protected buildings such as the Blackley Bakery factory, Television House and St. Luke’s Hospital. This ‘modernist’ architecture and design was introduced in the early 20th century in response to large-scale changes in technology and society.

Throughout the tour, participants will also learn about the various initiatives the Planning Authority has contributed within the locality either through scheduling, its Development Planning Fund projects or the Irrestawra Darek Grant scheme. Most notable, visitors will be able to appreciate the recently funded restoration and embellishment works carried out on the façade of the chapel’s rectory and the reconstruction of drinking water fountain which was installed outside the chapel at the end of the 19th Century. This drinking water fountain was one of a number of fountains which were placed in various centres and vantage points in Malta after the State had, in line with engineer Oswald Chadwick’s studies and suggestion, started to provide water pumps in streets and corners in towns and villages.

Maria Spiteri points out that “the walking tour is for all ages. What we ask participants to bring along with them are a comfortable pair of walking shoes, plug-in ear phones, a face mask and a bottle of water. We provide them with portable radio receivers to enable them to clearly follow and hear what the tour representatives will be explaining. The use of the receivers also allows participants to keep social distancing between them.”

To reserve a place visit www.pa.org.mthttp://www.pa.org.mt. Participants are asked to pay a donation of €5 which will go towards Id-Dar tal-Providenza.

Tour Dates:

5th December 2021

9th January 2022

6th February 2022

6th March 2022

3rd April 2022

8th May 2022

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