The Most Humble City – Citta Humilissima
So they named it, the Most Humble City. Built from scratch in 1566, on virgin land, by victorious warrior monks after a heroic siege against the might of the Ottomans, on a peninsula dividing two deep water harbours. The City of Valletta, Capital of Malta.
A most inappropriate name if you ask me. Far from “humble”, very far from “most humble”. A very proud city in fact, proud to the point of bragging arrogance!
And so it should be. A world-class marvel, a child of the most forward looking urban and military designers of its day. An impregnable walled city. The first in the world to feature a grid-patterned street layout. A city of auberges, churches and imposing buildings. A sixteenth century urban centre of defence, administration and trade with a Palace, a Cathedral, a Library, a Theatre, a Hospital and a University thrown in for good measure. Surrounded by high, unassailable walls which continue to marvel to this very day. And flanked by two world-class harbours, each protected by additional defensive works, fruit of the foremost military engineers of a bygone age.
Today it is the capital of a modern European state. A cruise port, a tourist attraction, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A phoenix rising from the ashes of neglect, war damage and insensitive interventions. The European Capital of Culture in 2018.
I reiterate, Valletta is far from being Most Humble. Surprising, unexpected, marvellous and unique is how I’d rather describe it instead!