The Two Sieges
- Experience the charm and atmosphere of 2018’s European Capital of Culture, Valletta
- See the largest cannon in the world and have the chance to fire muskets and rifles
- Spend a delicious lunch time at the Meridiana Wine Estate, a former RAF ops building
The Mediterranean island of Malta – then a British colony – was famously awarded a collective George Cross for its heroism in enduring a long siege by German and Italian aircraft and ships in the Second World War.
Our tour highlights the island’s bravery in that struggle, but reveals that Malta had been besieged before, in 1565, when Ottoman Turks attacked in a bid to oust the military order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who were holding the island. The subsequent siege lasted three months, three weeks and three days before the 2,000 Knights, aided by some 500 Maltese civilians, were victorious.
Upon arrival in Malta, drive across the island to our hotel in Valletta, Malta’s historic capital and 2018’s European Capital of Culture, with its churches, grid layout, and enormous and beautiful harbour – a central point of contention in both sieges. After settling in and freshening up, we meet up for drinks and hear an introductory pre-dinner talk from our guide, Paul Beaver, who will set the scene by telling the thrilling and tragic story of the two sieges.
Our day begins with a visit to Fort St. Elmo, the imposing fortress that guards the mouth of Valletta’s Grand harbour, which was built within six months to prepare for the Great Siege, but reduced to rubble by cannon fire during the course of it. It was eventually captured by the Ottomans, who slaughtered 1,500 members of the garrison - though at the cost of some 6,000 of their best troops, including their commander, Dragut. From here, we move on to the National War Museum, which has a large range of pictures and artefacts from both sieges. After lunch, we treat ourselves to a boat trip around the huge harbour, with Paul giving an informed commentary on the fortifications that we pass. In the evening, we drive on to Mdina, the island’s ancient capital in the centre of Malta. Built by the Arabs, Mdina wears its antiquity lightly and is a crossroads of the different cultures that make up Malta’s heritage. We dine here and later make our return to Sliema.
Our first visit is to the heritage site of Fort Rinella, the Victorian Fort which was a major deterrence to a 19th Century siege. We will see the largest cannon in the world and have an opportunity of firing muskets, rifles and a smaller cannon from the period. The knowledgeable guides in period uniform will also show us how would-be besiegers would have been foiled. We will have a picnic lunch at the Fort before moving on the Lascaris War Rooms in Valletta for a conducted tour. This facility was masterminded by Air Vice-Marshal Park, putting Malta on the offensive after so many days of withstanding Axis bombing. Our day ends with seeing and feeling the firing of the afternoon cannon at the saluting Battery. At dinner, we will be joined by local historian Colonel David Vassallo, a former surgeon in the British Army of Maltese extraction. He will talk about Malta as a Nurse of the Mediterranean from the Crimean war to mid-20th Century.
Following a drive to the newly upgraded craft village at Ta’qali, we hear the dramatic story of the Air War over Malta and see a restored Spitfire and Hurricane at the Aviation Museum. A stop for lunch at the delightful Meridiana vineyard breaks up our day and it will be accompanied by a talk on the veranda on Air Operations over Malta, which were conducted from the former RAF Ops Building – the very site that now houses the winery. Our farewell dinner comes later tonight at our hotel and we can look back at the experiences this great week has afforded us.
We have a relaxing morning to ourselves to enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Valletta. There will be some free time available to us for either lunch or further discovery before we head to the airport our individual flights home or onward travel.
- Tour Manager & Guide Lecturer
- Meals - Most meals included
- Transport - Return flights (UK only) & all local travel
- Hand-picked hotels throughout the tour
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