Valletta is the capital of Malta, an island nation of around 400,000 people located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, about 50 miles south of Sicily. One of the world’s smallest and most-densely populated countries, Malta has been inhabited since 5,200 BCE and is brimming with history and culture — some of the world’s oldest free-standing structures can be found here. The country’s strategic location has led to its changing hands numerous times throughout history, being ruled and influenced by dozens of distinct cultures and nations.
This is one reason why Valletta is such a jewel. Built during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller, the city contains a rich collection of architectural styles from the 16th century onward, mostly Baroque followed by elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture. The City of Valletta is so beautiful and well preserved that is was officially recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.
The official name given by the Order of Saint John was “Humilissima Civitas Valletta” — The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The beauty of the city’s churches, gardens, and palaces earned it the nickname among European elites as “Superbissima” — Most Proud. I certainly agree with that sentiment.