When I had my maiden visit to the Mediterranean nation of Malta in 2006, the island’s capital city, Valletta, was largely a diamond in the rough. Countless old limestone palazzi were forgotten, shyly sporting boarded-up windows. Nestled among these once-noble structures were shuttered storefronts, many of which still wore vintage signs that showed what businesses were housed inside decades before. I tried to imagine who passed through the doorway of a former ironmongers’ shop. I visualized sailors, in port for the day, buying their sweethearts something sparkly at the jeweler’s. I could almost hear the laughter and pleas of children, begging their parents to purchase them a sweet treat from the confectioner’s shop.
This ghost town atmosphere made tiny Valletta – the European Union’s smallest capital city – even more alluring, making me daydream about purchasing a neglected apartment for a song, even if it was only dollhouse-sized. I now wish I had taken that risk. A decade later, real estate values in this UNESCO World Heritage city have skyrocketed.
Returning (actually moving) to Valletta last September, it was like reuniting with a childhood friend about whom you only remember a few details. Valletta is experiencing a renaissance, largely because of its designation as a European Capital of Culture for 2018. There are still a great number of empty ground-level shops, crumbling buildings awaiting make-overs, and a few vintage signs dressing storefronts, but now there is also the definite sense that the city is changing.
On the occasion of Valletta’s 450th birthday this year, I rounded up a few doorways from our current hometown. Most of the entryways featured in this collage wear fresh coats of paint, but there is at least one scruffy example, waiting for someone to recognize its potential.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.