Vittoriosa (Birgu)

Historic, Cultural and Maritime city

Excluding the headland comprising Fort St. Angelo, the City covers an area of about 175,000 square metres. The Phoenicians, the first known settlers to occupy the Island, reputedly erected at Birgu a temple dedicated to their tutelary goddess, ASTARTE.
 
Upon the arrival of the Knights of St. John in Malta in 1530, Birgu was chosen as the seat of the Order. Here they established their residence, and the arsenal for the construction and maintenance of their fleet.
 
During the Great Siege of 1565, when Malta faced the might of the Ottoman Empire, the city played a decisive role. For its contribution towards the final victory, Grand Master La Vallette renamed it “Civitas Victoriosa”. The City was the seat of the Grand Inquisition for more than two hundred years. When the Order transferred its seat of office to Valletta, Vittoriosa did not decline in importance: the Order’s Marina and arsenals remained here.The maritime role of Vittoriosa was again reinforced during the British period in Malta when Fort St. Angelo and Vittoriosa Wharf became the Headquarters of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.

Vittoriosa Wharf can be considered as the cradle of the history of Birgu. The fortifications of Birgu are possibly the most ancient of their kind in Malta.

During World War Two, Vittoriosa became the target of enemy action. Various historical building and sites were demolished and parts of the city were rebuilt on modern lines. Within the confines of its bastions, the population of Vittoriosa tended to grow in line with the increased maritime activity.

Contact address:    
Birgu Local Council
Couvre Porte      
Birgu BRG 1810

+356 21662166
email birgu.lc@gov.mt

Valletta

Valletta_coa Valletta
Città Umilissima
Valletta-April-1
Area Total: 0.8 km2 (0.3 sq mi)
Elevation: 56 m (184 ft)
Official website: www.cityofvalletta.org
Valletta is the capital city of Malta and a World Heritage site. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,966. Valletta is the second southernmost capital of the EU member states. Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller. It is a living experience of Baroque architecture, a monument donated by the Knights of St John nearly five centuries ago. Throughout the years, Valletta has welcomed emperors, heads of state, artists and poets and is now the permanent seat of the Maltese government. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

The city was named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, who succeeded in defending the island from an Ottoman invasion in 1565. 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.

Dotted with quaint cafés and wine bars, the city is today one of Malta’s main tourist attractions, hosting among others, the majestic St John’s Co-Cathedral, the imposing bastions and a treasure of priceless paintings. It also provides a stunning snapshot of Malta’s Grand Harbour, often described as the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.

The city’s unique setting nowadays plays host to a series of cultural events, from theatre in English, to concerts by leading opera singers.

A hive of business activity during the day, the city switches to a slower gear for the night. Use it to your advantage to get away from the noise and take a stroll to admire the magic of the fortified capital amplified by the gentle lighting. Admire the bastion walls, the dense clusters of worn limestone buildings, the timber balconies, and imposing Churches.

On Friday, 12 October 2012, Valletta was unanimously named European Capital of Culture (ECoC) for 2018, by a jury of experts, following a presentation by the Valletta 2018 Foundation.

Lucca

Arriving in Lucca you will immediately notice the town walls, which are very well preserved and even today still completely surround the old town. The walls remained intact as the city expanded and modernized, quite unusual for cities in the region. As the walls lost their military importance, they became a pedestrian promenade which encircles the old town, although for a number of years in the 20th century they were used for racing cars. They are still fully intact today; each of the four principal sides is lined with a different species of trees.

Ancient and medieval city

Lucca was founded by the Etruscans and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical centre preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient forum. Traces of the amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.

Frediano, an Irish monk, was bishop of Lucca in the early 6th century. At one point, Lucca was plundered by Odoacer, the first Germanic King of Italy. Lucca was an important city and fortress even in the 6th century, when Narses besieged it for several months in 553. Under the Lombards, it was the seat of a duke who minted his own coins. The Holy Face of Lucca (or Volto Santo), a major relic supposedly carved by Nicodemus, arrived in 742. Lucca became prosperous through the silk trade that began in the 11th century, and came to rival the silks of Byzantium. During the 10-11th centuries Lucca was the capital of the feudal margraviate of Tuscany, more or less independent but owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor.

After the death of Matilda of Tuscany, the city declared itself an independent commune, with a charter in 1160. For almost 500 years, Lucca remained an independent republic. There were many minor provinces in the region between southern Liguria and northern Tuscany dominated by the Malaspina; Tuscany in this time was a part of feudal Europe. Dante’s Divine Comedy includes many references to the great feudal families who had huge jurisdictions with administrative and judicial rights. Dante spent some of his exile in Lucca.

In 1273 and again in 1277 Lucca was ruled by a Guelph capitano del popolo (captain of the people) named Luchetto Gattilusio. In 1314, internal discord allowed Uguccione della Faggiuola of Pisa to make himself lord of Lucca. The Lucchesi expelled him two years later, and handed over the city to another condottiere Castruccio Castracani, under whose rule it became a leading state in central Italy. Lucca rivalled Florence until Castracani’s death in 1328. On 22 and 23 September 1325, in the battle of Altopascio, Castracani defeated Florence’s Guelphs. For this he was nominated by Louis IV the Bavarian to become duke of Lucca. Castracani’s tomb is in the church of San Francesco. His biography is Machiavelli’s third famous book on political rule. In 1408, Lucca hosted the convocation intended to end the schism in the papacy. Occupied by the troops of Louis of Bavaria, the city was sold to a rich Genoese, Gherardino Spinola, then seized by John, king of Bohemia. Pawned to the Rossi of Parma, by them it was ceded to Martino della Scala of Verona, sold to the Florentines, surrendered to the Pisans, and then nominally liberated by the emperor Charles IV and governed by his vicar. Lucca managed, at first as a democracy, and after 1628 as an oligarchy, to maintain its independence alongside of Venice and Genoa, and painted the word Libertas on its banner until the French Revolution in 1789.

Republic of Lucca and Napoleon’s takeover

Palazzo Pfanner, garden view.
Lucca was the second largest Italian city state after Venice with a republican constitution (“comune”) to remain independent over the centuries. In 1805, Lucca was taken over by Napoleon, who put his sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi in charge as “Queen of Etruria”. After 1815 it became a Bourbon-Parma duchy, then part of Tuscany in 1847 and finally part of the Italian State.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

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About City

General information

Berwick-upon-Tweed is the most northerly town in England. It lies less than 4km south of the border with Scotland. However, over the centuries, the town has changed hands between the two nations on at least 13 occasions.
King David I of Scotland made Berwick a royal burgh in the early 12th century. By the mid-13th century, it had become Scotland’s richest seaport.

In 1296, Edward I of England captured Berwick-upon-Tweed, which began a period of three centuries of almost constant warfare between the English and the Scots. It fell to the English for the final time in 1482.

The town’s railway station now occupies the site of the once-mighty Berwick Castle, although some of its towers and curtain wall have survived. Parts of the medieval town walls are also still standing. The sections facing the River Tweed and the entrance to the Port of Berwick were rebuilt and strengthened with new gun emplacements in the 18th century, to meet the threat from the French.

The most impressive feature of Berwick-upon-Tweed is its circuit of 16th century ramparts and bastions, constructed between 1558 and 1570 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The Elizabethan fortifications comprise five arrow-shaped bastions connected by 15 metre thick earth ramparts faced with stone.

Unlike other walled towns in England, the fortifications of Berwick-upon-Tweed are complete. The town avoided the fate of other towns and cities where sections of ancient walls were demolished in the 1960s to make way for new roads or housing. The entire circuit can be walked easily in about 40 minutes and the ramparts and bastions afford magnificaent views of the historic townscape and along the valley of the River Tweed and the coastline of Northumberland towards Bamburgh Castle and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 brought an end to the conflict between the two countries, but Berwick remained a garrison town until 1964. The first infanry barracks in England were opened in the town in 1721 and it remained the Regimental Headquarters of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers until 2006.

Today, the borderlands around Berwick-upon-Tweed are among the most peaceful and least spoiled by modern development in our country. Berwick-upon-Tweed is one of only six towns in the United Kingdom to have achieved the status of a Cittaslow town.

For more information about the town, its history and its superb fortifications visit the website of Cittaslow Berwick-upon-Tweed at www.berwick-cittaslow.org.uk

Conwy

About Conwy

Let’s talk about Conwy. This famous medieval town is like a shrine to history with easy access to the mountains and coast. No stuffy museums here, though. At Conwy Castle you can touch the walls, climb the towers and look out to sea. Once upon a time, in true fairy story fashion, the Castle was painted white and the towers had conical roofs.

Statue of llewelyn, Lancaster square

These days it’s a great place for real-life Snow Whites to let their imaginations run wild. And with Conwy’s choice of places to eat and drink, Rapunzels won’t have a problem letting down their hair. Two of the Castle Hotel’s chefs are on the Welsh Culinary Team and did rather well at the Culinary World Cup. Their Wynn Suite has a 16th Century 4-Poster bed, too. Which makes it just about the perfect stopover for Sleeping Beauties.

And just about perfect is how we’d describe our location. Right on the shore of the Conwy Estuary. So you won’t be surprised to find that anything to do with water is big news. This section of the estuary has mooring facilities for more than 1000 boats.

And in August there’s a whole week of celebrations devoted to sailing and other ways of getting a good soaking. It’s called the Conwy River Festival. Across the River at Deganwy’s Quay Spa, their 60 minute Hamam treatment massage ends with a good dousing of hot and cold water. A celebration of water in its own right.

Back on dry land, head to Conwy’s cobbled streets to discover over 700 years of history. William Wordsworth was inspired to write poetry here. And Plas Mawr Elizabethan Town House is probably the best preserved house of its kind in the UK. You can see over 600 years of history brought to life at Aberconwy House. It’s thought to be the oldest town house in Wales.

Walk the ancient cobbled streets. They hold regular events like Conwy Feast in October, a two day festival of food. Or stretch your legs on three quarters of a mile of town wall. Then there’s Telford’s 1826 suspension bridge joined to the castle like its very own drawbridge. And if you feel like crossing over, we’ve more than our fair share of things to see and do outside the walls, too.

All images are © Crown copyright of Visit Wales and CADW