The palazzos of Malta are historic, large and impressive homes originally built for the wealthy and the powerful and today are graceful reminders of a bygone era. These homes had one purpose: to ensure everyone was aware of its owner’s status in society. To have owned one of these, you either had to be a leader, a captain of industry or an heir to a vast fortune. They were the original homes of noble families and top business people.
Palazzo can be found all over Malta and many of these spectacular homes have been brought back to life through extensive modernisation and renovation, serving as embassies, corporate head offices, chic bespoke boutique hotels and places of government. A rare number are still unrenovated, waiting for an enthusiastic buyer to fall in love with them to kick-start its second life.
When palazzos were originally built, no expense was spared. The very best craftsmen were employed, even brought in from afar as France and Italy where needed. The front facade is always the palazzo’s biggest tour de force: wide and expansive, they feature sweeping staircases, columns, Baroque revival sculptures, carved stone window surrounds and even porticos.
The approach to any palazzo would not be complete without one’s entrance through large, wrought-iron gates, often monogrammed with the family’s initials or a crest. Often the entire grounds of the palazzo were encircled by a cast-iron perimeter fence featuring intervals of stone supports or pillars crowned with jardinières. Water features such as fountains were to be found everywhere.
Front doors are usually wide and of considerable height with exquisite brass detail. Upon entering a palazzo, one will usually be greeted by an expansive reception hall, showing off the splendour to the visitor in all its glory. High ceilings with frescoes, palatial and dramatic sweeping staircases, Murano glass chandeliers and the use of gold leaf were evident everywhere.
Some of these homes can also include libraries, a drawing room, a ballroom, a dining room that could accommodate maybe up to a hundred guests or more and a smoking room for gentleman to retire to after the meal. Ladies often retreated to a card or music room, separate from the men. Additionally one can find studies, sculleries, wash and ironing rooms, green houses, larders, pantries and other utility rooms as part of or separate from the main structure. Floors traversed by guests were lavishly decorated with tiles that included semi-precious stone accents while other rooms had parquet floors and traditional multi-coloured Maltese tiles.
Bedrooms were truly palatial in size, lavishly decorated and finished and could number in the tens or twenties. Originally a palazzo’s grounds would have included stables, outbuildings for carriages and staff quarters. Grounds were expansive and had to be looked after by gardeners and groundkeepers and some even had their own orangeries based on the French style.
Today, most of the Palazzos for sale have been sympathetically restored, renovated and updated incorporating every modern convenience – with attention to detail and as in the past, no expense spared.
These exquisite, historic palaces have finally been recognised as national treasures and today relive their status as aspirational homes for the select few. Those lucky enough to call these fairy-tale castles “home” are truly the custodians of a heritage worth preserving for future generations.