With travel restrictions beginning to ease at last, the idea of getting away overseas for a few days now seems realistic again — and Malta, which has fully-vaccinated more than 90% of its population, should be high on your list. Teresa Levonian Cole paid a visit, staying at the glorious Iniala Harbour House.
From the Phoenicians to the Brits, fourteen different peoples have laid claim to the tiny island of Malta, and pride in this cultural legacy is driving a new approach to tourism. Gone is the bucket-and-spade image of yesteryear; in comes a sophisticated new vibe, aimed at the cultural traveller.
Along with five Michelin-starred restaurants, beautiful-people clubs, and upmarket wineries (Antinori of Super-Tuscan fame has invested here), comes a slew of new luxury boutique hotels, of which Iniala Harbour House leads the way.
Situated on St. Barbara Bastion, facing the famous Grand Harbour (and close to where Napoleon breached the city walls, in 1798, putting paid to the rule of the Knights of Malta), Iniala consists of 23 uniquely-designed rooms and suites cross three beautifully restored 19th-century mansions.
The look combines traditional architectural features – Maltese balconies resting on carved corbels, wrought iron railings, grand staircase, thick limestone walls, and a gloriously cosy bar in a vaulted store room – with quirky contemporary art, modern chandeliers, and one-off items of furniture, all encased within opulent woods, marbles and leathers – the work, principally, of Turkish design house, Autoban.
Spanish designers A-Cero, however, were tasked with the 155sqm Presidential Suite (below), clad in hand-cut local stone (the ceiling alone weighs 2 tons), and featuring a rooftop plunge-pool, overlooked only by the neighbouring statue of St. Paul.
Iniala’s trump card is undoubtedly its views over the sparkling harbour to Fort St. Angelo, until 1571 the seat of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John – and, in 1609, where Caravaggio was briefly imprisoned, after brawling with a Knight.
Today, superyachts moor beneath its fortifications and you can gaze over their comings and goings from the romantic rooftop restaurant, Ion – one of three Michelin-starred restaurants in Valletta.
Add to this heady mix a fabulous 44-foot Riva available to spirit guests to nearby islands (from €2,000 per day), a spa in the vault, (due to open later this year), and a high-tech, industrial-chic gym across the road, this little boutique hotel packs quite a punch.
Suites from €350 per night per room, inclusive of taxes — see www.inialamalta.com for more details. Air Malta (www.airmalta.com) flies from London Heathrow to Malta six times a week. Find out more about Malta at www.visitmalta.com
When to go
With 300 days of sunshine annually, Malta is a year-round destination. But, for the best weather, and to avoid high-season crowds, between April and June is ideal.
While you’re there
- Regular ferries go to the beautiful island of Gozo, where you can hire electric tuk-tuks to take you to hidden spots on this
- Take the hotel’s Riva for a tour of the island, stopping for lunch at the achingly trendy Beefbar, on the North coast
- Explore the magnificent, 268-year architectural heritage – the Cathedral and the grand ‘Auberges’ – of the Knight of Malta in Valletta, and across the Grand Harbour, in the Three Cities
- Trot around the labyrinthine lanes of the old capital, Mdina, in a horse-drawn carriage
Clive Aslet visits the delightfully serene European City of Culture 2018.
Malta has long had a reputation for beautiful scenery, great weather and majestic architecture, but it also has a burgeoning