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Maltese Boredom and then Sicilian Beauty


View World Tour 2022 on Glichez's travel map.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Ugh... this morning was hell on earth and I have only myself to blame. The hangover was real. I am never drinking again...

I awoke just after 04:00 and could feel the hangover setting in, which sucked. I chugged down some water and tried to get back to sleep since I didn't have to be up for several more hours. I slept off and on until around 07:30, when I knew I had to get up and get ready for the day. I drank more and more water to help with the hangover, plus the shower helped to make me feel more human.

I had my bags packed and I left the hotel at 08:00 so I could head to the airport. Yes, I was going to be flying while hungover. Oh happy day! The tram and then S-Bahn train to the airport were... miserable, to say the least. I just wanted to curl back up and sleep the entire day away, but, instead, here I was on public transit, hungover and sweating a lot. Everything at the airport went smoothly and I found a place to sit until the flight where I could just watch Netflix and try not to die from the hangover.

I slept through the flight, which was a good thing so I could further recover from yesterday's Oktoberfest hijinks. I landed in Malta around 14:00 and I was soon out of baggage claim and in search of the bus to the city center of Valletta. The bus was crowded and very warm inside, making the 30-minute ride pure hell for me. I was feeling slightly better by this point, but I was still far from fully recovered.

Once I arrived at the city center bus station, I walked through the historical city center area, which was very pretty, and headed to the ferry terminal. My hostel for the next three nights was across the bay in the city of Sliema; there is a regular ferry between Valletta and Sliema that runs every 30 minutes and is very cheap. I grabbed a seat inside and was glad the ride lasted only 10 minutes – I just wanted to get to the hostel and relax.

When I reached Sliema, I made the short walk from the ferry to my hostel. The hostel was nicer than I expected (it has very good reviews online). My room was on the first floor in a four-bed dorm room, with an attached bathroom. The beds were sturdy and comfortable – best of all, there was a shelf at each bed so I had a place to put my glasses at night! So many hostels lack shelves or anything for people to store glasses or phones or anything during the night, which I find troublesome, especially when staying on the top bunk.

I took a shower and then relaxed a bit at the hostel for a couple of hours. Finally, in the evening when I felt more human, I ventured out to get some dinner and then went to a nearby Starbucks to do some reading. I wasn't up for doing anything exciting or strenuous today, so the easy-going night was just what I needed.

Later, I curled up in bed and watched Netflix for a bit before bed. I was lucky that there was only one other person in the dorm room this evening – and there was no snoring! Huzzah! I was able to get a decent night of sleep!

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

This morning, I got up at 06:00, which was far earlier than I needed, but I was feeling back to normal after yesterday's nightmare hangover. Since I had a few hours before my plans for the day began, I walked over to the nearby Starbucks to have coffee and do some reading. I have not done as much reading throughout this trip as I had planned, which is both good and bad: good because I've been so busy that I've not had the time, and bad because I love to read and always enjoyed spending a couple hours reading.

At 09:15, I took the ferry back over to Valletta so I could meet up with the walking tour that I had booked for today. I always enjoy taking walking tours of new cities that I visit and this tour looked to be very good as it lasted three hours. The tour group was small (less than 10 people) and our guide was a very friendly man who used to be a history teacher.

The tour started at the city gates, where we learned a lot of the history of Malta, before walking around the nearby Triton Fountain. I thought the fountain was particularly beautiful and I wished that the city gates were as impressive. I learned that the gates have been demolished and rebuilt numerous times and the current version is not well loved by the locals.

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Just inside the city gates is the parliament building of Malta, which is a very modern building, though it is built with the same colored stone as the rest of the town to help it blend in some. The architecture of Valletta is quite pretty, with many old palatial mansions lining the various streets, each with several balconies. The city was bombed during the Second World War and there is still some visible damage to the buildings, most notably the opera house. The opera house wasn't reconstructed, but has been turned into an ugly open-air theater.

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The guide them took us to a garden located atop one of the city walls, which was created by the British so one of the governors could be buried in a mausoleum in the garden. Colonialism! The mausoleum was pretty, but the statue of the governor was rather... creepy looking. The city walls of Valletta are enormously thick to help protect the city from invasion and it was cool to admire them from the garden views.

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Then the tour took a turn down the road of boredom: the tour guide began to get very long-winded and droned on for ages about some of the architecture in the city, which he had already described earlier. I started to completely zone out as he talked and talked and talked. Others in the group were getting equally as bored as me, and a few of them quietly left the group at one point. As the tour progressed, it was evident that we were behind schedule and the guide said that we have to go faster.

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We walked back to the nicer area of the city center, where we stopped by one of the old buildings that housed a group of the Knights of Malta. It is a very large and imposing building that has been well maintained. We then walked over to another large garden on a different section of the city wall. This garden had a beautiful overlook across the bay and there is a daily canon firing ceremony (though we didn't have the time to watch it).

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The next stop was outside a large church, where we stopped for a ridiculously long time as the guide described (in detail) several of the paintings inside the church. There is an entrance fee for the church and I had zero interest in paying for it, so I just zoned out again as the guide talked on and on. In a nearby square there was a statue of the Velociraptor “Blue” from the Jurassic World films) because part of the third movie was filed in Valletta. I found the statue far more interesting than learning about the paintings inside of the church.

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The tour continued on to the final stop, at the lower gardens in yet another part of the city walls. This one was the prettiest of the three that we'd visited during the tour and offered some great views of the city. Nearby, there was a nice war memorial with a large bell tower and a statue of a fallen British sailor.

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The tour ended at 13:00 and I was so relieved. I was extremely hungry after the long morning, so I stopped to get a quick bite to eat (most of the restaurants in Valletta are more expensive than I like to spend on a meal). Food helped me recover some energy and I then spent some time reading again.

In the late afternoon, I took the ferry back over to Sliema and relaxed at the hostel for a little while. A new roommate had joined my room and he wanted to talk for a long time. He was slightly odd and I was glad when he left to walk around the city, giving me some alone time to just chill out. In the evening, I worked on my blog before heading to bed.

Overall, I was not very impressed with Malta thus far. While it is pretty, it seems overrated and lacking in any culture. I went to bed hoping that I would have a better experience the next day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

As with yesterday, I was up early today and I had oodles of time to spare before my plans for the day began, so I went to get some coffee and do some reading. I was really enjoying the time I spent reading in Malta because it is so relaxing.

Around 09:30, I caught the ferry over to Valletta and then walked over to the main bus station, where I planned to take a bus to the nearby town of Mdina. The busses run regularly and it only takes 30-40 minutes to reach Mdina, so I thought this would be an easy process. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The bus schedule said one of the three busses would leave around 09:50 and I waited at the assigned bus stop along with a large group of people. There was an empty bus there, but no driver inside and no sign of one heading over anytime soon. We waited... and waited... and waited. The empty bus never left and no other bus arrived to depart for Mdina. I was getting pretty pissed off. Eventually, after waiting for over 45 minutes, another bus arrived and we all rushed to get on board. There was a large group of German teenager tourists who crowded on first and took all of the seats, which mean I was relegated to standing in the packed bus all the way to Mdina.

We arrived at Mdina around 11:00 and I began my self-guided tour around the tour. It is a well-preserved ancient town with some truly stunning buildings. The gate to the city was even used in some scenes from “Game of Thrones”. I wandered down some of the streets of the town, aimlessly exploring the town. I came upon the impressive cathedral, but I didn't go inside because it charged an entry free (which I refuse to pay to enter a church). I then walked over to the city walls, where I got some pretty views over the surrounding countryside. I got some ice cream nearby and sat on the steps to enjoy my mint chocolate chip treat.

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Mdina is a tiny town though and there wasn't much to do besides walking around. There were some museums, but I looked them up online and decided to skip them because they didn't seem very interesting. Overall, I was disappointed in Mdina. It was supposed to be a top highlight of Malta and I was underwhelmed by it, sadly. I left the town and went to catch the bus back to Valletta. Luckily, the bus ticked I had purchased earlier was still valid (they are good for two hours), so I didn't have to buy another ticket to head back.

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When I got back to Valletta, I went to a very nice Starbucks along the main road and spent some time reading. This Starbucks has two floors and plenty of seating, so I was able to easily get a secluded seat where I could escape into my book.

Later in the afternoon, I went out to do some more walking around Valletta. I revisited some of the places from yesterday's walking tour so I could properly admire them on my own time. I walked through some of the side streets of the old town until I ended up at Fort St Elmo, at the far end of the town. The fort is still an imposing building. I walked along the exterior of the fort before heading back into the city center, where I took the ferry back to Sliema.

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After spending some time hanging out at the hostel, I went out to get some dinner at a healthy food restaurant. All of the items are geared towards eating well and I ordered a delicious wrap with chicken and lots of vegetables, along with a fruit smoothie. It was a very tasty and filling dinner!

When I got back to the hostel, I worked on my blog for a bit in the common area because I was joined by the French woman who was also staying in my dorm room. She and I had chatted a few times over the past two days and we spent a long time tonight talking about our travels. This hostel was definitely not a social or party hostel, which I was very happy about, but this time of socializing is exactly what I enjoy. We both decided to call it a night at 22:00 and went up to our dorm room. There was a couple from Canada in the other dorm bed who were nice, but not very considerate. Once the lights were out in the room, they watched a movie on one of their phones with the volume up – no headphones! They also had the fan in the room pointed only at their beds, but I did change that so I would rotate around. Thankfully I was able to drift off to sleep easy enough, but I was surprised that they would think watching a movie without headphones would be acceptable in a dorm.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Today dawned bright and early, though I had no reason to rush around this morning. I was due to fly to Palermo, Sicily today, but the flight had been changed from 15:00 to 18:30, so I had plenty of time to just chill. Check out at the hostel wasn't until 11:00, so I returned to the nearby Starbucks to have coffee, read, and enjoy the outdoor terrace.

Once I was checked out, I took the ferry over to Valletta and I walked to the main street where the larger Starbucks was located. I had four hours until I had to leave for the airport, so I needed to find somewhere that I could hang out with my luggage; this Starbucks was the perfect place. I ordered a coffee and a sandwich, found a table and spent the time blogging and reading. It got a bit dull after a while, but there was nothing else for me to do during the day since I didn't want to drag my luggage around with me.

Thankfully, catching the bus to the airport proved to be much easier than getting the bus to Mdina yesterday. I was among the first to board the bus, so I got a seat for the 30-minute journey. The bus seemed to take some detours due to construction, which threw me off as I was trying to make sure I got off at the correct bus stop. The bus pulled over at a make-shift stop near to the airport and I was told that this was the temporary stop for the airport. I then walked over to the airport, where I grabbed a quick lunch at the food court before checking in.

Then the nightmare of the flights began. My original flight to Palermo had a four-hours layover in Rome, but with the schedule change, I was left with just a 50-minute layover in Rome, which is much shorter than I typically like for a layover. When it came time to board the flight to Rome, we were held at the gate for nearly 30 minutes due to some medical emergency with a passenger who was on the flight that arrived into Malta. There was an ambulance at the plane and it was taking ages for them to get the situation cleared up. I was stressed out beyond belief and getting upset, but I internalized it and didn't say anything to anyone.

When we were finally allowed to board the plan, there was a large group of elderly Argentinians on the flight who moved at a glacial pace to get to their seats, etc. This just further annoyed me and increased my stress level. I was relieved when we eventually took off from Malta and I hoped that we could make up some of the delay during the flight.

To my surprise, we landed only 15 minutes late! Now the rush to my flight to Palermo began. Another passenger on my flight was going to Palermo too and we planned to run to the gate together. First, we had to take a shuttle bus from the plane to the terminal, which I just hate having to do at any aiport. When we got to the terminal, we were dropped off at the far end from the gates, which meant I literally had to run through the terminal to get to the gate. When I got there... I learned that the flight to Palermo was delayed by 30 minutes, giving me plenty of time before boarding began! I was relieved to have made it in time.

The flight to Palermo left late and we landed in Palermo around 22:30. My bag was the second one off the plane (I was relieved that it had arrived, given the short layover time I had) and I left to find the bus to the city center. The bus was very nice, but we were required to wear N95 face masks onboard; regular masks were not permitted. Thankfully I had packed one in my bag, so I had no issues. The bus dropped me off at one of the main city squares at 23:45, and I then walked to the bed and breakfast that I had reserved for my stay.

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Check in was all contactless and seamless. The owner had been very helpful and understanding with my late check in tonight. The room was huge, with a king-sized bed, and a small balcony overlooking the main street. It was very nice and I was happy to have arrived in Palermo! Time for a new adventure.

Friday, September 30, 2022

I was able to sleep in a bit this morning, which was glorious considering how late I arrived last night. Breakfast was included with my stay at the B&B and I had placed my order the night before: arancina and a cappuccino. Arancina is a rice ball that is stuffed with various ingredients and then deep fried; the one I had for breakfast was filled with minced meat, peas, tomato, and saffron. I ate breakfast out on the small balcony, enjoying the cool morning breeze and watching the people on the street.

I left the B&B at 09:30 so I could head into the heart of the city center for a free walking tour. The tour met outside of an old church and the group was huge, so we were split into two smaller groups. My guide was a young woman who spoke excellent English and who was very knowledgeable about Palermo. She started by giving us an overview of the history of both Palermo and Sicily, explaining about the mixed cultures (Roman, Islamic, etc) that helped create Sicily.

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One of the first stops was at the Palermo opera house, the Massimo Theater. I knew of this theater from watching “The Godfather Part III” where it was used for the finale of the film. The building was even more impressive in person and dominated the square where it was located.

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We then walked to a nearby abandoned gallery which had been constructed during the fascist years under Mussolini. It had been intended to be a great gallery, but that had obviously never come to fruition. The glass ceiling had been shattered years ago, leaving behind the metal framework. In recent years, the neighborhood has tried to improve the area, adding lighting and a small restaurant inside.

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The next stop was at the Quattro Canti intersection of the two main streets of old Palermo. At each of the four corners of the intersection are three levels of statues. The lowest level has figures of women representing the seasons; the second level has figures of four Spanish rulers of Sicily; the third level has figures of female saints.

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Our next stop was possibly the most impressive: the Praetorian Fountain. This large fountain is adorned with numerous statues all around the large pillar of the fountain itself. It is located in a small square, just outside of an old convent. The fountain was nicknamed the “Fountain of Shame” because of the nude statues being right next to such a religious building. It is one of the most impressive squares that I have seen in Italy.

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Next up was a set of two churches that were built in different styles, but each for the Christian faith. They were quite beautiful. The next church we visited was stunning: the Chiesa del Gesu. The exterior was not too impressive, but the interior was decorated on every surface in a baroque design. Marble adored every wall and pillar in intricate designs. The ceiling had been repainted after the Second World War and some of the paintings were... interesting, particularly one of Jesus looking down upon worshipers.

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The final stop on the tour was outside the Cattedrale di Palermo. While the exterior of the cathedral is quite remarkable, the interior is nowhere near as magnificent. We did not get to go inside as it cost money, but our guide described it to us quite well. We spent time in the square just outside of the cathedral, admiring it's beauty.

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The walking tour had been fascinating and lasted two hours, which was perfect. I was slightly hungry after all of the walking about, so I went in search of something to eat for lunch. I found a small cafe and ordered a couple arancina (one with BBQ chicken, and one with minced meat), along with a cannoli for dessert. Everything was delicious, especially the cannoli!

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Up next for the afternoon was a visit to the Massimo Theater itself. There are two tours offered: the main tour and a backstage tour. I bought tickets for both tours, with the backstage tour being up first. We were led through the winding corridors of the theater to the stage itself, which is massive! It is the third largest stage in Europe and I was really impressed getting to walk around and explore. The view out into the theater itself was really cool as well. There was an opera being performed in the evening, so the stage was setup for it.

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The backstage tour was short and we soon joined the group for the tour of the main part of the opera house. We walked through the grand entry hall and into the auditorium itself. I enjoyed getting to see the theater from both perspectives. The seats were surprisingly comfortable and I could have happily sat in one of them for an entire performance. If only Don Giovanni was being performed...

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We then walked to the next floor and visited the royal box (which was also used in filming “The Godfather Part III). The box itself was not as grand as I had expected, with just normal seating, but the anteroom was very nice with wood paneling and mirrors on every wall. The final stop of the tour was in another large domed hall. Inside, even the quietest voice echoes around the room; this was intentional so that people could gather to talk, but all of the echoes would prevent others from eavesdropping. If you stand at the very center of the room and speak, you can hear your own echo very loudly (almost as though it is on a loudspeaker)!

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When I left the opera house, the weather had taken a turn for the worse: dark clouds were starting to roll in over the mountains surrounding Palermo. I decided to go back to the B&B to relax a bit before dinner. However, when I wanted to go out and get some food in the evening, the storm had finally begun, with intense thunder and lightning. I made a mad dash to a nearby supermarket to get some snacks for dinner, getting back to the B&B just as the rain began. I enjoyed watching the storm from the windows of my balcony.

I spent the rest of the evening chilling at the B&B since, sadly, the storm refused to let up until quite late. It was alright with me though: I had a busy day, so having a low-key evening was rather nice.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

My second day in Palermo began similar to yesterday: breakfast on my balcony. Today I had two krapfen (doughnuts): one filled with jam and one filled with Nutella. The rain from last night had really cooled things off and I was glad that today wouldn't be as hot as yesterday!

My main plan for today was to take the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours around town. There are two lines for the tours: the red (A) line and the blue (B) line. I started with the red line at 10:00 and rode it through the city center. It was nice to ride throughout Palermo and have the audio guide to explain many of the various sights. It let me admire different parts of the city that I had not yet seen before.

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I got off the bus at the main train station so I could walk back through the heart of the city. I wanted to revisit the Praetorian Fountain so I could have some more time to take pictures and walk around it. I was lucky that there were very few people there when I arrived, giving me the perfect views for photos and to admire the various statues.

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I returned to the train station to wait for the next red line bus. However, the first bus to come by was a small shuttle bus; the guide told us to get on board because they would take us to the red line bus. The shuttle drove back where I had just come from and then dropped us off back at the very start of the bus tour! I wasn't too happy at being brought back to the beginning, but it did give me the opportunity to change to the blue line bus.

The blue line route went around the areas outside of the city center, giving me another perspective of Palermo. There are so many beautiful buildings all around the town, but many of them had been torn down during the latter half of the 20th century to make room for new construction. Apparently the mafia played a large role in these construction projects.

There weren't any stops along the blue line where I wanted to stop, so I returned to the starting point and changed over to the red line once again. This time I remained on the bus and rode it for the entirety of the 45-minute tour. We drove by the post office building, which is an imposing white building that was built under Mussolini's rule. We also passed by the hall of justice, a city gate, and one of the entrances to the main market/bazaar. All in all, both bus routes were very interesting and I learned a lot!

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After the bus tours were over, I wanted to walk around the city center again and do some more exploring. However, the area was packed full of people enjoying the nice weekend weather. The crowds soon overwhelmed me and I decided to head back to the B&B to chill out. En route, I stopped off at the same cafe from yesterday to enjoy another cannoli and a cassata (a cake made of a sponge cake topped drenched with liquor, topped with sweet ricotta and candied fruits).

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When it came time for dinner tonight, I wanted to go out and have some pizza, but I didn't feel like dining at a restaurant. Luckily, there were several places just outside of the B&B that offered pizza, so I went downstairs to find one that looked good. I ordered a four cheese pizza for takeaway and was soon enjoying my dinner from the balcony of my room. It was quite cool and breezy, though it didn't detract from enjoying my people watching from the balcony.

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I was in bed early because I had an early alarm set for the morning so I could head back to the airport and onto the next adventure!

Posted by Glichez 16:40 Archived in Italy

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