“Indulge in the Splendor of Casa Rocca Piccola: A 16th-century palace and B&B in Malta”
Visitors to Malta and Gozo are spoiled when it comes to beautiful buildings and palaces dotting the two small islands in the Mediterranean Sea. A prolific concentration is found in most cities and towns, including the capital city of Valletta, where I visited the noble house, Casa Rocca Piccola.
The palace of Casa Rocca Piccola was originally built in 1580 for Don Pietro La Rocca (a Knight of Malta) but is now the family home of the 9th Marquis de Piro and his family, who, lucky for us, opened a part of it to the public in 1991.
In the 18th century the house was divided into two houses and further changes continued to be made, including air raid shelters built during the Second World War, the second air-raid shelter to be built in Malta at the time.
Of its many surprises is its garden, a rare feature of homes built in this era, which is why on maps of the time, the Casa Rocca Piccola was referred to as “la casa con giardino”, or the house with a garden.
A private palace in Valletta with a garden, a rarity at the time it was built
Casa Rocca Piccola was built in an era of triumph, when the island had withstood a three-month siege by the invading Ottomans, who were finally repelled and defeated by the Knights of St John and the Maltese in September of 1565. Prior to the battle, the Knights of St John, had elected Jean Parisot de Valette to be Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller. As leader, Valette became the Order’s hero, commanding the resistance against the Ottomans.
Upon the great victory, Valette commissioned the construction of the new city of Valletta. The city was not built haphazardly. It was fortified all around with high bastions and built on a parallel grid plan for greater access and security.
De Valette also ordered it be built with magnificence to ensure it matched the splendour of other European capital cities. Valletta’s stunning homes, such as the Casa Rocca Piccola, are a reminder of this moment in history.
The Reading Room of Casa Rocca Piccola
A Family House
The Casa Rocca Piccola is still privately owned by the a home to the de Piro family and has more than 50 rooms, many of which are open for viewing, including two libraries, two dining rooms, a number of drawing rooms and of course the statutory private family chapel.
Guided tours are lead in English (with translations in numerous other language), and let you admire the paintings, furniture and other objet d’art collected over the centuries.
The Casa Rocca Piccola is also home to the largest private collection of antique costumes from between the 18th to the 20th century, as well as a large private collection of Maltese lace.
Don’t miss a chance to explore a network of underground passages and tunnels beneath the palace, built over the course of its 400-year history, including one that leads to a cavern that was used as a shelter during WWII.
The magnificent pure marble staircase
When it comes to overnight stays in Valletta, this might be one of the more unique. While most of Casa Rocca Piccola is private, six rooms have been transformed into a regal B&B for overnight guests, with historic artifacts and decorations, en suite bathrooms, and some with balconies.
Antique costumes on exhibit
BeSeeingYou In: Valletta
Good to know: The walled garden is filled with orange trees and home to a blue and gold macaw named Kiku III.
WOW! Factor: Sometimes it’s the Marquis himself who leads the tours.
Tip: For authentic Maltese cuisine, book a table at Nenu The Aristan Baker, just a couple blocks away.
Author bio: Albert Fenech