The Three Cities of eastern Malta settled, several centuries ago, on small peninsulas that are prominent on the map.
These whimsical cutouts mean that we have the neighboring city almost always at the distance of a narrow inlet, but we are forced to take turns, at first incomprehensible, to reach it.
We leave Vittoriosa and the shadows of her Palace of the Inquisitor. We got in the car. We point to Senglea.
We advance along the marina full of sailboats that separates them until we reach its end. We turn right at a symbolic roundabout and then onto a new one-way road.
The feeling of having entered another domain immediately overwhelms us.
The Short Journey between Vittoriosa and Senglea
We come across Cottonera – the opposite bank of the same marina – now with Vittoriosa ahead. The end of this waterfront leads to Senglea Point.
It reveals, on the other side, the main channel of the Grande Porto and Valletta's sumptuous houses. We give in to the ambition to admire him from the highest. We knew the name of the place from which it was possible, we just needed to get there.
We asked a fisherman for directions. The man is not with half measures: “Now there is a special place. Come after me, I'll leave you at the entrance”.
La Guardiola, a Strongly Panoramic Nook of Senglea
We climbed the opposite slope of the promontory, won a hook on the second attempt, and by the guide's signal, we realized that we had found La Guardiola.
We cross the local garden and find, in a central and protruding position, an elegant sandstone guardhouse like most of the historic buildings in the Three Cities and Malta.
The sunset orange Valleta, Vittoriosa and Cospicua as small boats dghajsa Tal-Midalji carry the last passengers of the day.
We follow the gradual succession of the last twilight tones.
It's a friendly football tournament that takes place in a kind of ring with synthetic grass, set with geometric mastery between the foothills of the walls and the sea.
“Friends, sorry but you have to leave. Let's close the garden.” inform us an elder in the company of his granddaughter. "If we don't close this at night, the kids come here to drink and do drugs."
Master Claude de La Senglea and the Resilience of Senglea, the Civitas Invicta
Even somewhat contradicted, we surrendered to the sincerity and secular protective instinct of the residents of those parts.
The end of the island on which we were located had been urbanized for some time when, in 1552, it welcomed the construction of the Bastion of São Miguel.
The walled city of Senglea – named after the great master Claude de La Sengle – developed in the following years.
It would become the only one to resist the siege of Malta imposed by the Ottoman Empire on the Knights Hospitaller.
Jean Parisot de Valette, the master who gave rise to the name La Valetta, made a point of paying tribute to the bravery of the new village. He gave him the alias Civitas Invicta.
Over time, the city developed its own version of Valletta's picturesque architecture.
The fortification of La Guardiola, this one, was only installed in 1692, in order to ensure the surveillance and destruction of enemy vessels coming from the Mediterranean and to communicate with other sentry posts in the Greater Porto.
We detected, in your guardhouse, the Latin inscription corresponding to pluribus arcibus adstans (“opposite many strongholds”). Likewise, on each of the faces collected in the hexagon, the reliefs of an eye, an ear and a pelican.
The first two signal the function of the lookout.
The pelican – symbol of the Passion of Jesus Christ – identifies the faith of the defenders and the care that that post would dedicate to the inhabitants of the peninsula and other villages in Malta.
None have welcomed as many Christian souls as Senglea.
Senglea, the Overcrowded City of the Three Cities
In the early years of the 8.000th century, more than 20 people lived on less than XNUMX hectares.
By that time, Senglea and Cospicua had concentrated Malta's financial elite and intellectuals.
But, during World War II, they were devastated by Axis bombings that killed and chased away many of the inhabitants and caused a radical change in their social structure.
After the conflict, Senglea was being rebuilt and re-inhabited. In 2013, it already had almost 3.000 inhabitants, far from the previous record population density but still the highest in Malta.
Two days of further evasion later, we returned.
As we walked through the narrow alleys in the shadow of the overpowering houses, we noticed that, even in the afternoon, parking spaces were multiplied and shrewdly disputed.
Ice Cream Sale with the Banda Sonora Mágica de “Lily Marlene"
During this tour, the enigmatic, distant and intermittent melody of a “Lily Marlene” instrumental.
When we least expected it, we bumped into the responsible vehicle, an ice cream van with a Playmobil look, driven by a seller little bothered with a history of German inclement towards his city.
We enter the Senglea Bocci Club and peek, for a moment, at an animated game of Bocci, a curious Maltese version of the petanque.
On the way out, we stop inside one of the shadowy porticoes of the Bastion of São Miguel, from where we can see that all pedestrians and even drivers cross themselves before crossing them.
We soon caught a glimpse of the motif, installed near the top of the vault: an altar as unexpected as it was composed, decorated with paintings of Christ and the Virgin Mary and others of the usual Catholic motives.
Surrounded and attacked again and again, the Maltese became used to resorting to their faith, but, as is obvious throughout the island, they themselves had to work their miracles.
It is, in some way inspired by his determination, that we overcome obstacles that we didn't count on.
The Historic Cattery of Il Macina
A brown gate blocks access to an elevated part of the coastal road that we suspected had privileged views. When a lady opens the door for us, we explain our intentions.
"Do not worry!" Soothes us Doris. “We are already used to it.
Some time ago, there was a firework and we were filled with people who appeared just like you. In case you didn't know, they are currently on the terrace of Il Macina.
It's an old crane that La Sengle's military engineer installed when they fortified the town, to allow for quick loading of ships. It even collapsed and was renewed a few times. Now it's an overlooked monument.”
“Once there was a Maltese cat. He played the piano and spoke French…” We would rather hear the spiel again than the demystification with which we were confronted.
As we advance along the walled terrace, dozens of domestic cats of countless races and colors observe us, many of them with problems that were obvious.
“These are our boys”, explains Doris, now supported by three assistants. We have an institution that recovers abandoned and stray cats for adoption.
But we don't know how long we're going to stay here. Authorities finally realized the potential of this place. Looks like they're planning to make a bar-restaurant here with a terrace or something.
We're looking for another base but Senglea is a little tight, as you've certainly noticed.” We couldn't disagree.
In just two days, it seemed obvious to us that it was enough for most of the Sengleans to have to fight for the tiny spaces of their sample of the city.