Home > Malta > Why live in a house when you can live in a museum … like this one!

Why live in a house when you can live in a museum … like this one!

It’s hard to know what makes a good investment these days as share prices crash, savings accounts disappear overnight, companies go bust and analysts disagree over the future of commodity prices. But, how about a 17th-century historic palazzo in the medieval UNESCO heritage city of Mdina on the island of Malta? You’re not just buying the bricks and mortar but also a piece of history.

Inner courtyard: the perfect spot for a leisurely breakfast, afternoon tea or twilight cocktails.

Mdina – the former capital of Malta before Valletta- is a UNESCO heritage site so it’s forbidden to build or change anything in the old city. This, is welcome news, on an island where much of the beautiful original houses of character and townhouses along the seafront in prime areas like Sliema and St. Julian’s have been torn mercilessly down to be replaced by dour lifeless concrete apartment blocks.

Fit for a king
Designed by the King of France’s personal architect de Mondion, and home to several generations of Maltese nobility, this beautiful palazzo has been lovingly restored to its former glory by professional restorers under the watchful eye of its British owners who bought it in 2003.

The palazzo has retained it original character but mod cons like air-conditioning, central heating and a 21st-century-worthy bathroom and kitchen have been installed. Although, with one of the best restaurants in Malta a stone’s throw away at the Xara Palace Hotel, it’s not used as often as it should be, confides the owner.

The owners have pulled off a fantastic restoration project. At the same time, they’ve managed to open the house up so there’s a relaxed atmosphere of tranquillity and calm. It’s far from uptight – it’s simply a place to live in, a home away from home. The kind of place you can imagine an artist or writer turning to for creative inspiration or a retreat where burnt-out business executives can escape to. On top of it all, even the most cynical visitor can’t help but think: “Wow, this is how they used to live in the old times!” feeling.

The “modest” entrance defies an interior fit for royalty.

Situated on a narrow side street, built into the fortress walls, when you close the heavy oak door behind you, you leave behind the hordes of summertime tourists and enter a majestic hallway which leads into a tasteful dining room. The first floor houses the dining room, kitchen and courtyard. Steps from the kitchen behind a “secret” door lead down to a limestone Roman
cellar complete with old stone troughs from which the knights’ horses used to drink. Today, it would serve a better purpose as a wine cellar. Upstairs there are two bedrooms and a living room. The “bathroom with a view” as the sellers call it, like the kitchen, is coated with top-quality marble slabs and has an “antique” feel to it. Another staircase leads up on to the large roof space offering a stunning view over the “Silent City ” of Mdina and the cathedral.

For me, the absolute highlight of this 400-square-meter property is its beautiful inner courtyard with original multi-coloured mosaic floor tiles, which opens on to a fantastic balcony built into the Mdina bastions. Without question, the balcony offers one of the most stunning views over the island Malta and on a clear day, you can see as far as the fishing village of Marsascala and the tower at Portimaso in St. Julian’s.

A good reason to buy
One local real estate agent claims that such properties in Mdina are usually kept in the family for over ten generations. The chain of succession is only broken when a sibling marries a foreigner and they inherit that house, as in the case of this Palazzo currently on the market. But, as in much of Malta’s real estate market, if you’re a foreigner who is able to cough up the dough, they’ll probably be more than happy to sell.

Fully furnished … it’s ready to move right into!

Move right in
As an added bonus, the palazzo is being sold fully furnished, complete with everything right down to the John Lewis linen, champagne in the wine cellar and books in the dining room.
The antiques and furnishings – handpicked by the owners from antique shops and markets around the world – are worth a whopping EUR 500,000 alone. Including a five-meter original Frederick C. Mulock painting dating back to 1888 and a five-meter, 17th-century Goebelin tapestry.

The result is a museum fit to live in. The price tag ? A snip at just under EUR 2 million.

You’re probably thinking ‘ What’s the catch?’ … a former palace in a UNESCO-protected site, fully restored for the same price as an apartment in London’s Mayfair, a penthouse in Manhattan or a farmhouse retreat in a remote area of France.

Well, I’ve been there three times to take a look and, try as I might, I just can’t find one … maybe it’s just that the sellers aren’t really trying to hard to advertise it … or, perhaps, they are just looking for the right buyer!

Built into the bastion walls, you could wake up to this view every morning!


  1. Paul
    May 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Alannah, That´s indeed a good reason to buy… I can´t understand that someone is considering selling such a fantastic property in such a location. Anyway, I guess this guys have too much, that they don´t care anymore… Cheers, Paul

    • May 30, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Thank you Paul for your comments! Wouldn’t you be tempted to buy it?

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