This tour takes you through the heart of the village from Pjazza Vittorja, through Triq Santa Lucija, Triq il-Ħabs, Triq Żenqa back to Triq Santa Lucija, down to Triq San Ġwann, through Pjazza Darnino, down to Triq il-Mosta and then up again through Vjal il-21 ta’ Settembru, returning to Pjazza Vittorja. Having reached the square you can go to Palazzo Parisio. The tours in the palace begin on the hour.
The tour begins in the village square. Facing the parish church (1), one has to imagine the area as an enclosed one. Vjal il-Labour, the wide avenue to the right, is a relatively modern street having been opened in the late 1950s. At the beginning of that street stood two old chapels, the last two of a number of chapels which originally were to be found in the area around the square before the building of the present church in 1616. At the same time the street was opened, there were no streets leading to the back of the church either.
Hence the village square was the real centre with three streets leading out in different directions: facing the church, Triq Santa Lucija; to the right of the church, Triq il-Markiz Scicluna and Triq Castro; and to the left of the church, Triq il-Kbira. Just take a few minutes in this square. Standing to the left of the church you can see the old Armoury, today the football club (2); moving further to the left is the house which for many years served as the law-courts, today Victory Pharmacy (3); across the street is the house of the noble family Ellul Bonici (4); then across to the other side of Vjal il-Labour is the former Palazzo Vittoria, the residence of the noble Marquis Bugeja, today the Peace Band Club (5); and to the right is the imposing façade of Palazzo Parisio, the residence of the Marquis Scicluna (6).
By far the most important of the streets was Triq Santa Lucija, the longest one and the real hub of the village. Over the years this street became the centre of all commercial activities in the village as well as the centre of the social life of the villagers. There is barely a house which has not at some time in the past served as a bar, shop, or workshop for the many craftsmen of this village. In 1874 there were in this street nine blacksmiths, this being the prevailing trade. There were bakeries, bazaars, greengrocers, butchers, confectioners. There were carpenters, barbers, shoe makers and repairers, winemakers, and even a silversmith!
Triq Santa Lucija is, however, unique in another respect: it has the largest number of alleys in Malta: fourteen in all. It also has the same number of small statues adorning various houses.
Turning away from the square and into this street you come face to face with 300-year-old houses at the very beginning of the street. In the façade of the first house on the left, you see one of the many statues adorning the houses; facing it, there is a very old small house with unusually nice, but fast eroding, stone decorations. It also has a wrought-iron balcony worth noticing. A little further down on the left side is a big house, which was the residence of the Maryuis Bugeja’s mother. This same building with its magnificent balcony, later housed the Victoria Social Club as well as a small theatre at the back.
You are now facing, on the right side of the street the first of the fourteen alleys. This alley ends with an arch beneath which are the entrances to a number of houses. This is where the master craftsman Emmanuel Pirotta made many of his masterpieces.
Back in the street, you are faced with Triq l-Ifran so called after the two bakeries that used to serve the village in former years. This used to be Alley No 2. At the corner is a butcher’s shop. This place has served as a shop for over a hundred years, having been a grocery before. A little further down from this shop, on the same side of the road, is the Vittoria Band Club (7), the former municipal law court of the fourth district of the countryside. This was purposely built and served only towards the end of the existence of these law-courts in1899. Facing this building are the unique twin niches, one showing the statue of the Infant Mary and is exceptionally interesting in the way the baby Madonna is presented in swaddling clothes.
Turn into Triq il-Ħabs next to the Club. The Prison (Ħabs) and the Law Courts have nothing to do with one another, the former preceding the latter by over a century. A prison in a village outside the walled cities was unique in the eighteenth century. It probably housed those who failed to pay their debts. It actually has a number of houses and not prison cells, the condemned person being allowed to live with his family in a sort of house arrest. It is right at the end of the street. Above the entrance, dominating the street is a small but beautiful niche with the statue of the Assumption.
Walking through the narrowest stretch of this street, you come into Triq Żenqa. Turn right and up back to Triq Santa Lucija turning left into a small square. There are two interesting alleys in this square. At the very end of one of these is one of the five windmills (8) of the village. These alleys have recently been upgraded by the Local Council and the inhabitants are indeed proud of them. Sqaq Nru 3 is a beauty. Having moved out of the alleys, turn right once again and you come to the chapels (9). The one you see first is St Lucy’s chapel from which the street takes its name and one of the earliest in the parish. It was held in high esteem by the faithful. It existed before 1500 although it was rebuilt in the 17th century. Adjoining it is another chapel dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady. The little square in front of the chapels has three other alleys.
The part of the street down from the chapel has seen fewer changes over the years and hence the houses are mostly older. Still punctuated by another five alleys, this last part leads to a widening of the road where it actually ends. Some of the restored houses here are really quaint. You might also see the last of the shoemakers/shoe repairers of the village. Just before you reach the shoemaker, on the same side of the road, the right side, you can notice a house with a recessed entrance, today often serving as a garage. This house was used as a hospital during the revolt of the Maltese against the French. At that time Naxxar had welcomed no less than 1,300 persons from the harbour cities!
Proceed further down to Triq San Ġwann, going through the street on the left. Once again this is one of the earliest areas where very old houses abound. Coming to a point where you are faced with a street on each side of Triq San Ġwann, take the one to your left and enter Pjazza Darnino. This is so called because a wealthy person way back in the 18th century built a house which was seen as extravagant by the village people. They nicknamed the owner Ta’ Ħala Ta’ Dar (waste of a house) and the parish priest who first gave names to the village streets named this area after the house, Dar – Ninu, ‘Anthony’s house’. Walking a little further up the square, you can see another of the windmills (10). Walk down again and take the narrow stretch of street to your left.
You will end up facing the chapel of St John (11). This is a singularly-shaped chapel built in the form of an eight-pointed cupola. Walking further down, you come into Triq il-Mosta where you can see two of the remaining blacksmiths of the village. At the end of the street there is a third windmill (12). Before turning into Vjal il-21 ta’ Settembru one can see the Millenium monument (13) erected to commemorate the third millenium. Turn left and up back towards the church from this modern street. This is a completely new area, the street having taken the role previously held by Triq Santa Lucija as the commercial hub of the village. At the upper end of this avenue is the Local Council’s office (14) and the playing field on the opposite side. As you reach Vjal il- Labour, turn left and back up to Pjazza Vittorja.
A tour of Palazzo Parisio is a must. This is one of the most impressive buildings in Malta. Its baroque works are indeed unique. You can also enjoy the magnificent walled Mediterranean gardens and relax in the coffee shop.