by Petra Caruana Dingli

While the ‘Notte Bianca’ event held on Saturday attracted crowds into Valletta, the Independent reminded its readers that the city has so much more potential to attract people in the evenings throughout the year, and was concerned that Valletta is often a ‘dark and silent’ place at night.

I agree absolutely that Valletta’s potential as a fabulous cultural venue is still not appreciated enough, but it is not always dark and silent. Whenever I went to Valletta in the evenings this summer lots of places were open. There was live music near St John’s Co-Cathedral and the restaurants all around were full of people. There is sometimes also live music in Pjazza Regina.

The long list of restoration and embellishment projects that have taken place in Valletta are really coming together and making a difference. The new Barakka lift, pictured above, has just won an international award at the Inside Festival 2013 in Singapore – well done to all involved in this project.

The problem with living in Valletta is that many houses are old and damp with stairs to climb, and daily parking is impossible. But it is a unique place for cultural events and an evening out. The contrast between the restored central areas and the more derelict and run-down old streets on the sides is growing more visible, but adds to the charm of the place.

I love Valletta’s wine bars and restaurants in all seasons, and new places seem to be opening there all the time. There is nothing quite like the ambience of Valletta. This summer Republic Street was lined with tables and chairs put out by the restaurants along that street. I like outdoor dining, but here they were placed much too far into the middle of the street, making it difficult for people to walk by, and the tables should be kept back.

On another occasion when I was there, a show was being held at the open-air theatre ‘Pjazza Teatru Rjal’ and the music drifted over into the streets nearby and created a great atmosphere all around. This new venue was in use over the summer and it seems to be working well for some types of events.

I missed ‘Notte Bianca’ this weekend but I was there in previous years. It struck me then as a contemporary and fun version of the Maltese festa, minus the saints and fireworks, with people and pushchairs thronging the streets, food-stalls, street performances, dance, exhibitions, lights, busy restaurants, music and noise.

At traditional festi private houses are spruced up and their front doors swung open. Friends and neighbours are invited in and passers-by peep through the door. At ‘Notte Bianca’ it is Valletta’s gorgeous public buildings, palaces and churches which are lit up and on display, their doors opened for people to enter, walk around or view exhibitions set up for the occasion. This gives the event a very special atmosphere which would be difficult to recreate elsewhere in Malta on this scale. Valletta itself is the star of the ‘Notte Bianca’ show.

I hope that the attention already given to Valletta over the last decade is sustained over the coming years – the Valletta 2018 ‘Capital of Culture’ project must ensure that.