To learn about the history of Valletta, it is impossible not to learn about the Knights of St. John (St. John the Baptist being their patron) who first started out as hospitallers in Jerusalem to care for the sick, poor, and injured pilgrims. However, they slowly became a Catholic militarized force as they came under attack from Arab forces. After losing Jerusalem and Rhodes, and drifting around Europe, they were allowed to govern Malta as a vassal state under Spain for the next 268 years.
The first time Joe and I learned about the Knights of St. John during this trip was when we were in Bodrum. They had built the Bodrum castle using materials plundered from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum, but eventually losing their hold on Bodrum to the Ottoman Empire in 1523.
The painter Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio became part of the order, but was expelled after causing trouble. During his time with the order, he had painted portraits of the Knights, as well as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, the only painting signed by the artist.
Since we only have a day in Valletta, we opted not to pack the day with museums and sights, but instead decided to explore the narrow streets. The Old city of Valletta is no doubt charming. Colorful doors and balconies against plain stone facades add to its appeal.