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Day 1 – ROME/VALLETTA – Today, we travel to the coast to transfer to our accommodations for our short ride to the island of Malta. Upon arrival we proceed to the Upper Barracca Gardens for a spectacular view of the Grand Harbour and the massive fortifications that surround it.  While there, we have an opportunity to learn of the Maltese culture and traditions in a special video presentation.  We then visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral, built by the Knight of Malta in the 16th century. The nearby Oratory was constructed 40 years later and houses the famous Cravaggio paintings “The Beheading of St. John and “St. Jerome”.  Following our visit we stop for lunch on our own before our next stop, St. Pauls’ Shipwreck Church, built in the late 17th century, it houses an impressive statue of St. Paul, as well as the pillar on which he was beheaded. Famous paintings by Antoine Favray and Matteo Perez d’Aleccio adorn the chapel areas, which also house the 1st class relic of St. Pauls’ right wrist bone! We then proceed to the Grand Master’s Palace, which is adorned with numerous painting of the Order’s Grand Masters, European Monarchs and dignitaries of Malta.  We conclude our day at Casa Rocca Piccola, a family home that has been continuously occupied by the same family for over 4 centuries and truly a living museum of what Maltese life was like!   We  then proceed to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 2 – VALLETTA/ST/PAUL’S BAY/MDINA/ROME - This morning, our travels take us to St. Paul’s Island, where a shipwreck delivered him safely in 60AD. The famed Statue of St. Paul involved the talents of two famous 18th century artists, Sigismondo Dimech and his apprentice, Salvatore Dimech (no relation). In the statue’s left hand is a book, the symbol of his prolific writing, and at his feet there is a snake. Legend tells us that St. Paul survived the bite of a poisonous snake while on the island and from that point on, no poisonous snakes existed ever again on the island! Our next stop is St. Paul

‘s Chapel, built in the early 17th century over the ruins of the original 15th century structure. Tradition has it that the governor Publius, welcomed St. Paul and it was at this location that St. Paul often preached to the residents. We then visit the Grotto of St. Paul, where tradition holds that he lived for three months following his shipwreck. In that time, he established the island’s first church, preached and baptized the local converts as well as consecrating Publius as the 1st bishop!  We break for lunch on our own before journeying to the Maltese catacombs.  Like those in Rome, they were the early cemeteries of the baptized Christians and each tomb was hand-carved into the rock based on the size needed. St. Agatha’s catacombs are noted as the oldest on Malta.  We then travel to Mdina, the old capital city, whose baroque architecture dates back to the 17th century. The cathedral is built on the ruins of the original, which was destroyed in an earthquake in the late 17th century.  Not as ornate as the cathedral in Valletta, it is still impressive and beautifully adorned with many paintings and carvings which illustrate the life of St. Paul.  Thankfully they were able to salvage from the original church the marvellous mural by Mattia Preti “The shipwreck of St. Paul”!  We conclude our time on Malta and proceed to our transportation back to the mainland.  We enjoy dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 3 – Continue mainland portion of pilgrimage

“Rich in Carmelite history and site of one of St. Paul’s shipwrecks,
Malta is time well spent while in Italy”