Kalkara

 


Kalkara gets its name from the Italian word for lime (in Italian, calce,) since there were lime kilns present there from the Roman period into modern times. Although not part of the Three Cities it is included in the Cottonera region and in the 19th century was a summer place for the residents of Cospicua. It is the youngest of Cottonera’s towns. Kalkara has two bays facing into Grand Harbour called Rinella Bay and Kalkara Creek and two peninsulas called Bighi and Ricasoli. Historians believe that the Kalkara area was inhabited by the first people who came to Malta from Sicily as the inlets provided shelter from the heavy storms of the Mediterranean. Kalkara is known for boat building, in particular, the Maltese dgħajsa and barklori and, as with the Three Cities, the locals participate actively in the traditional regattas or boat races. Kalkara has its own share of historic buildings. On the headland facing the entrance to the Grand Harbour stands Villa Bighi, some 400 years old. During the plague of 1813 the villa was used as a hospital. However, subsequently on the advice of Lord Nelson, the villa was remodeled and incorporated into the British Admiralty 19th century neo-classical Bighi Hospital. For practically a century it served as the largest naval hospital in the Mediterranean with the first lift built to bring casualties brought to the shore quickly and smoothly up to the clifftop hospital. During World War I it and other hospitals in the Cottonera earned Malta the epithet “Nurse of the Mediterranean”. Today recently restored, the former Bighi hospital houses the Malta Centre for Restoration and works are underway for an Interactive Science Museum that is being built on a part of the site. On the heights behind Kalkara across Rinella Creek, which features a popular sandy beach, stands the architecturally impressive Fort Ricasoli. Built by Grandmaster Nicholas Cottoner, this 17th century fortress, bristling with guns and still in use up to World War II, was considered impregnable. To the east of Fort Ricasoli stands Fort Rinella built by the British two centuries ago as well as Fort Rocco, which today houses the Mediterranean Film Studios. For centuries Kalkara served as a small hub for international sea trade, including trading in slaves. Today, it has the atmosphere of a sleepy fishing village and retains a balanced mix of urban and rural life with its marina in the centre of Cottonera.

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