Malta – Fact Check
Meeting a 500-year-old Marquis
Marquis Nicholas de Piro and his wife Frances welcome me with the grace of the true aristocrat. They have opened many of the 50 rooms of their historic family palace to the public, but they make it feel as if it is a rare treat to have a visitor.
Casa Rocca Piccola sits within the walls of Valletta and has been described as a “living museum”. Built in the 16th century, it has been in the de Piro family for more than 200 years and holds paintings, books, furniture and artefacts reflecting their history.
The ninth Marquis de Piro tells me that the original Cosimo de Piro left Rhodes with the Knights of St. John and settled in Malta in 1530. As we tour the house, he points out some of the treasures from this long family connection.
He has published many books on Malta's art, history and costume, and takes a special interest in Maltese lace, which dates back to the time of the knights. Lace was originally used by the nobility to decorate their clothing and Maltese lace was world famous before the craft declined after the introduction of a machine-made product.
The couple now organize an annual competition to encourage the revival in lacemaking that has been ongoing since the 1930s. The winning lace is exhibited in Casa Rocca Piccola, along with some notable examples of the craft from the past.