Valletta was built on Mount Sciberras, which had been used during the Great Siege of 1565 by the Ottomans to bombard the Knights of St. John. The knights were led by Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, after whom the new city was named.

Malta – Fact Check

Meeting a 500-year-old Marquis

Photo by Jon Nicholson

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.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

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.

Marquis Nicholas de Piro, the ninth Marquis de Piro, seen here with his wife Frances, has published many books on Malta's art, history and costume.

Marquis Nicholas de Piro, the ninth Marquis de Piro, seen here with his wife Frances, has published many books on Malta's art, history and costume. Their family home, Casa Rocca Piccola, has more than 50 rooms, the majority of which are open to the public for tours. Photo by Jon Nicholson

Jon Nicholson

Jon Nicholson

Nikon D810

Aperture
ƒ/4
Exposure
1/10
ISO
200
Focal
24 mm

Marquis Nicholas de Piro, the ninth Marquis de Piro, seen here with his wife Frances, has published many books on Malta's art, history and costume. Their family home, Casa Rocca Piccola, has more than 50 rooms, the majority of which are open to the public for tours.

TRVL Favorites in Malta

Other stories about Malta