Behind the thick, limestone walls of the Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar lies a stunning visual escape from the staggering heat and dusty winds of the island of Malta.
Often described as a miniature Versaillies, the 18th century Palazzo Parisio was once home to a Grand Master of the Knights of St. John. It was purchased from the Parisio family in the 19th century by Marquis Giuseppe Scicluna and has been in the family ever since. The Marquis was Malta’s foremost philanthropist and is responsible for the enrichment of the palazzo, transforming it from a grand house into an opulent country home for his noble family.
Although its facade is simple, the interior of the Palazzo Parisio is a study in flamboyant exuberance, a jaw-dropping exhibit of eminent craftsmanship. It has been painstakingly restored to the exact designs of the Marquis Scicluna and visitors can view marble staircases, mirrored walls, fine frescoes, trompe l’oeil, delicate dishes, rare paintings, and lavish amounts of gilding.
I highly recommend taking the Audio guided tour of the Palazzo Parisio. It turns this beautiful building into a stage for centuries of Maltese history. Private tour guides are also available, but you must call ahead to book one.
The Maltese palace provides a grand entry to its magnificent walled gardens, the only privately-owned gardens open to the public in Malta. They are exquisitely beautiful, a mixture of Italian design and Mediterranean scents and colors. I adored the lavish festoons of brilliant bougainvillea tumbling over stone walls and providing blissful shady relief from the searing Maltese summer
The gardens are classically Baroque in style and feature vivid blooms such as jacaranda, oleander, cinerarias, freesias, agapanthus, and over 65 species of hibiscus. It is a place designed for meditative strolls along wide pathways or pleasant meanderings along trails that twist through the Orangery and lead to the fern filled grotto.
The Marquis’ granddaughter, the Noble Mrs. Christiane Ramsay Scicluna, Baroness of Tabria, carries on his legacy through her personal management of the gardens.
Restoration and conservation are also close to her heart, and she works closely with her daughter, Justine Pergola, to ensure the Palazzo Parisio thrives for generations to come. They receive no subsidies or grants, and the palace and gardens are maintained solely through revenue generated by tours, events such as weddings and parties, the Luna Lounge, and two of Malta’s top restaurants, Caffé Luna and Luna di Sera. Every time we asked locals where to eat, they directed us to one of these two restaurants.
If you go:
The Palazzo Parisio Palace and Gardens are open daily throughout the year (except New Year’s Day) from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Audio Guided tours of the Palace are available on a daily basis. You can collect your handheld and map of the grounds at the front desk with last admissions at 5:30pm from Monday to Sunday. Tickets are €12.00 for adults (this includes a €2.00 voucher to spend at either Caffe Luna or La Boutique), €7.00 for students over 16 years, €5.00 for children between 5-15 years, and free for children under 5.