A little party of tourists might be seen one lovely day in January, on the hill back of the city of Valetta, on that gem of Mediterranean islands, Great Britain’s Malta.
The air is as clear as a bell, and the scene is certainly one to charm the senses, with the blue Mediterranean, dotted with sails, a hazy line far, far away that may be the coast of Africa, the double harbor below, one known as Quarantine, where general trade is done, the other, Great Harbor, being devoted to government vessels.
Quaint indeed is the appearance of the Maltese city that rests mostly upon the side of the hill under the fortifications, a second Quebec as it were.
The streets are, some of them, very steep, the houses, built of limestone, generally three stories in height, with a flat roof that answers the same purpose as the Spanish or Mexican azotea.
Valetta has three city gates, one the Porta Reale, through which our little tourist group came to reach their present position, leads to the country; the Porta Marsamuscetto to the general harbor where lie craft of all nations, while the government harbor is reached by means of the Marina gate.
Thus they hold to many of the ways of Moorish and Mohammedan countries.
The fortifications of limestone are massive—England has a second Gibraltar here.
In general, the Maltese speak a language not unlike the Arabic, though English and Italian are used in trade.
They are a swarthy, robust, fearless people, strong in their loves and hates, and the vendetta has been known to exist here just as fiercely as in its native home of Corsica.
Many dress in the costume of the Franks, but the native garb is still worn by the lower classes, and is a picturesque sight, such as we see upon the stage.
It consists of a long bag made of wool, and dyed various colors, making a cap such as is worn by the sailors in stage scenes like the “Pirates of Penzance.”
The top part of this is used for a purse, or forms a receptacle for any small articles the wearer desires to carry.
A short, loose pantaloon, to the knee, which leaves the lower leg bare, is confined at the waist by a girdle or sash of colored cotton or silk. Then there is worn a cotton shirt, with a short, loose vest, or waistcoat, as they were formerly known, covering the same; the latter often ornamented with rows of silver buttons, quarter-dollars, or English shillings.
As to the ladies of Malta, their costume is very odd, and reminds one somewhat of Spain. In part, it consists of a black silk petticoat, bound round the waist, over a body of some other kind of silk or print which is called the half onuella. The upper part, the onuella, of the same material, is drawn into neat gathers for the length of a foot about the center of one of the outer seams. In the seam of one of the remaining divisions is inclosed a piece of whalebone, which is drawn over the head, and forms a perfect arch, leaving the head and neck bare.