When a rich historic destination is desired for travel in Malta, the city most locals will recommend is Mdina, also spelled as "Madina". The wall surrounding the city is called "‘il-Bahrija" and is known to date back to the classical period in history. However, Punic remains have been found there, suggesting the area played a vital role in the earliest days of settlement in Malta. Some of the earliest settlers were the Phoenicians, who arrived around 700 B.C. It is known that the city was the original capital of the island at one point. Mdina's location is the highest point above the sea at a point far enough inland it gives a strategic view of the surrounding area. It served as a lookout point for intruders during the medieval days.
Locals often call Mdina "Cittą Vecchia" or "Cittą Notabile" when referring to it properly. However, it has been nicknamed "The Silent City" since there are less than 300 inhabitants within its walls.
The neighboring village Rabat, which means "suburb" in Arabic, is where most of the population resides. Rabat's estimated population is 11,000. Mdina is still kept up by the locals, who view it as a sacred historic place and know it attracts travelers and revenue. One of the points of interest to religious travelers is that the Apostle St. Paul once resided in the city after his ship wrecked on the coast nearby. There are no bad times to visit during the year, as Malta's climate is sub-tropical Mediterranean. This means that the dry summers may have some hot days, but most are simply warm. Winter months see some rain, but are very mild in temperature. Ranges in temperature are from 59 in the winter months to about 87 during the peak of summer.
In 1530 A.D., Mdina became property of the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem. This event was marked by a ritualistic ceremony performed by the Grand Master. Later in 1693, an earthquake hit that devastated homes and many buildings. Some remain today, but a good portion of them were torn down and rebuilt with a Baroque influence. Lorenzo Gafa, a Maltese architect, and the Knights of Malta rebuilt much of the area. There are many interesting places to see in Mdina that reflect these works. The St. Paul's Cathedral is one of the most prominent, visible from the countryside below the city's walls. There are two entrances to Mdina. The main gate is the more modern work of a French architect, dating back to 1724. However, the original entrance gate is located about 325 feet from the main gate. The Palazzo de Piro is another beautiful estate to see in the city. An older structure, the Palazzo Falzon is a magisterial palace that is currently under construction for extensive restoration projects. The Mdina dungeons also still exist, offering a gruesome look at what prisoners faced in the medieval days. The city has its own museum - The Natural History Museum - which has extensive information about the city's origins.
Getting to Mdina is easy, just a 20 minute drive, 13 kilometers from Malta’s capital of Valletta, whether you are driving yourself, hiring a driver or taking one of two buses routes “Bus 80 and 81” , the Silent City is a site well worth seeing.