*As seen in The Logbook
The weather is pleasant and quite warm in Valletta Malta, I’m trundling down narrow streets between biscuit coloured buildings, passing tourists and locals. In front of me is the Mediterranean ocean, a fairly regular sight in Malta, always there to remind you that you are on an island that has seen more history and change than many countries in Europe.
Thanks to Valletta’s citywide status as a UNESCO world heritage site, the exterior of the buildings throughout this wonderfully picturesque city are all, save for minor details, untouched. The occasional minor paint-job aside, the architecture is exactly the same as it has been for generations and walking down the streets is a return to the past. Along cobbled streets, Ursulino Valletta offers a polite entrance that I could almost have missed if I hadn’t been keeping an eye out.
Delightfully understated, the boutique hotel offers an immediate flavour of class and space with a tall ceilinged entrance hallway, large mirrors on either side and a receptionist behind a smart if modest desk. Unlike some hotels where your first impression is a wide open foyer bedecked with decorations and pamphlets, my first impression here was that of entering into a secret, invitation only party of some highly exclusive secret society!
After check in, I caught the elevator to the room.
I am a person who puts a lot of weight into first impressions. I judge books by their covers, gifts by how they’re wrapped and stories by their prologues. Coming out of the elevator I relished in the clever use of space in the hotel. Dimensionally there isn’t a great deal of space to work with, so they’ve gone vertical. The corridors are narrow and uncluttered, the walls tastefully decorated with tall works of art and ceilings that are very high. Offering a sense of grandeur which is carried through by the tall heavy framed door of the three floor penthouse… The Triplex Penthouse Suite.
I could totally live here. That was my immediate thought. Hotels are meant to be comfortable by nature and there are certain expectations of all hotel rooms irrespective of how many stars. No real need to focus on how smartly the bed was made up (it could have featured in a pop music video). No need to tell you that the bathroom was cleaner than some surgery theatres and, of course, no need to mention about how fresh and crisp the linen was. You’d expect all of that for a hotel with the reputation of Ursulino Valletta which I had the pleasure to write about previously.
No, what instantly got me, and it will get you too, is the architectural design and the use of space and natural lighting. These are not hotel rooms, these are apartments. The first level has the king sized bed and the shower room and toilet, tall shuttered windowed doors open onto a small terrace overlooking the street and one of Valletta’s famous walls. An iron spiral staircase leads up to the kitchenette unit which has a balcony overlooking the bed and a pull out sofa bed, (I did, briefly consider testing the strength of the bed by jumping off the balcony but decided not to. I am after all two metres tall and 125 kg… I don’t land particularly softly… ever.)
The spiral stair case winds its way all the way to the apartments terrace which offers a truly breath-taking view of the Grand Harbour which is, day or night, a wonderful sight to behold. During day time the view offers a detailed architectural history of the island, complex and exclusive enough to make you feel suitably privileged. While at night, the Grand Harbour lights up in an array of colours and sounds and is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine.
I would not call myself a foodie. I am a fan of good food and a lot of it. What I enjoy is the experience and the settings provided during a meal. Breakfast is from 7am to 10am and on the two mornings I was there I tried everything. The omelettes, the cereal, the array of fruits, the juices and of course the coffee.
I ate out on the terrace, overlooking the Grand Harbour and on the second morning in the dining area with a handful of other guests. The food was delicious, the eating areas quite comfortable and the pace relaxing and gracious. What it didn’t feel like was a buffet experience in some restaurants where guests feel like one in a crowd, I would say here it was closer to having your very own butler.
IMPORTANT SMALL TOUCHES
There are a lot of personable touches which I appreciated at the hotel. One, everything could be controlled from the bed including lights and television. There were also USB chargers at the bedside, an ever popular charging option for many hotels. The WIFI was exceptional and reliable, and there were a number of English television channels available on the TV.
A variety of shower gels with easy to use squirty bottles. One of the things that annoy me are when the toiletries are presented in little tubes that need to be unscrewed. I can’t be the only person who drops them every time and then gets blinded with hot water when he goes searching for them at his feet!
What I especially enjoyed was how Ursulino Valletta did not insist on being a “Maltese” hotel. I mean this with full respect, but some hotels take it upon themselves to represent their culture to such an extent that you feel like an outsider. Instead, from the design and furnishings, the only consideration was offering space, exclusivity, taste and modern style. It was neither imposing or insistent, recognising that after a day spent exploring a city like Valletta, basking and investigating its many varied treasures and historical sites, that guests want a place where they can return to and be neutral and comfortable.
I am very tall so the beautiful rain-shower shower unit kept hitting my head, also, the terrace wouldn’t offer much privacy during the busy season on account of the breakfast terrace overlooking it. However, and I can’t stress this enough, I know that this is me just being picky and thinking that no review is complete without at least one or two negative points.
Ursulino Valletta is a stunning triumph by an owner who is not only incredibly successful in his own right, but also knows the value of using available space well and creating a feeling of ownership for his guests. I didn’t feel like I was just staying there. When I walked onto the terrace with a coffee in hand on that first morning, I could easily imagine that I was at home.
Address: Ursulino Valletta, 82A, VLT1234, St.Ursula Street, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta
Phone: +356 2122 8024