Floriana, also known as Borgo Vilhena, so named after the Grandmaster of the Knights of Saint John who was responsible for its construction, is a fortified town just outside the capital city of Valletta. Floriana, also known by the locals as ‘Il-Furjana’, has the distinction of being the only true suburb of Valletta. It was originally built by the Order of the Knights of Saint John around 1636, when they felt that a new line of fortifications needed to be built. These were the Floriana Lines, so-named after Pietro Paolo Floriani, the Italian military engineer who designed them. The area between the Floriana Lines and Valletta started to be built in the 1720s under the order of Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena.
Floriana shares the isthmus between the twin harbours with Valletta. This suburb is rich with historic monuments and memorials, exotic imported plants almost as old as the city, as well as artistic gardens hanging over the bastions. To the north, one finds Sa Maison Bastion complete with a jutting sentry box and regimental batteries, as well as a garden known as il-Ġnien tal-Milorda, which is translatable as ‘My Lady’s Garden’. This garden, like Ganado Gardens (also known as Kalkara), regales one with a view of Marsamxett Harbour. Another beautiful spot in Floriana holds the Argotti Botanic Gardens, originally built by a high-ranking knight of the Order of Saint John. Here one can find a superb collection of cacti, a museum, as well as historic fountain which had been used to inaugurate Wignacourt’s aqueduct in 1615. The Mall, another garden, was built in 1656, and features a historic promenade of trees and ponds originally enclosed by walls. It is lined with fine busts and war memorials. Nearby are the splendid 18th century bronze statue of Grandmaster De Vilhena, and sculptor Antonio Sciortino’s famous Christ the King monument, commemorating the 1913 Eucharist Congress held in Malta.
Portes des Bombes, or Il-Bombi, is a spectacular main gate built in 1720, duplicated in 1868, and separated from the bastions in 1920. Inscribed on it, one can find Floriana’s aim and mission ‘I fight the Turks anywhere, but here I feel secure’.
Floriana is also a tribute to the victims of the two world wars. A Poppy Day ceremony, originating in 1938 to honour the fallen of World War I, is conducted at the foot of the War Memorial on the second Sunday of November. On higher ground stands a taller monument surmounted by a 7-foot high golden eagle, symbol of those who died in flight.
The focus and pulse of the town is undeniably the main square, that is, Saint Publius Square which includes the Granaries, also known as ‘il-Fosos’. These are underground grain pits covered by circular slabs, which were of primary importance as a means of storage during medieval times and after, in aiding Malta in having an ample supply of grains, particularly during times of siege. They were of vital importance during and after the Second World War. Il-Fosos are dominated by the eminent facade of Saint Publius Church, which started to be built for the Patron Saint of Floriana in 1733 and finished its enlargement as a structure in 1771. Nearby one can find the Church of the Immaculate Conception, known as Ta’ Sarria, a Church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, as well as a Church dedicated to Saint Francis. The Catholic Institute, a major administrative centre of the Malta diocese, is also another important historic building.
Apart from its important historical and architectural monuments, Floriana is also well-known for having one of the largest urban open spaces in Malta, which is why so many events, meetings, and concerts take place at the Granaries. These include the Isle of MTV Festival, which takes place each year, as well as religious gatherings, live entertainment, and even political mass meetings.