The entrance to the harbor of Malta is amongst my favorites, one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. One of the early Grand Masters of the order of the Knights of St. John, Jean de Valette, built these magnificent defensive walls. Our first stop was the upper Barrakka Gardens, which allowed us a view of the entire harbor. We then visited the Co-Cathedral of St. John. The simple façade does not prepare one for the sumptuous opulence inside. The altar is constructed of lapis lazuli. The floors are covered with stunning marble tombstones, and everything is wrapped in gold leaf. The cathedral’s crowning artistic glory is two Caravaggio paintings: “The Beheading of St. John” and “St. Jerome,” two masterpieces completed in 1608.

After lunch, we visited Mdina, the ancient capital of Malta. This beautiful old town of soft tan limestone buildings is a maze of small winding lanes. Tradition says St. Paul was imprisoned in a cave in Mdina for three months en route to his final execution in Rome.