Luxury hotel Rosselli, at Valletta’s historic heart, was the 17th-century home of wealthy goldsmith, philanthropist and Knight of Malta Don Pietro Rosselli and his wife Alusietta Massa. Admittedly, the don wouldn’t recognise his former abode with its reams of marble, custom floral wallpaper, avant-garde furnishings and suites variably fitted with spiral staircases, bowl-shaped bath tubs and private saunas for two. Since his tenure, a bar and pool now grace the chill-out roof terrace and first-class dining tops and tails guests’ days with baroque breakfast spreads and fanciful fare (try the signature squid-ink lasagna). But, he lives on in liberally applied monograms and his family crest above the entrance.
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A fruit platter and wine in your room and a free glass of Prosecco, when opting for the tasting menu at UnderGrain
25, including four Don Pietro wellness suites, four double-height Three Herons suites and and one lavish Sixteen 34 Suite.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Reception is open 24 hours a day.
Double rooms from £307.53 (€364), including tax at 7 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €0.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include a generous Continental breakfast spread (otherwise €18 a person) of fresh breads and pastries, cereals, fruit and juices and à la carte picks (a full English, omelettes, scrambles, porridge, smoked salmon).
If you need local recommendations, tickets booked, taxis hired, suitcases packed and unpacked, the remote control decoded and so much more, call on the hotel’s friendly Jeeves, who’ll sort you out at the swish of a white glove. Return stays here bring certain privileges: a free one-way airport transfer; 15 per cent off your stay; a free room upgrade; and discounts, free drinks and VIP treatment at local shops, a beauty salon and photographers.
At the hotel
Roof terrace with a bar and pool, on-call butler, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Smart LCD TV; bedside USB charging ports; bathroom speakers; espresso machine; tea-making kit; minibar; laptop safe; slippers and flip-flops; bathrobes; his ‘n’ hers L’Occitane products; bottled water; and air-conditioning. The Don Pietro rooms each have a two-person sauna and twin rain showers, and the Sixteen 34 Suite has a dining room.
Our favourite rooms
Named for the master of the house, the Don Pietro suites are our pick for spa spoiling, superlative style and nifty tech. But, the Three Heron suites, on the former piano nobile, are the spiffier for their green-velvet sofas and mosaic-marble flooring – plus, a spiral staircase to dramatically sweep down come breakfast, and double-height ceilings, all the better for the city view.
Set four storeys up on the hotel roof, what the petite unheated pool lacks in size it makes up for in scenery: from here you can gaze out at the Basilica’s dome, the Cathedral’s spire, the harbour and blue, blue Med beyond. It’s open during the summer months (May to October) and you can cool off here until 7pm. Just around the corner cocktails are shaken and corks popped at the bar; ask nicely and staff will deliver your drinks poolside.
There’s no bricks-and-mortar spa, but you can pamper yourself privately in the Don Pietro rooms, where the sauna leads to a shower for hot-cold invigoration. In-room treatments can be arranged with local therapists, too: black-soap scrubs, couples massages, vinotherapy body-wraps, Thai massages and the like.
Toss your heels into the sea and replace with sensible, grippy flats for running up and down Valletta’s hilly, highly polished steps. UK visitors, leave your adaptor: this former British colony has handily adhered to three-pronged plugs.
There’s a lift to all floors. The Mezza Croce rooms are wheelchair accessible and some rooms are fully adapted, but the Three Herons and Sixteen 34 suites have stairs. Guide dogs are welcome to stay, too.
Under-12s stay free. Extra beds and baby cots can be added to the Executive Rooms. The hotel is, however, a bit of a romantic, so it's better suited to couples.
Watch the world go by from the table closest to the window, or have a more intimate meal at the corner table next to it.
Coastal comfort is key: wafty dresses, linen shorts, flats both fancy and functional.
Under Grain restaurant (now Michelin-approved) lies to the right of the lobby (it has a street entrance for walk-ins, too). Its vaulted stone roof is original, but zooms forward in years from the ceiling-line down: decorated in midnight blue, orange and millennial pink. Lunch and dinner are hymns to wantonness: ingredients luxuriate in skillets of sizzling butter, or lie spent atop a silky sauce. The signature lasagna is dramatically blackened with squid ink and spread thickly with ‘nduja; pillowy, pungent chicken livers are as flavourful as foie gras; and aromatic local pork has been massaged with cocoa beans and tarragon. Breakfast has incremental tiers of indulgence: pick from a relatively healthy buffet, omelettes or a full-English (there’s a veggie version, too), or splash out on the supplement for truffled eggs on toast and Mr eggs Benedict and friends. For smart-casual dining, divert to the lobby for triple-decker sandwiches, an ‘umami’ burger with truffle-mayo and smoked cheddar, sweet tarts, tiramisu and more.
Under Grain’s bar has stools to pull up, but it’s the sort of spot where you’d wash down a parmesan panisse and handful of anchovies with a glass of vermiento before vamoosing. You’ll be much comfier in the lounge, where you can sit and sip on comfy velvet pews as you plot out the night ahead. Or elevate your aperitivo to the roof terrace for fragolino sundowners as you watch the stars come out.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 10.30am, lunch from noon to 2.30pm, dinner from 6pm to 10pm (till 10.30pm Friday and Saturday). In the courtyard, food is served from 10.30am to 6pm.
All three breakfast menus (Continental, à la carte, Under Grain breakfast specials) are served in-room from 7am–10.15am. Under Grain’s full lunch and dinner menu and drinks list can be ordered to your door from 10.30am–10.30pm.
You’ll find Rosselli at the intersection of St Christopher’s Street and Merchants Street – one of the city’s longest thoroughfares, usually lined with market stalls – within strolling distance of Republic Square and St John’s Co-Cathedral.
Malta International Airport is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. If travelling within Europe, Air Malta and low-cost airlines run direct flights from most major cities. Flights from further afield will stopover in the UAE or Europe depending on your departure point. The hotel can arrange private transfers (€30 each way) on request, or by Mercedes for an extra charge.
Brits, rejoice: you can drive on the left in Malta – although the experience may sometimes seem less sedate and speedier than at home. Buses and ferries make exploring beyond Valletta a breeze, but you can secure some wheels at the airport to see the beaches and historic bits in the north. A 24-hour MCP car park is a 15-minute walk from the hotel; or there’s a park-and-ride service in Floriana, just outside the city gate.
Grimaldi Lines (grimaldi-lines.com) run one return ferry trip a week from Catania (a direct trip of around seven hours); or, travel from Catania to Valletta (via Pozzallo) with Virtu Ferries (virtuferries.com) in around four hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
What Valletta (the EU’s smallest capital) lacks in square metres, it makes up for in grandeur. It nabbed the top-city spot from ancient capitals Mdina and Vittoriosa (now Birgu) because it can claim centuries of history for itself and has the highest concentration of landmarks – with some determination, you can easily walk to them all in one day. Start with the flea market on your doorstep, sweeping the stalls along Merchants Street for bargainous antiques, vintage books and Maltese crafts (from Monday to Saturday, 8am till noon). Valletta’s gridded streets make it nearly impossible to get lost (but the hotel has maps if needed). Stroll east to see the star-shaped Fort Saint Elmo, west to find the City Gate (recently given a divisive update by the Shard architect Renzo Piano) and Triton Fountain. It’s de rigueur to stop by St John’s Co-Cathedral to coo over Caravaggio’s The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, the exquisite craftwork and Trump-trumping legions of gold within. The National Museum of Archaeology puts Maltese history into breathtaking context, with fragments of megalithic temple complexes and icons that predate Egypt’s pyramids by a millennia, while MUŻA gallery showcases the island’s more contemporary culture and Teatru Manoel has shows for all ages. Don a hard hat for the Lascaris War Rooms and tunnels below the Upper Barrakka Gardens, and to easily explore beyond Valletta, hop in one of Rolling Geeks’ pre-programmed self-drive tour cars. Take the ferry to the three cities – worth it alone for the view of Valletta – and Sliema or book a taxi to ‘silent city’ Mdina (nicknamed so after it lost its ‘capital’ status). It’s also well worth heading north to Ċirkewwa (a 40-minute drive or 90-minute bus ride) to catch ferries to petite isles Comino and Gozo (both a 25-minute ride away), for world-class diving, supernaturally hued lagoons and superlative seafood.
Between Sicily and Tunisia, Malta boasts cuisine that’s a pot luck of different cultures. You could find fish and chips, tagine and spaghetti along one stretch – or pick and mix bao buns, kebabs, sashimi, traditional pastizzi (Maltese pastries filled with ricotta and peas) and more at Victorian food-hall Is-Suq Tal-Belt. Geography considered, the island naturally excels in pasta, pizza and pesce: trattoria Zero Sei can justifiably boast about their carbonara; waterside Capo Crudo runs a fine raw bar (with Kobe beef and lobster surf 'n' turf, to boot); and Guze bistro crafts elegant iterations of all, with a delicious take on local rabbit. Fifty-nine Republic’s photogenic plates (meats and micro-salads, ragus and ravioli) are more than just Instagram fodder; Noni follows suit, serving octopus tagine, smoked-rib gyoza and other edible works of art under a vintage vaulted roof; and Capistrano’s daily changing menus are ideal for a pre-theatre pit-stop: the Teatru Manoel is a couple doors down. Breakfast on Turkish eggs or lunch on gochujang chicken at Emma’s Kitchen, or join the queue for colourful salads and bulging vegan wraps at No 43. Or, hit up Belle Époque tobacconist turned café Charles Grech for a three-Martini lunch with meat platters, toasties and salads, plus a side of old-school charm.
You’ll likely hear La Bottega (less than a five-minute walk from Rosselli) before you see it: singers and DJs belt out tunes from the petite bar as punters spill out onto the pavement; it’s the perfect spot for a sociable aperitivo. A dapper den in brass-edged blue, Kingsway is renowned for both its brunches and spritzes (and a must-try confit-rabbit burger), while Ġugar! Is a shabbily chic bohemian bar with a calendar of artsy workshops, talks and more. Another British hangover – possibly literally – are Malta’s surprisingly decent boozers; few are more Blighty-ful than the Queen Victoria: a low-lit, wood-lined sanctuary with beer taps aplenty. For a sleeker craft-brew experience, the Taproom is no industrial annexe, rather a painting-lined spot with teal-velvet banquettes to file into and a convivial long table. For gin, secure a stool at Yard 32 (peer into their glass cabinets for the day’s tapas); for wine, order a flight at Legligin (delightfully named after the word for glugging wine down). Jostle elbows with Malta’s cool kids at Cafe Society, where mixologists show off their range in a building that could tell a few tales. If it gets a little too cosy inside, tables are laid out on Triq San Gwann alleyway and cushions are scattered over the steps, all set for admiring the harbour view.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this polished Valletta palazzo turned hotel in Valletta and unpacked their bottle of prickly-pear-flavoured Bajtra liqueur and toothache-sweet nougat, a full account of their pocket-sized island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside glamorous past-and-present-straddling stay Rosselli in Malta…
The Knights of Malta were charged with protecting the Holy Land and tending to the battle-wounded, but some also found time to perform another noble task: laying the foundations for one of Malta’s most luxurious hotels. Seventeenth-century goldsmith and philanthropist – and honorary knight – Don Pietro Rosselli brushed aside the order’s pesky poverty vow and built the modest(ish) palazzo that came to house Rosselli hotel. Aside from a baroque vaulted ceiling here, and a trad gallarija box balcony and flash of weathered limestone there, it’s been restyled from the inside-out – coated in costly marbles, wood finishes and custom wallpapers; fitted with enormous Smart TVs and nifty tech treats; and staffed by impeccably polite butlers. We think Pietro would have approved.
Design-led duplex suites occupy the piano nobile and wellness rooms are part personal spas; Rosselli’s public realm is equally inviting with a glossy lobby lounge – soundtracked by a trickling fountain – and a roof terrace with an eye-popping panorama. Witness the Cathedral’s outrageously ornamented interior, pause for posterity in the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens and descend into wartime bunkers, all before lunch (a multifaceted affair at Is-Suq Tal-Belt food hall), then spy star-shaped fortresses, catch ferries to swimmable coasts and take an aperitivo: without walking more than 10 minutes from the hotel. And, while your exertions may be mild, you’ll still be glad of your room’s muscle-cradling bed after – good nights, from a good knight.