Villa Bologna

Villa Bologna was commissioned by Fabrizio Grech in 1745, at the height of the Baroque period in Malta.  It is contemporary with the Auberge de Castille in Valletta and the Selmun Palace in Mellieħa. 

At the time, Malta was in the hands of the Sovereign Military Order of St John and ruled over by the Portuguese Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Vilhena. Fabrizio Grech occupied the powerful position of ‘Uditore’ or legal adviser. He became one of the Grand Master’s closest confidantes and accumulated great wealth.

His daughter, Maria Teresa, married Nicola Perdicomati Bologna, eldest son of the first Count de La Catena.  When the marriage was announced society mocked the Uditore for having wealth but no class and not even a decent family home. Not one to be snubbed, Fabrizio Grech built Villa Bologna to give to his daughter as a wedding present. He certainly succeeded: classified as a Grade 1 National Monument, Villa Bologna is as impressive now as it must have been when it was built in the 1740s. The main villa and Baroque garden date from this early period.

The second important phase in the development of Villa Bologna came in the 1920’s.  By then Villa Bologna had been inherited by Lord Strickland, one of Malta’s first Prime Ministers and a dominant figure in Maltese politics in the first half of the 20th century. A descendant of Nicola Perdicomati Bologna through his mother’s line, Strickland’s first wife, Lady Edeline, died in 1915 and in 1926 he married Margaret Hulton, an English publishing heiress. She became the second Lady Strickland and spent her time between Sizergh Castle in England, her house in Holland Park in London and Villa Bologna in Malta. She was a very keen gardener and immediately set about designing a new garden at the back of the villa.  Inspired by Villa Frere in Malta and La Mortola in Italy, these ‘new gardens’ are a magical combination of Italian elegance and English restraint.

With the addition of these new gardens, Villa Bologna more than doubled in size and now also incorporated an old farm at the far end of the garden which became the stable block where Lady Strickland kept her racehorses. The entire estate was surrounded by a high crenellated wall where narrow ramparts are interrupted by turrets and watchtowers. This iconic crenellated façade of Villa Bologna stretches half way down San Anton Street, from the American Ambassador’s residence to the President’s Kitchen Garden.

The Villa is now the home of Gerald de Trafford, Lord Strickland’s grandson. In 2009 his son, Jasper de Trafford, moved back to Malta to take over the management of the estate.

Visiting Villa Bologna

Since opening its door to the public earlier his year, Villa Bologna has become a popular destination for garden lovers and tourists with an interest in Malta’s rich cultural history. Entrance to the gardens is through the pottery shop, housed in the Villa’s old stables at the far end of the garden (next door to San Anton Palace). This is Malta’s oldest working pottery where every piece is hand-made and hand painted. 

From the shop visitors can pick up a booklet with a map and information on the history of the Villa and the colourful characters who lived there, including Lord Strickland, one of Malta’s early Prime Ministers, and his politician daughter Mabel Strickland who ran Malta’s leading newspaper for half a century.

Once within the Villa’s walls you will discover a world far removed from the bustle of Malta’s tourist traffic.  Take your time wandering through the Villa’s sprawling gardens through centuries-old citrus orchards and past majestic fountains and luscious lawns.  Discover the vegetable garden, cactus garden and sunken pond or delve underground into the family’s private air raid shelter, hewn from the rock on the eve of the World War II.

Villa Bologna is located in the historic village of Attard, in the geographic centre of Malta.  It can be reach very easily by public transport or by the ‘hop on hop off’ tourist buses.  The Villa is in San Anton Street, across the road from the Presidential Palace of San Anton and adjacent to the President’s Kitchen Garden.