Lija is a small village in central Malta, with a population of around 3,000 people. It forms part of the Three Villages, together with Balzan and Attard, all three having large country residences that witnessed great historical events. These villages are also famous for their great gardens and orchards, and this gave Lija its motto ‘Suavi Fructu Rubeo’ which means, ‘with tasty fruit I blossom’. Lija existed already during pre-historical times; in fact, megalithic tombs were excavated by Din l-Art Helwa in 1967, but the actual establishment of Lija happened in the late 16th century, when it was elevated to a parochial status. The construction of the parish church dedicated to Our Saviour started in 1694, designed by Ganni Barbara and further adorned by the Count Frangisku Preziosi, and decorated by ceiling paintings by the famous Giuseppe Calì.
The centre of the town is an urban conservation area, meaning that any development within this area has to ensure that the existing character is retained. Any structural works have to keep to the traditional and historical features that include wooden balconies, iron railings and carved stone. Apart from its oranges and citrus fruit, Lija is particularly famous for the festa dedicated to Jesus Christ the Saviour, held annually on the 6th of August. Lija is said to have the best pyrotechnics and firework display in Malta, attracting huge crowds of locals and tourists every year. Lija is accessed through the Transfiguration Avenue which is decorated with Oleander trees on both sides. In the middle of the Avenue is the Tower, or the Belveder, behind which is the Parish church that leads to the central part of the town, characterized by narrow winding streets and pretty alleys. Lija also has several antique houses of character, plenty of citrus gardens and the official Residence of the University of Malta is also located here.
Things to see and do:
Villa Preziosi (Villa Francia): This building of is situated in the northern part of Lija and dates back to the mid-18th century, when the Baroque style was prominent for the houses of the wealthy Maltese families. TheVilla is built on two floors, having a front and back garden, complete with a water mill, a coach room, a stable, and a large stretch of agricultural land that covers around two hectares. In 1942, Villa Francia served as the residence of Sir Ugo Mifsud who was the Prime Minister of Malta at that time. From then on, the Villa was passed on the Maltese government, and the property is currently used for official state functions.
Visit Lija during the Festa: Lija offers spectacular displays of fireworks as well as lovely decorated narrow streets, houses and churches. The festa is celebrated on the 6th of August, and in the week prior to that, the town centre will be full of band marches, kiosks selling different kinds of foods, and large crowds of locals and tourists.
The Belveder: This beautiful piece of architecture that used to form part of Villa Gourigion, the residence of Marquis Depiro.
Bus numbers 42, 44, 49, 54 from Valletta