Providing an alternative perspective to the capital, Underground Valletta is a site which has its roots back to the original foundations of the city. The location nowadays referred to as Valletta was priorly known as the Sceberras Peninsula, and plans to build a city there pre-date the actual arrival of the Order of Saint John in 1530. Following the Great Siege in 1565 funds managed to be attained from patrons around Europe and the foundation stone was laid in March of 1566. As the site lacked a fresh water source it was imposed on home-owners to excavate a cistern for the collection of rainwater. Quarries within Valletta, were also converted into reservoirs to serve the same purpose. Provision was also made for the creation of a drainage system and excavation of grain silos in case of another siege which at the time seemed apparent. Underground Valletta then received another impetus of excavation following the breakout of World War II.
Once bombs started raining on the Maltese Islands, air-raid shelters were excavated across at a rapid pace. Valletta proved a prime target to the Axis forces due the Grand Harbour and also since it was the centre of British administration on the island. Existing spaces were connected together and tunnels were freshly excavated creating the labyrinth of shelters which gave Underground Valletta the sobriquet ‘of a city underneath a city’. Between the years 1940 and 1943, with an intense period in March and April 1942, people spent long hours underneath the live-rock protecting themselves from the oncoming bombs. Throughout the visit of the site one can see scribbles, art and religious effigies that people left behind them whilst waiting. Amidst the darkness, one can also glimpse a look at traditional Maltese tiles which can still be seen in some of the cubicles. The site provides a unique experience to Valletta, different from the feeling that one gets when strolling through its streets. Therein lie spaces which showcase the struggle for survival and resistance.