There’s something refreshingly honest about pika, the Maltese term encapsulating human competitive instinct and neighbourly rivalry, which, being the smallest EU country, some correlate with Malta’s size. Is it only natural to desire to outshine those geographically closer to us? Whether pika has anything to do with the gallarija – another well known, perhaps less controversial Maltese cultural touchstone – is open to interpretation. Whilst you can find wooden balconies elsewhere too, Malta is home to some of the most distinctive, most cherished in the world.

At Valletta Vintage, created by architect Chris Briffa, these gallarija are a window to modern studios in hundred year old buildings, creating the perfect suntrap to take breakfast, a book and give half the day to street theatre. With his wife Hanna, they filled five studios – Gallery, Atelier, Library, Retro Pad and Hideout – with a mix of vintage, bespoke pieces and local art to enhance the individual spirit of each.

I spent time enjoying Chris’ former office, now the radiant Library, and learned more about their project, ‘We strive to conserve and restore all salvageable finishes, so each unit is true to its original, local qualities and in turn the actual effort required scores a low carbon footprint. Most of our furniture and fittings are vintage, hence recycled and environmentally sensible while, of course, beautiful.’

Since then, Sala Nobile and Il-Bitha have been added to the collection as event spaces for intimate gatherings (the former in a 300 year old building) they offer more of Briffa’s touch; carefully chosen mid century pieces and walls full of milky texture for heaps of natural light to illuminate.

Each of the self catering studios are found in and around Valletta and its harbour. As an antidote to pika, they scream but softly of a careful, elegant and educated approach to the value of what already exists, and how to enhance it.

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