I passed through the tripled-arched entrance and then the door held open by the doorman. I approached the reception area and set my luggage down.
“Good morning,” I said. “I have a reservation.”
“Yes, Mr. Garone,” the gentleman replied. “Your room will be ready in ten minutes.”
I wasn’t quite sure how he intuited who I was, but that’s one of the trademarks of five-star luxury hotels. Ten minutes later, the director of customer relations escorted me to my top-floor room, which featured a very large, comfortable bed, with the most oversized pillows I’ve ever seen, and an exceptionally spacious bathroom. Ivory robes and slippers awaited my use in the closet, and complimentary beverages in the mini-fridge and complimentary apples on the desk would provide a nice little breakfast snack every day.
Construction of Malta’s first hotel began in 1936 under the sponsorship of dowager Lady Margaret Strickland and craftsmanship of Scottish architect William Bryce Binnie. World War II put a major halt on the project. The British Royal Air Force requisitioned the completed parts of the hotel, which suffered a fair amount of damage when Malta became the most heavily bombed place on earth. Reconstruction began in 1944 and lasted another three years.
Using Maltese limestone for the exterior and an abundance of marble and terrazzo inside, the chevron-shaped Art Deco hotel has exuded cosmopolitan chic for its discerning clientele since it opened in 1947. Over the course of its history, it has hosted both events of national importance (such as independence celebrations in 1964) and a panoply of guests ranging from Queen Elizabeth II and European prime ministers to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Derek Jacobi.
Upon the completion in 2017 of a $16 million renovation, Hotel Phoenicia, its 7½ acres of grounds, and its 136 bedrooms and suites have been refurbished with features that reflect the fresh Mediterranean aura, right down to the carefully chosen fabrics and luxury amenities.
Once I had settled in to my room and already looking forward to coming back to it, other areas of the hotel beckoned me. The wonderful pool provides a great spot to cool down from the strong sunshine, and the tremendous lounge is a comfortable place to relax and have a midday snack or drink before dinner. The hotel’s beautiful restaurant, The Phoenix, was inspired by Europe’s grand cafés and serves fantastic meals infused with delectable Maltese and European flavors. The concierge, available all day and night, assisted me with everything from how to pronounce the names of towns like Marsaxlokk and Naxxar to how to best join the fun during the festive celebration of St. Publius my first night there.
The Phoenicia also benefits from a perfect location. A walk of less than one minute took me to both the walls of the capital city of Valletta and the main bus terminal for easy public transportation to points all around the island. Knowing that my indefatigability would be challenged every day by hours and hours of exploring this fascinating little island, I always took my daily comfort in anticipating my return to this perfectly convenient and seductively sumptuous hotel that would restore me for tomorrow’s adventures.