After decades of neglect, one of the most iconic forts in the capital is close to being returned to its former glory as works on the restoration of upper Fort St Elmo near completion.

Stefan Zrinzo, chairman of the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation which is tasked with this project, explained that the idea is not simply to restore the place.

The plan is to transform this forgotten part of Valletta into a hub of cultural activities and make it a tourist attraction.

A crucial aspect of this EU-funded €15.7 million project is the utilisation of the various open spaces for public activities and performances.

Dr Zrinzo confirmed that the corporation had already received a number of requests to hold cultural events as early as July.

“This project will increase the exposure of these unique spaces in this part of Valletta which enjoys stunning views, where one could also appreciate the military architecture of this zone,” he said.

This will increase the exposure of these unique spaces in Valletta

By May, the restoration of the Carafa Enciente and other structures built at a later stage during the British rule will be complete. Landscaping and civil engineering works will then follow and once completed the fort will be managed by Heritage Malta.

The place is set to be transformed, with a number of catering establishments expected to open once the project is complete.

The main attraction of the central square is a baroque building whose original function until the British rule was that of a chapel. This building will now serve as a permanent memorial to all the victims who perished in the defence of the island throughout its history.

A small chapel located a stone’s throw away is also being restored. The final phase will involve the relocation of the War Museum from Vendome Bastions to this part of the fort.

Apart from offering the possibility to increase the number of exhibits, the museum will offer an insight into the entire military history of Malta from the Bronze age till this day. The plan is to complete the migration process by October. The rich heritage on display will be showcased through an audiovisual experience.

Apart from providing free access to a number of areas previously not open to the public, visitors will also have the opportunity to experience the fort’s infrastructure.

Throughout the works, several pieces of graffiti, some of which dating back to the 17th century, have been discovered.

The project has highlighted more than ever the urgent need to look after the lower part of this fort, which is in a perilous state.

While acknowledging that for the time being there are no immediate plans to restore lower St Elmo due to the huge financial outlay, Dr Zrinzo said this will be “the next challenge”.

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