The Lija Citrus Festival was one of the first annual local council activities of 2019 with the 17th edition held yesterday.

A cornucopia of local fruit and artisanal products were up for sale for the occasion, including baked treats, honey, marmalade, olive oil and organic foods and wine.

Many of the locality’s large homes have, over the years, been demolished to make way for smaller apartments, the council said. However, the village could still boast quite a few large villas with accompanying gardens.

Most notable were those of Villa Gourgion, belonging to the Noble Depiro family heirs, as well as Villa Francia, the official residence of the Prime Minister, formerly known as Villa Preziosi.

Villa Debono together with its private Chapel in Conception Street, the Testaferrata Bonici house and garden in Main Street, as well as the German Ambassador’s residence, Villa Ajkla, in Bakery Street, and Villa Parisio, the former residence of Lord Strickland and his daughter Mabel Strickland, were among the gems in the village’s crown, the council said.

It was these gardens and others in which many of the village’s fruit were grown.

Aside from the chance to grab some locally grown fruit, yesterday’s event was also an opportunity to visit the village’s Old Mill and catch a glimpse of artisanal weaver Antoine Vella, one of the island’s last remaining traditional lace craftsmen.

Traditional music was played in the village’s main hall.

The council said the village’s coat of arms included the Latin phrase Suave fructo rubeo which means “with this fruit I redden” – a particularly apt slogan for the event.

Lija forms part of the three villages which offshoot from Birkirkara, the others being Attard and Balzan. It became a parish in 1594.

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