City Gate; Mdina, Malta
Evidence of settlements in Mdina goes back to over 4000 BC. It was possibly first fortified by the Phoenicians around 700 BC, because of its strategic location on one of the highest points on the island and as far from the sea as possible but owes its present architecture to the Arab period, from 870 until the Normans conquered Malta in 1091. They surrounded the city with thick defensive fortifications and a wide moat, separating it from its nearest town Rabat. When Malta had been under the control of the Roman Empire, the Roman Governor built his palace there. Legend has it that it was here, in around 60 CE, that the Apostle St. Paul lived after his (historical) shipwreck on the islands.
A strong earthquake in 1693 destroyed a large number of buildings in Mdina. After the earthquake the cathedral was rebuilt on the designs of the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa and Baroque elements were introduced to the cityscape.
Today, no cars (other than a limited number of residents, emergency vehicles, wedding cars and hearses) are allowed in Mdina, partly why it has earned the nickname 'the Silent City'. The city displays an unusual mix of Norman and Baroque architecture, including several palaces, most of which serve as private homes. The impressive cathedral is fronted by a large square.