Discover Pieta’s secret garden

Signing of Contract - Villa Frere

On Sunday 19th May from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Heritage Malta, in collaboration with NGO Friends of Villa Frere, is inviting the public to visit the intriguing gardens of Villa Frere in Pieta.

Distinguished as a prestigious botanic garden in its heyday, for many years, this place stood in a complete state of abandonment and few were aware of its existence.

Villa Frere gardens were created by British diplomat, poet, scholar and philanthropist John Hookham Frere, after the demise of his wife in 1831, as a means of comfort for his sadness. From these gardens, which enjoyed wide open views spanning from Mdina to Valletta, he could also look out at the Msida Bastion Cemetery, where his wife reposed. The place became a sanctuary for numerous academics, most famously Mikiel Anton Vassalli, who reportedly discussed with Frere on how to establish Maltese as a written and taught language.

This romantic story and the gardens of Villa Frere faded away with Frere’s death in 1846. The site fell into neglect until forty years later, when the villa became the residence of Captain Edward Price. A notable garden enthusiast, he gave life back to the property, earning it the title of a botanic garden. The place became a prominent attraction, both to locals and foreigners. Renowned artists, painters, scholars and even three monarchs have walked inside these lush grounds. In 1930, the gardens attained international fame when they were featured in Country Life Magazine, a world-leading landscaping periodical.

Today, just over a third of the original area survives (including the house), yet their mystique is still there. NGO Friends of Villa Frere has been working hard to protect what remains and to restore the gardens with life once again.

Tickets, at a donation of €2 per person, are available from all Heritage Malta museums and sites, as well as online. Tickets will not be available at the door. Tours will include a visit to the gardens of Villa Frere only. The entrance is through St Luke’s Hospital. The last tour is at 4.00 pm.