Casa Rocca Piccola is one of the numerous Valletta’s palaces, having a very special history and atmosphere. Functioning as a residence, it can be also called a museum of the aristocracy. Built in 1580 for the Admiral Don Pietro la Rocca, an Italy-origin Admiral of the St.John’s Order, this building reflects 400 years of prestige noble way of life on Malta. During all the history of the palace and until the present times it has been hosted by the lineages of the de Piro family.
The house was built as any other palaces in the capital city, with a stylish aesthetic beauty, so that buildings of Venice and Paris could be conquered in prestige. It was initially an unusual building, indicated on the city’s maps as the house with a garden. Others Valletta’s houses were not allowed to have any gardens at all.
There are more than fifty rooms all around the house. Nowadays their majority is opened for visiting. The tenants of the house also open new rooms for visiting from time to time. The arrangement of the space is quite habitual for such places: while the stables and the kitchen were equipped on the ground floor of the house, the first floor is constructed with long enfilades of the rooms. Walking around the building, do not miss entering a Summer Dining Room with a view over the garden, the Library, and the Chapel. There are numerous drawing rooms in the house also worth seeing them. Moreover, a Gallery was recently opened in the Casa. The tenants plan to fill it with works of the local painters.
During its history the house was subject to considerable changes for three times: in the 18th century when it was parted into two smaller houses and then in 1918 and before the Second World War when the air raid shelters were dug there. These underground catacombs became a great point of interest for the tourists.
As to the collections stored in the Casa, they really should be considered as one of the largest riches of Malta’s historic heritage. Guests of the palace will be able to see there various amazing furniture objects. One should definitely take a look at a chess set, which is possibly the oldest example of the local hand-crafted furniture coming from the Knights period. A collection of traditional Maltese Tal-Lira clocks also should not be left without attention. Among the paintings of both European and Maltese artists the works of Mattia Pretti should be singled out. As to silver objects stored in the palace, one should cast a look at the collection of surgical instruments that were used in the Knights’ medical practices. Another piece of interest is the largest private collection of antique costumes, including both formal and informal clothes of 18th-20th centuries. And this is not all. The Casa has also the largest private collection of lace. The house even hosts the annual Malta Lace Competition at its premises.
In the 1990s the recent tenant of the palace, Nicholas de Piro d'Amico Inguanez, held the first restoration of the Casa Rocca Piccola, right when it was first opened for visiting. The further restoration followed in 2000, when the previously separated part of the building was reunited again. In general, the palace is kept in a very good state. A lot of noble people stay in the palace from time to time. Having visited the palace, its guests will learn a lot about habits and traditions of local Maltese aristocracy and have the possibility to try some of them by using the artifacts stored in the house.