7 facts about the Traditional Maltese Balcony Worth Sharing – Part 2

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Our last article about Malta’s traditional balconies was a total hit – so we’ve kept our promise to find out more and write a part 2. Malta’s distinct ‘enclosed wooden boxes’ sitting on the facade of many older houses (and in some cases, newer buildings who borrow a note or two from our history) have become a distinct icon of Malta’s identity. 
They’re also what gets locals and tourists to look up and take photos as they stroll through our streets.
If you are restoring a balcony, or designing a property that uses this endearing Maltese feature in some way, send us a message, or comment below – we’d love to show the ways the Maltese traditional balcony is being kept alive!

1. Arrival of the British

The British introduced a very modern (and sanitary) invention to Malta: the water closet ‘WC’, now known as the bathroom or restroom. Back then, the easiest way to build in canalisation was to let pipes go along façades (rather than in the walls), so a lot of balconies were converted to bathrooms. 

Before the bathroom…

Before the adoption of canalisation, people – at least in Gozo -, would have their buckets collected and taken away from the city. People were to buy stamps in post office every week in order to pay for such service.

2. Two types of balconies

Maltese traditional balconies can be broadly classified under two categories. These are the open type, which can either be in stone or wrought iron with more rare wooden ones, and then there is the more popular (and striking) closed wooden balcony. Open stone balconies are the oldest type to be seen in Malta. They are most common in the older areas, such as Mdina

3. They had an …interesting role in courtship

In the first half of the century, a beautiful bouquet or plant would be placed on the balcony to show that a lady living in the house has reached the appropriate age to be courted for marriage.

4. Balcony ornaments are getting the chop

a motley of balconies on the facades of a street in Valletta
Our balconies are defined by their colour, and the decoration of their stone base, where one finds crosses, floral ornaments, lions and caryatides. 
Sadly, a lot of ornaments are lost in the process of renovation as house owners prefer to just cut them off rather than spend on restoration.

5. The Maltese balconies are used for much more than their looks.

Back in the day when A/c’s did not exist, the balcony would provide a cool breeze and much-needed ventilation during the scorching summer months, and in winter, it remains a great way to inject sunlight inside the home.

6. And this is what really makes them the perfect addition to any street

clothes hanging to dry from balcony

If you look up at a Balcony during a sunny day, there’s a great likelihood you will find blankets, shirts, or pants hanging high above, stirred occasionally by the wind. Nothing quite creates a rush of nostalgia and old-school European whimsy like walking underneath balconies with clothes left out to dry.

7. Some etymology

Balcony is derived from the Italian word ‘balcone’, meaning scaffold, the High German balcho or beam and the Persian term balkaneh, a balcony is a kind of platform projecting from the wall of a building, supported by columns, brackets or cantilevered and enclosed with a balustrade.

Do you know any facts about the Traditional Maltese Balcony that we haven’t listed above (or in our previous article)? Comment below!


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