Behind closed doors, Malta

Entrance to 'Savoy' house, Savoy Hill, Gzira, Malta ©Helen Jones-Florio
A way in. The entrance to ‘Savoy’ house, Savoy Hill, Gzira, Malta ©Helen Jones-Florio


Abandoned, derelict, buildings have always held a fascination for me…

This particular one, a big house named ’Savoy’, is at the top of Savoy Hill, Gzira, Malta. It’s been derelict for the last three years, at least. Who knows how long prior to that. I’ve tried to find some information on it and the most I can come up with, thus far, is that it may have been a guest house.

Walking by the other day, Florio noticed that the front doors were open – they are usually padlocked with a big old rusty lock. Maybe there were workmen in there, at last, beginning a renovation project? ‘Hello, anybody home?’. No answer. What harm could it do, to take a quick peek? I’ve wanted to see inside this place since the first time we walked past it, three years ago.

'Savoy' house, interior, Gzira, Malta - old art deco chairs © Helen Jones-Florio
‘Savoy’ house, interior, Gzira, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio
Entering into the cool interior of what must have once been an impressive foyer, a beautifully ornate, wrought iron stairway, gracefully curves its way up to the first floor. Beneath our feet, and years of dust, beautiful old Maltese tiles, still very much intact in many places, line the floor. Could this have been a reception area? Several low-slung easy, art-deco style, armchairs, piled into one corner. And,  judging by wooden bed frames, stacked up high, one on top of the other, in another room, and numerous old wardrobes (in one of the rooms, they were mysteriously lined up, barricade-like, against panoramic floor to ceiling windows, as if to obstruct the light or, perhaps, to keep something, or someone, out? Derelict buildings always arouse my vivid imagination!) suggests that it could very well have been a guest house or small hotel.
'Savoy' house, interior, Gzira, Malta - old wardrobes barricade-like agains the window © Helen Jones-Florio
Barricade? ‘Savoy’ house, interior, Gzira, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio
The marble stairs still looked solid enough, so we carefully made our way up the first curving flight, onto the first-floor landing. Treading with caution, hoping that the potholed, rubble-strewn floor would hold our weight, we edged our way through a labyrinth of hallways, poking our heads into room after room, sunlight pouring in from the many broken windows, lighting our way (I’m not sure I’d have been so brave to explore if there hadn’t been any natural light. LIke I said, vivid imagination). From the outside – despite its present state of dilapidation – one could imagine that the building was once a house that would have stood out, regally, amongst its neighbours.  And, from what we could see, that would have been reflected in the interior, too.
'Savoy' house, interior, Gzira, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio
No exit – ‘Savoy’ house, interior, Gzira, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio


'Savoy' house, interior, Gzira, Malta - patio doors overlooking the garden © Helen Jones-Florio
Room with a view – ‘Savoy’ house, interior, Gzira, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio


Entrance to 'Savoy' house, Savoy Hill, Gzira, Malta ©Helen Jones-Florio
‘Savoy’ house, Savoy Hill, Gzira, Malta ©Helen Jones-Florio
I need to do some more digging, there must surely be photos somewhere, that depicts the house in it’s grander days, inside and out? Next time we pass by, and if we are lucky, and we find the front door is unlocked and open wide again, maybe we’ll venture up to the 2nd floor and onwards.


Helen Jones-Florio


Published by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

Award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and writer, Jason Florio (, and photographer, producer, videographer and writer, Helen Jones-Florio Twitter @floriophotonNYC Instagram Instagram Instagram Instagram

7 thoughts on “Behind closed doors, Malta

  1. Hi! the photos you have taken are beautiful. I am so interested in this building and have too been trying to track down photos of this building in its glory days. Did you have any luck or find any resources showing this building,when it was full of life and lived in ? I would love to know. Regards Karan

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for your message. This is all I came up with, so far – some images from way back. I just hope that the recent fire has not done so much damage that it gives the developers an excuse to knock the place down 😦 If you find anything more, I’d love to hear about it.
      All the best

  2. Hello Helen. I was a frequent visitor to my cousins – four aunts living next door to each other, literally – a couple of hundred metres on the left as one went up towards Savoy Hill. This was late 40s/early 50s. I am only familiar with Savoy, the name but knew nothing of this building. Leaving the door open is really asking for acts of vandalism ; this seems to appeal to our destructive instincts as humans. But please remember – curiosity killed the cat. If you venture further up, please be careful. We can’t afford to have people hurt who appreciate the good things in life. Thank you.

  3. Hi Helen, when I was in my late teens in the early 1960’s my pal and I used to stay there every year for a week or so. It was called the Savoy Hotel and was run by a kindly man called Crispin Mangnon. The tariff was 10 shillings and sixpence a night and included a full English breakfast. Happy days!

    1. Hi John

      Thank you so much for sharing this! I have photographed so many of the old doors in Malta, over the last 5 years (sadly, many of the early ones don’t even exist any longer), but I very rarely get to know the history – I’m always wondering about the stories behind the doors. So, again, thank you for enlightening me on a little of the history of the Savoy Hotel. It’s truly appreciated 🙂 Be well. All the very best, Helen

  4. i am in my seventies now so when i was 9 or10 my dad use to work as a linesman across the road the for the electricity of malta and i use to go with him to work which was opposite the Savoy me thinks it used to be an hotel/function rooms because i used to mingle with boys my age when there was a wedding or whatever and share the goodies with them i hope this helps sorry i have no photos

    1. Hi Tony, thank you so much for taking the time to message me. I’m learning a little more about this beautiful old place, bit by bit. In fact, I just had a message from a gentleman (from Malta, I think) who shared some history about the Savoy Hotel – he used to stay there in the 1960’s, and the tariff was 10 shillings! I wish I could have seen the hotel in its heyday. Again, thank you. Take care, all the best, Helen 🙂

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