Casa Rocca Piccola, in the old walled capital city of Malta, Valletta, is the private home of the De Piro family, currently headed by Nicholas de Piro, 9th Baron of Budach, and 9th Marquis de Piro. Built in the 16th Century, the Palace has belonged to the De Piro family for over 200 years.
The palace reflects the family’s long ownership; original 16th century architectural features are mixed with styles that range from Palladium to Art Nouveau to a cistern converted into a bomb shelter during the Second World War. The array of eras and styles reflects Malta’s long history under many flags and nations. Over the centuries the family has collected, along with original Maltese furniture and decorative arts, the Gothic, Florentine, and Empire styles. One room is decorated with what is traditionally believed to be panels from a ship belonging to Grand Master Lascaris from the early 17th century.
Besides the many paintings of Popes, Cardinals, European nobility and family portraits, there can be found paintings by Pre-Raphaelite Giuseppe Cali, (the current marquis great-grandfather), and Art Deco artist Doris Zinkeisen as well as portraits of Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
The (guided only) tour covers a majority of the 50 rooms in the palace. Besides the trompe l’oeil paintings that adorn several walls, the Bohemian crystal, Venetian glass chandeliers and Carrara marble sculptures, there are the collections of the palace, which include silver, Christmas ornaments, religious artifacts, early medical instruments, and a collection of chess sets, (one by Lalique).
The Archives and the Library are invaluable repositories of Maltese history, covering almost 300 years. New to the palace is the costume museum, with artifacts from the early 18th century. Tours can be booked online, but, when in Valletta, it is best to call ahead to see if the Marquis himself will be giving a tour.
His personal stories, recollections and witty commentary make the tour a truly unique experience. He has been known to open a cabinet presenting a 17th century child’s baptismal gown, worn by an ancestor, as well as recounting a near disaster involving Senator John McCain’s mother.