Il-Monti is the Maltese name for a flea market area, something that Valletta was very well-known for in past years. The Monti in Valletta has a very chequered history, not least because it changed locations multiple times.
Although there are various flea markets held around the island, Valletta’s Monti was considered special both because it was the biggest and because it operated on a daily basis, rather than on the weekend only. Until the late 80s, the weekday Monti in Valletta was held on St John Square, with the hawkers moving to an even bigger version at the City Gate Bus Terminus on Sundays.
This Sunday market was the one that attracted people from all over the island, whether to sell or buy. The best part of the experience was the hunting for unexpected treasures and used items, whether a first-edition comic book or an antique lampshade. Haggling was not only acceptable, it was expected, and the Sunday Monti provided quite the day’s outing for a number of families.
Sadly, the passage of time was not kind to hawkers and demand dwindled so much that nowadays the stalls are more of a glorified bazaar, selling various bric-a-brac. The weekday market has been squeezed in Ordnance Street, a few metres away from the Opera House and Parliament Square. The Sunday Monti, on the other hand, has been relegated to the Park & Ride area outside of Valletta.
But why is it called the Monti?
Good question, mostly because the word ‘Monti’ does not actually mean anything in Maltese. The word for market is, in fact, is-suq. The Valletta market became known as the Monti through a corruption of words. When the market was located on Merchants’ Street, most hawkers set up in the area where there was the Monti di Pieta, a charitable institution that used to lend money to those in need without charging interest. Thus, the vernacular evolved into referring to the adjacent market as the Monti, rather than by its proper Maltese name – is-suq.