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The Italian Cultural Institute was founded in February 1971. It was housed temporarily at the Embassy of Italy until 1974 although it was quite active from its inception. The Embassy’s Cultural Attaché is also the Director of the Institute.

In 1974, the Institute was transferred to its current seat in Valletta. The building, built in 1602 by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, was originally used as an armoury. Later on, the documents of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta were transferred there and it consequently adopted the name and functions of the Order’s Chancellery. The mural plaque at the entrance to the building recalls the work undertaken by Grand Master Wignacourt in finding a place for the Order’s arms and official records.

The building was subsequently adapted during the Chancellorship of Manoel de Vilhena who later became Grand Master. The main Hall bears his coat of arms as well as that of another Grand Master, the Portuguese Pinto who was the fourth from the last to occupy this dignity before Napoleon expelled the Order from Malta.

The ceiling’s frescoes are the work of Nicolò Nasoni, a painter from Siena, who stayed in Malta from 1723 to 1725.

Other works by Nasoni may be seen at the Magistral Palace in Valletta, seat of Parliament and of the Presidency of the Republic, in the Vestibule of the Auberge de Provence, which currently hosts the National Museum of Archaeology, at the Palaces of Verdala and San Anton, the residences of the President of the Republic and in the Grand Masters’ Crypt within St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

During the colonial period, part of the building housed the Governor’s Personal Guards whilst the other part housed the garrisons’ Library. Therefore, the building’s tradition as a cultural centre dates from this period. Following Independence, it became the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Commonwealth.

This is the part of the building which was assigned to the Italian Cultural Institute. During the last thirty years, the Institute has been the symbol of Italian culture in the Maltese Islands – a culture whose roots run deep. The Institute promotes events such as exhibitions, concerts, plays and conferences. It has also been responsible for the establishment of a network linking Malta’s University and study and research centres with Italian universities, state organisations and institutions.