in a typical Lija piazza at the end of a narrow lane is “Villa Parisio”,
the seat of the Strickland foundation and the former residence of the Hon.
Mabel Strickland. It was her home from 1943 until her death in 1988. The
residence has a 450 year old history, originally belonged to the Muscati
family of Lija, and the first documentation of the Villa dated back to
1567, when Simone Muscati married Margherita Giugale and the Villa was
used as their country home. Their town residence was Palazzo Parisio in
, today occupied by the Foreign Ministry; whilst the two properties formed
part of their Estates. In 1702 The Noble Emmanuele Muscati married
Margherita Sciberras, and the Villa and Olive grove were mentioned in an
inventory of the family Estate.
the Estate was divided between their children and Villa Parisio went to
their son Don Paulo Muscati, he later married the Noble Caterina Bonici in
1735 and their only child Donna Anna Muscati became sole heiress to the
Estate. On October 13th 1760 she married Don Domenico Parisio,
the eldest son of an impoverished but Noble Italian family from Reggio
Calabria, where they lived for a number of years. The marriage proved to
be an unhappy one, so she left her husband and took the youngest of their
5 children, Paolo, who had been born in
, to live at Villa Parisio. Donna Anna died in 1797 and Paolo , a knight
of the SMOM inherited the Villa and married his 2nd cousin,
Baroness Muscati Xara. Unfortunately they had no surviving children and
upon the death of Paolo, Baroness inherited the Villa, which on her death
passed on to her second husband Baron Joseph de Piro – thus ending the
Villa remained in the de Piro family until the beginning of the 20th
century, after which it changed hands several times. Mabel Strickland
acquired it from her step mother in 1943, The Villa had beautiful high
ceilings, with some exceptional antique’s, including paintings of
various members of the family, who had owned and resided in the Villa.
Strickland foundation was set up by Mabel Strickland, by public deed in
1979 and the Chairman of the council of Administration is no other than
the Emeritus Profs. Guido de Marco, BA,
LL.D, K.M, KUOM who was her trusted friend and legal advisor.
(Reproduced by kind permission of the Strickland Foundation and the
British Resident's Assoc. Magazine http://www.britishresidentsinmalta.org
important Maltese palaces, both having the same name, Palazzo Parisio,
one in Naxxar, the other in Valletta, are currently being restored.
Apart from the two palaces, a third building with the Parisio name exists,
this being the Villa Parisio in Lija as mentioned above.
The three buildings, which once belonged to the same family, today play
very different roles: the one in Merchants Street, Valletta, is the
foreign office; the Naxxar building, opposite the parish church, is a
stately family home opened for public viewing and used as a wedding
reception hall, and the villa is the seat of the Strickland Foundation,
the beneficiary of the majority shareholding in Allied Newspapers Ltd.
At present the foreign ministry building is having its exterior restored,
while at the Naxxar palace, restoration works are also underway,
particularly on the gold bedecked ballroom ceiling.
The three buildings were the main and summer homes of the Parisios,
Sicilian gentry who married into the Maltese nobility but did not leave
direct heirs. Their main house in Valletta even hosted Napoleon during his
short-lived residence in Malta in 1798.
The history of the two palaces goes back nearly 300 years. According to
the writings of Victor Denaro in Scientia, the site on which the present
palace was built was originally occupied by two houses which were
demolished and the new palace in Valletta erected with its simple but
elegant architecture. When owner Bishop Sceberras died in 1744, the
property passed on to his sister Donna Margherita Muscati and it was her
granddaughter, Anna Muscati, who on October 13, 1760 married the penniless
Cavalier Don Domenico Parisio of Reggio Calabria.
The noble house of Parisio, finding itself beset by enormous debts, had
cast an eye on Donna Anna Muscati, heiress to a large fortune and one of
the prominent ladies of Valletta.
Cavalier Don Domenico Parisio came to Malta to woo her and often spoke of
the large property which his family was supposed to possess, but no
mention was ever made of the huge debts. Donna Anna agreed to marry
Cavalier Domenico and brought with her a dowry of 80,000 Maltese scudi.
She was persuaded by her husband that, for a short while, they would have
to live with his father at Reggio until the Messina residence was ready.
On arriving at Reggio, however, the newly wedded bride saw for herself the
true state of her husband's family fortune.
The newly married couple suffered continuous importunities from the family
creditors. At one time the bride had to pawn her own jewellery and her
husband asked her to return the jewellery which he had given her as a
wedding gift because they were borrowed and were being reclaimed by their
Reggio's climate seriously affected Donna Anna's health and on three
occasions she was forced to return to Malta. On her third visit in 1774
she was prohibited by her physicians from returning to her husband's
native land. The marriage was an unhappy one and eventually Donna Anna
left her husband and four of her children to return to Malta with her
youngest child Paolo at Villa Parisio in Lija. The villa was considered
the families' main summer residence because of the ample country side used
for hunting. It was at this time that the Naxxar palace was acquired by
the Marquis Giuseppi Scicluna, a philanthropist and banker whose summer
residence was the Dragonara palace.
Donna Anna died in 1797 and Villa Parisio was inherited by Paolo, who had
by then been made a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In
the same year, Paolo Parisio married his 14-year old noble bride, the
Baroness of Benwarrad Antonia Muscati Xara. The couple, however, were
unable to produce an heir for their extensive inheritance. No children of
the marriage survived and the baroness, Paolo Parisio's wife remarried
after his death on December 10, 1841, at the age of 65.
Her second husband was Sir Joseph de Piro, Baron of Budak who became the
universal heir on her death in 1856. The property passed to the De Piro
family and remained in their ownership until the 1900s when the estate was
divided and sold. On Sir Paolo Parisio's death, the Valletta palace passed
through several hands until it was taken over by the government in 1887
for use as a General Post Office. The top storey of Palazzo Parisio was
completed after the first World War to house the Audit Office. During the
Second World War, the Valletta palace was partly destroyed through enemy
action, and in the repairs that followed, the exterior was left unaltered,
though it was not possible to restore the decorations on the walls and
ceilings. The Scicluna contribution to the Naxxar palace was formidable
and it was upgraded from a pleasant noble country house to a flamboyant
regal residence. The works to transform the house were started in 1898 and
were completed eight years later. The Marquis Scicluna established himself
in the Palace in 1906 and died in 1907, leaving a six-year-old child as
his only heir. The child, who later became Marquis John Scicluna, was
known as 'The Cisk'.
His two daughters, Corinne Ramsay Scicluna, 10th Baroness of Tabria, and
Mignon Marshall, own the palace today. His granddaughter, Christiane
Ramsay Scicluna, is the driving force behind the current restoration and
marketing activities, strongly supported by his grandson, Marcus Marshall.
Villa Parisio Lija changed hands several times until the Hon. Mabel
Strickland acquired it and used it as her residence until her death in
(Reproduced by kind permission of Count
Charles Said Vassallo and the Maltagenealogy.com)