The Story Behind Our Name

The story behind the names of our properties is as vibrant as the history of the valley which surrounds them.

This area of Gozo is known as Pergla, a fertile valley leading to the bay of Ghajn Barrani – Foreigner’s Spring. The valley and the bay it leads to are the subject of many legends, the most popular of which places the Turkish corsair Dragut as its protagonist.  The legend goes that, at the height of summer, Dragut was sailing in his galley close to the shoreline from where he spotted a bountiful vineyard. He craved for a bunch of grapes and a slave offered to climb the cliffs and get some. Upon arriving, the slave found an armed farmer waiting for him and, fearing for his life, quickly grabbed a bunch and ran back to the galley. Unknowingly, together with the grapes, the slave had pulled a branch from the vine. Dragut was furious. According to the holy Koran, the vine is a holy plant and anyone who extirpates it must be punished. The slave was taken ashore and burnt alive under the rock in the middle of the plateau. To this day, this boulder is known as il-Gebla ta Dragut, Dragut’s Rock.

The name Pergola was bestowed upon our most sought-after villa: perched directly above the valley, it provides a magnificent vista of the valley, the bay and the stories which shaped it.

In the sixteenth century, Malta was governed by the Knights of St John. The Knights were in permanent conflict with the Ottoman Empire and both sides held countless slaves. Our family name, Sultana, owes its origins to these turbulent times. The first Sultana was in fact Solimano bin Musa, a younger son of an Amir or Bey from Karaman, Turkey. He was captured by the Knights and held as slave under several Grand Masters, first in Rhodes and then in Malta. In 1539, Grand Master de Homedes freed Solimano with great diligence, with a condition that he serves another six years. Upon release, the Grand Master granted him lands in Xaghra in return for services rendered. Together with his wife, also an ex-slave from Turkey, he became Christian upon baptism, adopting the name Saverio Sultana.

Our Villa Homedes is a tribute to the Grand Master who freed our ancestors.

In 1587, the surname Sultana was almost lost. Solimano’s (aka Saverio) son only had one daughter. Maria Soltana married Antonio Micallef and their only daughter, Guilia, was bestowed both her mother’s and father’s last name. When Giulia married Nicola Savona, part of her inheritance included the lands given to her great grandfather but, to further the legacy given by Grand Master de Homedes, her husband had to take on her surname.

Villa Savona remembers Nicola.

In 1712, Valenzia Sultana became a mother to Giovanni Pietro Francesco Agius. Giovanni chose to add to his name a Latinized version of his mother’s surname. Today, he is widely known as De Soldanis, a linguist, historian and cleric who wrote the first lexicon of the Maltese language. He published his works in Rome, Naples, Venice and Avignon. His publication on the Conspiracy of the Slaves that had taken place two years earlier, and in which he attacked the Order of St John and argued for the rights of the Maltese, got him in trouble with the Grandmaster of the time. De Soldanis had to travel to Rome to defend himself in front of Pope Benedict XIV. In 1763, after travelling widely, De Soldanis became the first librarian of what is today the National Library of Malta.

Villa Soldanis proudly carries our name and pays homage to a scholar who left a significant imprint on Malta’s literary history.