Explore traditional fishing techniques at the Tunnara Museum

The Tunnara Museum in Mellieħa is one of those easy-to-miss places of interest, that are actually really worth a visit as it explores one of our Islands’ lesser-known customs, that of the mattanza.
Photo: TripAdvisor

We all know that the village of Mellieħa is home to some of Malta’s most beautiful stretches of sandy beaches, so it would make sense for it to also be home to one of our more unique, if lesser-known, museums dedicated to a traditional fishing technique.

The Tunnara Museum is located inside the Mellieħa Bay Battery, which some of you may know by its other names, which are ir-Rasus Battery or the Mellieħa Right Battery. This was a fort built by the Knights of the Order of St John between 1715 and 1716, a date which sits round about the middle of the stretch of time the museum covers.

See, the Tunnara Museum is dedicated to the mattanza, a tuna fishing technique that sees fishers trap tuna in large nets to exhaust them before pulling them out of the sea. This technique is quite localised to the Mediterranean and is believed to date back to the Phoenicians. 

Over the years, the mattanza, which is Italian for ‘slaughter’, became popular across Sicily, south Italy, Sardinia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal and, of course, our very own islands. The museum explores this tradition from the Middle Ages all the way to the present day through a series of original artefacts used in this fishing method, as well as others related to the history of the building. 

Having said that, we should also give you a word of warning. This museum is rather small, and the opening hours are rather sporadic. We’ll forgive them that, however, especially since it’s run by a group of volunteers who go above and beyond their duty to offer visitors a worthy attraction when open. So, our advice is, if you’re in the Mellieħa area, pop round to visit!

The Tunnara Museum’s current opening hours, as listed by Visit Malta, are Mon, Tue, Fri, 10am-12pm; and Wed, Thurs, Sat 2.30-5pm. Opening times may vary. To read other Sunday Circle magazine features check out this piece about the Zabbar Sanctuary Museum.

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