Culture
Did you know? Maltese Luzzus are painted differently to indicate their origins
A boat with a long history of tradition.

Emma Galea

The luzzu is, without a doubt, one of the most recognisable symbols of Maltese culture – but what are this colourful vessel’s origins?

This boat’s roots can be traced back to the time when the Knights of St John ruled over Malta, having developed from another traditional Maltese boat called a firilla.

This is, more or less, the same type of boat that transports people from Birgu to Valletta.

Eventually, in the 19th century, local fisherman started using the firilla to catch fish before bringing it on land for Maltese people to enjoy.

By the turn of the 20th century, the luzzu had become a fully-fledged concept, and could be frequently spotted sailing the Maltese seas.

Apart from drawing inspiration from the firilla, the luzzu was also derived from the Sicilian boat known as guzzu, which even influenced its name.

Originally, fisherman used oars and sails to propel their luzzus, however most of the ones you spot nowadays are equipped with diesel engines.

It’s safe to say that the one thing that sets the luzzu apart from any other marine vessel is its vibrant colours.

The vivid red, yellow, blue, and green colours that adorn the luzzu symbolise the land, the sun, the sea, and the green fields.

That being said, every fisherman’s luzzu is painted in a slightly different manner.

In this photo, uploaded by the Zurrieq and its surroundings Facebook page, one can see how the luzzus have their first stripe painted yellow.

This indicates that the vessels are from the South of Malta.

If on the other hand they had a white stripe painted on top, this meant that they were from the North of Malta.

According to a study in 2016 by Professor Anthony Aquilina, the colour of the moustache painted at the front of the boat also further indicated where the luzzu originated from.

For example, a red moustache indicated that the boat came from Saint Paul’s Bay, whilst a yellow moustache signalled that the luzzu originated from Msida or Saint Julians.

If the moustache was painted black, that meant that the fisherman was going through a period of mourning.

2nd March 2024


Emma Galea
Written by
Emma Galea
Emma is a Gozitan writer who loves all things related to English literature and history. When not busy studying or writing you will either find her immersed in a fictional book or at the cinema trying to watch as many films as she possibly can!

You may also like...
Culture

Jillian Mallia
Culture
Culture
There are only six cinemas around Malta and Gozo nowadays.

Benjamin Abela
Culture
Culture
The show was produced by the Malta Television Service.

Emma Galea
Culture
Culture
Many of the church’s prized possessions were also lost.

Emma Galea
Culture
Culture
A different Malta from the one we’re used to today.

Emma Galea