Hunting was one of the Knights’ favourite hobbies. When the Knights arrived in Malta in 1530 there was practically nowhere for them to practice this sport. They therefore decided to reserve areas where they could hunt. One of these areas was on the peninsula which is today known as Senglea. The first church which was built in Senglea was dedicated to Saint Julian who is the patron saint of hunters. However, over time this peninsula was developed into a city by Grand Master de La Sengle. Grand Master La Valette also enjoyed hunting which is why he built a hunting lodge where today we find Verdala Palace and planted trees in the area called Boschetto. It is said that it was here that Grand Master La Valette got a sunstroke which led to his untimely death. In 1586 Grand Master de Verdalle acquired the land from the Bishop on which he built a palace to use as his summer residence. The Grand Master continued to plant trees and extended Boschetto. Animals such as foxes and deer where imported into Malta and left to roam the forest so that the Grand Master and his friends could hunt them. If any Maltese were caught hunting in Boschetto they would suffer harsh fines and thus no one dared break the law.
The Palace which was built during the time of Grand Master de Verdalle was much simpler than it is today. Verdala Palace was designed by Girolamo Cassar, a Maltese architect mostly known for the design of many buildings in the capital Valletta. Verdala Palace was built on one floor and the first floor was built at a later date. Grand Master de Verdalle wanted the palace to be adorned to the highest standards. It is here that we find a beautiful paining, which is the work of Fillopo Paladini which depicts episodes from the life of Grand Master de Verdalle especially when he was named Cardinal. In the main hall are oil paintings of mythological scenes and a number of beautiful designs. Grand Master Lascaris enlarged Boschetto by planting more trees. Hunting kept on being practiced in this forest and more animals were added. Grand Master Manoel De Vilhena built the first floor of this palace, and added fountains and ponds. These embelishments gave the palace a more aristocratic character. De Vilhena also built another holiday home closer to Valletta. This palace is situated in St Venera and he no longer frequented Verdala Palace as much. Towards the end of the reign of the Order in Malta this palace was abandoned.
During the French Blockade, the Palace served as a military prison for French soldiers. At the beginning of the British rule this palace was derelict and was used as a silk factory, as this industry was flourishing at that time in Malta. For many years it was abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair. After the Second World War in 1946 prior to its restoration, it was used as a temporal minor hospital. For this reason the interior was painted white, covering all the murals. It was after 1975 that this palace was given back its dignity and restored to its former glory, to be used as a residence for official guests of the Government of Malta. In 1980 the Museums Department started restoring the paintings in the main hall. In 2003 the Malta Heritage restoration centre in Bighi stared extensive work to restore these painting. This work has restored the palace to its former beauty. This restoration confirmed that between 1910 and 1912 the Maltese artist Giuseppe Cali had done some restoration work on this painting.
An interesting story linked to this palace is that of the famous “Blue Lady” who is said to roam the rooms and turrets of the palace. The story goes that this lady was kept here against her will and on trying to escape through a window fell to her death. Soon after she was seen roaming the building wearing a blue dress, the same dress she had worn when she died. This is only a legend, however many people do confirm that she does indeed appear in the palace wearing a blue dress.