When Friends of the Earth Malta Executive Director Martin Galea De Giovanni stumbled upon Comino’s old bakery sometime in the 1990s, he dreamed of one day being able to turn it into an interpretation centre for the island.

The building is surrounded by unspoiled nature and boasts lovely limestone walls and impressive arches.

The bakery’s original oven is still intact, too.

The bakery's original oven 

Unfortunately, the rest of the building has suffered from decades of neglect. Ceilings have caved in, windows and doors are missing, and it has suffered acts of vandalism.

It has been 30 years since the idea first formed, and the time has finally come to turn the dream into reality.

With planning permission for the renovation in hand, along with a guardianship agreement, everything is in place for the nature reserve to have its own environmentally friendly community centre which is entirely not-for-profit. 

A section of the building

The environmental organisation is therefore inviting individuals and companies alike to be part of the ambitious and long-awaited project, with a number of tiers available in their new crowdfunding campaign hosted by the local platform Zaar.

If successful, the money raised will be used to secure the site with windows, doors and basic security in order to prevent more vandalism, install essential facilities, including a simple bathroom, and supply some areas of the building with electricity, as well as clean up the area from the rubble and rubbish left by passers-by.

These improvements will allow FoEM to turn the old bakery into a community centre equipped with basic hosting facilities, space for informal workshops and a space to immerse in nature.

But who are the people behind this initiative?

Mr Galea De Giovanni is described as “the brains behind the project”.

Martin Galea De Giovanni

His involvement in Friends of the Earth Malta started in 2001, when he joined as a volunteer and eventually became the organisation’s director in 2015, finally finding a platform for his dream.

“Most people spend all their time at the Blue Lagoon and have no idea of the true natural qualities and rich cultural heritage which this tiny island has to offer,” he says - a problem he believes can be solved with this restoration exercise.

Maria Eileen Fsadni, an art historian by training, is FoEM’s communications coordinator, and is in love with Malta’s rich cultural heritage.

In fact, she’s worked in some of Malta’s leading museums and heritage NGOs over the past 8 years, and has gained lots of experience in cultural interpretation.

Maria Eileen Fsadni

Ms Fsadni says that when she is not roaming the halls of a museum, she’s probably “rummaging through a flea market to snag some of your Nanna’s old knick-knacks”.

She describes herself as a lover of all things beautiful, and enjoys interior designing with sustainability in mind during her spare time.

"We’ve spoken to so many people who have no clue that a bakery even exists in Comino, which is a great pity,” she says. “It’s a beautiful building which used to serve bread to the community back in the island’s heyday.”

Michelangelo Galea, a “jack of all trades and a master of some”, is FoEM’s go-to handyman at its green resource centre and community garden in Floriana.

Michelangelo Galea

Mr Galea has a wealth of experience managing renovation and building projects. He also comes equipped with the patience (and the know-how) to deal with all the tradespeople.

“In the run up to this campaign, he’s been busy collecting quotes from carpenters, and plumbers. Those of you who have done up a property can absolutely relate, Michelangelo is essential to the team.”

Mr Galea says he has experienced people’s hunger to learn about how they can care for the environment first hand at the organisation’s Floriana community garden, and believes that “the old bakery in Comino is the perfect place to do it.”

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Written By

Robert Fenech

Robert is curious about the connections that make the world work, and takes a particular interest in the confluence of economy, environment and justice. He can also be found moonlighting as a butler for his big black cat.