Early during the 19th century, Sir Agostino Portelli, founder of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, decided to build his villa in Kalkara. His decision stemmed from the insecurity he felt at his home in Valletta after the French blockade of 1798. During the Second World War the villa became the residence of the Malta Flag Officer, while in 1961 it was taken over by Admiral Sir Douglas Eric Holland-Martin as his official residence instead of the previous one in South Street, Valletta.
The main features of this villa were the large gardens that reached to the sea on one side, while on the other side a beautiful terrace overlooking Villa Bighi. On 30th January 1979 this building became property of the Maltese Government. Although this villa was neglected for various years, today it serves as the Maritime Institute of Malta.