Merħba lill Malta. Welcome to Malta
Morning wind blows, the breeze tickles my cheeks and wakes me up. I go for a walk on the promenade and looking for a place to have breakfast. All cafés are still closed, but luckily I meet a young waiter setting the bar and he serves me anyway, smiling all the time. In the end, he doesn’t even make me pay. I realise I probably have the terrific face of who is really desperate for some caffeine. I continue walking, the hot cappuccino in my hands and a timid smile on my face. Malta sounds good. Shy sunbeams try to get some space between the purple clouds and the dark blue sea, and silver rays meet the wavelets. They are like saying “hey, it could be a beautiful day!”. I stretch my back and arms, like awaking from a fairy dream. Is there any better way to start the day?
There are plenty of reasons why you should consider visiting Malta in 2017, here you find some:
- Waking up in a mild November day
On a surface of only 316 sq km, Malta had everything a country needs. The tiny island is a year round destination. If summer is the best time for a dip in its crystal sea, in fall it is easy to find good hotel deals and cheap flights.
I really appreciated the mild fall weather: windy and stormy early mornings and warm sunny afternoons. When I was there, in mid November, diving centres were still working (I found out Malta offers amazing wrecks and caves dives opportunities) and it was still enjoyable to have a cup of tea seated outside the cafés.
Having visited the island in fall, I left beaches for my next visit and focused on historical sights and the hinterland, taking advantage from shorter lines to museums and churches, less crowded buses and less busy restaurants and pubs, where I easily started conversation with locals (Maltese are among the most friendly and handy Europeans I ever met).
- Explore the modern, old city of Valletta
What is modernity for you? A skyscraper?
The latest smartphone model? On board ultimate technology?
I believe its meaning is far away from this.
If you say “modernity”, the first word that comes to my mind, eyes closed, is “boat”. One of the oldest thing ever invented, but still fascinating and able to surprise, facing the storm, adjusting its sail and heading to new horizons..
Valletta, the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen. That’s how it’s called.
Walking literally up and down her alleyways (get ready for a lot of stairs!), what jumped out at me was the captivating duality of her soul: once upon a time a fortress defending Christendom and last European bastion, nowadays a great example of openness to others. By one hand, you can feel her genuine attachment to the history and the traditions, that seeps from each single old door and stone; by the other hand she will surprise you for the warm welcome she saves for every stranger. Valletta is like the daughter that every mum and dad wish to have. Grown up keeping her feet on the ground of a flourishing past, she is able to look well further it and accepts diversity of its cosmopolitan inhabitants.
Valletta represents the perfect balance between holding on and letting go.
Here, history and traditions act as springboard for a brilliant future, not as hindrance.
Valletta knows you can’t have future if you disown your past and roots but still she believes you can’t have it, if you do not accept changes as well. I think Valletta is one of “big” European cities of the 21st century: a great modern attitude on in a tiny, lovely and old city.
A visit to the Saint John co-cathedral deserves a couple of hours of your time. The “Beheading of St. John the Baptist”, the famous masterpiece by Caravaggio and his largest canvas, is conserved in the oratory.
Moreover, now that Valletta has been nominated European capital of Culture 2018, I believe interesting events are going to happen on this island full modernity & poetry within the next few years. Stay tuned!
- Meet the Malteses, a gentle community (..and a melting pot!)
Maltese is an intriguing language: it has a mix of everything, from English words to Arabic ones, with French and Italian influences as well. As their language, so is their attitude: open to strangers.
An old lady who does not speak a word of English, giving me indications talking in the universal language of “hands & smiles”. A fisherman patiently staring at the sea in an early windy morning. The taxi driver in Gozo who had never left his island, showing me a little hidden church on the road to Azure window.
Maltese are among the most friendly and handy Europeans I ever met. That impressed me, because I was expecting a more restricted mentality due to being on a tiny island; once more, travelling kills prejudice.
And is probably thanks to the Malteses openness to others, that a consistent part of the community is today coming from abroad. It is easy to feel welcomed here, it is easy to call Malta home.
Students from abroad come here at any season to attend English classes. Many foreigners have moved here for working and for a better environment or weather.
During winter time, Malta is also a popular destination among retirees, especially from U.K. & Northern Europe, who spend sometimes the whole season on the island benefitting from good weather, cheap cost of life, together with short haul flights and the marked British imprint of its habits (due to 150 years domination).
- Enter the house of Popeye!
Are you big fans of Popeye? Well then you should not miss a visit at his hometown, the Popeye village, few minutes away from the northern city Mellieha by bus.
As you can guess by the name, it is the reproduction of the fishing village of the cartoon, used as set of the famous musical production “Popeye”, in 1979. The view from the walkway along the coast is even more beautiful because of the contrast between the orange sand, the colourful wooden houses and the crystal azure sea.
- Understand that Malta is NOT Gozo
I think Gozo is to Malta what Ireland is to Great Britain.
Commonly assembled in our minds, still they’re deeply linked but so, so different. Although they do not want to get mixed up between each other, still they can’t get released from the string that holds them closed.
I did not plan anything for my day trip to Gozo, apart from a visit to Azure Window, the famous rock located on the western coast with shape of an arch, a masterpiece by natural elements created during centuries that gives you the idea of being watching the sea from a fantastic window. Because different points of view always lead to different views of things.
What surprised me most about Gozo, it was the marvellous Citadella of Rabat.
The fortification of Citadella, an UNESCO heritage site, is entrance free and you can walk all around the wall, looking at the green fields and e surroundings from what was in the past a defence against enemies.
Things changed much today, and Gozo is a peaceful countryside, where many inhabitants have never left the island in their lifetime, like the old taxi driver who took me to Azure window showing me proudly all the old churches and village on the way.
The corners of Dice
The #cornersofdice are those places I got under my skin, for some reasons.
They are the places where I’ve intentionally left a piece of my gypsy hippy soul,
so that I will always have a good excuse to be back.
Lower Barranka Gardens. Less crowded and more intimate than the Upper ones, are perfect for few minutes of relax. The wow view on Valletta and Vittoriosa made me feel at the gate of Europe. I spent almost an hour sitting here, finding it was the ideal spot for clearing my mind up.
Ta’ Kolina Restaurant. I believe in food therapy. For me, tasting and discovering new flavours it is one of the most gratifying experiences in travel. Ta’ Kolina is a small family run Maltese restaurant, located in Sliema and open since 1974. As I stepped in, I immediately felt in love with its typical furniture in wood, the inviting smells of cooking and the friendly environment. Julian and Roberto run this family restaurant with great passion and serve delicious traditional Maltese dishes.
My favourite one was the savoury seafood, cooked with olives and cherry tomatoes.
Ta’ Kolina is one of those places where I got the feeling I could let my hair down, and where dishes are prepared with an secret extra ingredient: love.
Sunset at Vittoriosa harbour.
Entering the delicious harbour of Vittoriosa I felt safe, I felt home. Like nothing could hurt me. You know what I mean. I imagined a sailor who has been surprised by a storm out at sea, but still succeeded to adjust the sails and made his way to this tiny, hidden, marvellous harbour.
Safe, finally.Home. Warm. Family. Nothing to fear and everything to be thankful for.
I was easy falling in love with Vittoriosa, its promenade, its maze of crooked lanes and its adorable pastel houses.
? Have you ever been to Malta? Which are your favourite places?
I would love to go back in the summer for some good tan and snorkelling.
Did you ever dive in Malta and which are your advices about spots and dive centers there?
Comment below ? or share using #GOWITHDICE?