93km south of Sicily and 288km north of Africa sunny Malta is a little bit of Britain with red telephone boxes, sub post offices, and vehicles driving on the left. Everybody on Malta speaks some English but the locals quickly change to Malti (an Arab based language that sounds like a cross between Russian and Arabic) when speaking to each other. Malta has embraced Europe, having joined the EU on 1st May 2004, and has adopted the Euro, introduced at the beginning of 2008.
Visitors from all over Europe flock to this tiny island measuring just 30 kms by 6 kms. They are drawn by guaranteed summer sun, historic monuments and sandy beaches.
A Turbulent History
The Maltese seem to have forgiven the Italians who started bombing the Island in 1940 and, who were, together with the Germans, responsible for twice as many bombs being dropped on Malta as were dropped on London at the height of the Blitz.
Nowadays, the Italian influence is almost as apparent as the British one with pizza restaurants everywhere and numerous Italian TV channels in every home and hotel.
Valletta – The Knights City
A visit to the historic city and capital, Valletta is a must. Known as the knight’s city after the Knights of St John who dominated the islands history from 1091 to 1291, Valletta is a living work of art.
St Johns Co-Cathedral has an austere and plain façade that belies a truly magnificent and ornate interior. The church features a barrelled roof with many chapels on either side of the main chamber. The walls are richly decorated and the floor is marble and contains some 400 tombs.
Eddies café just off Republic Street and close to the Cathedral has a very wide and cosmopolitan choice of food and drink and there are even some traditional Maltese dishes hidden away on the menu.
Mdina – the ‘Silent City’
Mdina is the ancient capital of Malta and is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the world. Outside the city gate there is always a line of Karozzin , Maltese carriages for hire. Visitors can choose one of these to ride in or can stroll around and marvel at one historic and beautifully preserved building after another. The whole ‘city’ is one big monument but this is not just a place for tourists – ordinary life goes on here too even though many locals have sold up their properties for exorbitant prices and moved out of the city.
Malta is not for everyone. The roads, even the so called main roads, are in a terrible condition and some of the towns and villages look a bit uncared for. Even so, Malta has lots of interesting historic monumnets, some good sandy beaches and guaranteed summer sun.
Travel – Flights are available with Ryanair , Air Malta and a number of other airlines.
Accommodation – The Pergola Club Hotel and Spa in the town of Mellieha on the North West coast offers apartments and rooms.
Getting around – Car hire is available throughout Malta and the local buses are cheap and frequent but often overcrowded.
Eating Out – Malta is not renowned for its cuisine! Pizza and pasta restaurants abound and finding traditional Maltese food is very difficult. However, the local wine is worth a try and is good value as is Cisk, the local lager.