Malta has been one of the most beautiful discoveries of recent travels.
I had always heard of it, especially during my high school years when some school friends spent their study holidays there, but I never particularly considered it as a destination for my holidays.
I discovered it for the first time a couple of years ago, during fall, a season in which here in Italy you already wear socks and closed shoes, medium weight jackets and often rain.
With that trip I was thrown into a completely summery climate, in which to wear t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. This was the first aspect that made me appreciate Malta, the second is that is so close to us [2 hours flight from Milan] that it can be considered for a long weekend or a week of vacation in search of heat.
It must be said that Malta is made up of two large islands, Malta and Gozo, and some smaller ones including Comino. On both major islands there are particular and fascinating places to visit.
Here you can find the 10 places to visit on the island of Malta. Today let’s dwell on the island of Malta itself … Gozo will have a bet to itself.
1. Valletta downtown
The Capital of Malta is undoubtedly a “must see”.
My advice is to start with a walk, to become familiar, to let oneself be inspired by its central streets full of busy people and bounded by beautiful baroque, neoclassical or modern buildings that attract attention for the protruding and often very colorful closed balconies .
Let yourself be attracted by the scents that come from the pastizzerie and nibble one or two pastizzi (I prefer ricotta’s ones) while you watch the bustle of people, the shop windows, or the work of Renzo Piano, that is the modern stone facade of the New Parliament located at the beginning of the main street.
2. Lower Barrakka Gardens – Valletta
To rest and enjoy a quiet moment, head to the Lower Barrakka Gardens, which are not far from Parliament and overlook the harbor and the three twin cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. Here every day, at 12, some cannon shots are fired. The view from the porch at the top of the gardens is a good point to capture the light of sunset.
3. St John’s Co-cathedral
Do not leave Valletta without entering the apotheosis of the baroque and the pomp of the Knights of Malta. St John’s Co-cathedral, located in the center of the city, is worth a visit of at least an hour, to admire the chapels of the various languages of the order, the tombs of the knights of Malta and a fabulous painting by Caravaggio kept in the oratory.
This beautiful medieval city, enclosed by walls and reachable through a bridge that passes over the moat, was the capital of the island until 1530.
Here too one can get lost in the narrow streets, mostly pedestrian. admiring the palaces and churches, in Baroque or Norman style.
Among these palaces built by the Spanish, Sicilian or English nobility, the Fasson Palace is one of those that deserves a visit. One of the oldest in Mdina, it still retains some original furnishings and several historical artifacts collected by the last owner of the building, Captain Gollcher.
5. Blue Grotto, Qrendi
Along the south coast of the island the Blue Grotto is a must see. There are boat tours almost every day (especially in summer) that lead inside these marine caves to admire the reflection of the water hit by the rays of the sun that illuminates them with a particular light.
You can’t miss this fishing village on your island tour. Try to visit it on Sunday morning, when the famous fish market takes place: you will be fascinated by the exposed fish and the folklore of the market itself. There are several waterfront restaurants that serve fish: be careful because many are tourist traps, but some are really remarkable. We tried the Tartarun Restaurant and had a great time!
7. Paceville, St Julian
This is the most touristic area and one of the most frequented by kids who spend their study holidays here to learn English. It is the area where the major international hotels, the Hard Rock Café and the trendy clubs are located. The road that goes from the center to Sliema is full of discos, pubs and night clubs. Walking in the evening can be folkloric, if you love loud music, lights and spirits and what you need.
8. Sliema, St Julian
Sliema is the quietest part of St Julian’s. Its moon walk along the sea is one of the most relaxing places. In the morning there are few people warming up on the benches or jogging in the fresh air, but in the evening the area is populated thanks to the restaurants and bars overlooking the sea which give a holiday and relaxed atmosphere to the area, in contrast. with Paceville. One of the restaurants I can recommend, of typical cuisine, is the Gululu Restaurant.
9. Mosta’s Church
The central church of the town of Mosta is truly impressive and spectacular. Its dome and the third largest in Europe and the rounded shape of the church earned it the nickname “Rotunda”. Unfortunately, I could only admire it from the outside, but this church, dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption, seems to be a true masterpiece also internally with the walls of a predominantly red color.
10. Red Tower, Mellieha
Sant’Agata’s Fort, located in Mellieha in the northernmost part of the island, overlooks the sea towards Comino and Gozo. Given its red color it is commonly called Red Tower. It was built in the middle of the seventeenth century and is the sixth tower of the Lascaris that were built as a sighting post towards the sea.