Gozo forms part of the Maltese Islands, and is the second largest in the archipelago. It is often called the “island where time stood still” since it is one of the few Mediterranean destinations which is largely unspoilt. Although Gozo forms part of Malta, it is rather different in both its traditions and culture. In fact, even the people are very different. As Joseph Bezzina put it, “the Gozitans are Maltese inasmuch as the Scottish are British, or the Sicilians are Italians”!
Gozo is an extremely picturesque island, which can be admired all year round. In the summer time, water sports, and swimming in the beautiful bays are a must. Diving is excellent here and infact, Gozo has begun to develop itself as an all year-round diving destination since the winter is very mild – similar to an English summer – and the visibility remains very good. Furthermore, there is nowhere in Gozo that is more than 20 minutes away from the shore.
From autumn to spring the Gozitan countryside comes back to life after the hot summer months. The Maltese Islands turn green and by late spring a thousand or more species of plants blossom. Gozo boasts a lovely countryside – some of which has been left untouched by the 20th century! This part of the island is important for farmers and cultivators because most village life centres on the agricultural and fishing seasons. It is fantastic to see that these villages still preserve their old way of life, where old women and men work the fields or go out at sea. Guidebooks have been created, that map out ideal walking tours from one town to another.
Speaking of picturesque, Gozo is also embellished with beautiful natural harbours, valleys and cliffs. One particularly extraordinary natural beauty is the ‘Azure window’ which is a megalithic archway cut by means of the crashing waves for thousands of years on the lower layers of the rock. Other incredible sites are Mgarr ix-Xini bay, the Citadel, the caves at Xaghra, Lunzjata Valley and Wied il-Ghasri. Ramla l-Hamra is another beautiful site which includes a long sandy beach made up of red-tinted sand!
The women of Gozo are renowned for one of Malta oldest craft tradition, lace-making. From the time of the Knights, life in Gozo as well as the rural parts of Malta was relatively harsh. So, craft industries became a main source of income for rural families, namely embroidery, weaving and lace-making. The traditional lace is known as ‘bizzilla’ and this craft was first introduced to Malta from Genoa around the 1800s It was called bobbin lace and was very popular for ruffs and collars in the 16th and 17th centuries. Maltese bobbin lace is made with a number of threads which are wound upon an elongated wooden bobbin or spool. A special long cushion called ‘trajbu’ is used as a base for the lace creation.
Although parts of Gozo have been modernized for tourists, one is mostly exposed to the raw character to the island, not only in traditions, landscape and craft, but also food. One very popular year-round meal is the ‘Fenkata’ where Maltese families go to very casual and usually small specialized bars and restaurants in order to eat a meal of rabbit. This is usually made up of a first course of spaghetti with rabbit sauce, followed by rabbit (usually fried in garlic and tomatoes), and finally nuts and sweets. The sweet that is most often coupled with the rabbit is the ‘Helwa tat-Tork’ which is a sweet sugary mixture of crushed and whole almonds. Another dish that is sometimes served before rabbit, but can also be found in many typical Maltese restaurants, is ‘Bebbux’. Bebbux is the maltese word for snails, which is a delicacy in Malta. When visiting Malta or Gozo, be sure to give this a try! Gozitan ‘gbejniet’ (goats cheese) are a delicacy that is best coupled with fresh Gozitan bread. Prickly pears, a delightful seet fruit, are also typical here and can be found all over the island, both cultivated and wild.
With regards to archaeology, the islands of Malta and Gozo contain one of the richest, most interesting megalithic cultures of all time. This Neolithic culture built huge temples out of orthostats which served as ritual sites to the opulent mother goddess. The oldest one, Ggantija Temple, is located in Gozo and is the oldest freestanding structure in the world – much older than the Egyptian pyramids! It is over 5000 years old. Gozo is also home to other archaeological sites, particularly Phoenician and Punic ones.
Gozo is a very devout island and is littered with majestic churches of beautiful architecture. One of the most beautiful, and with the oldest story, is that of the Citadel. There are no less than 50 churches and chapels around Gozo, half of which are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The majority of the churches are in the Baroque style and were often built over even older edifices. One incredible chapel is that of Ta’ Pinu which has become a pilgrimage for those from Malta, Gozo and abroad.
If you are planning your next holiday choose Malta as you will surely find several things to do in Malta during your stay. And why not book your Malta Accommodation at a superior Sliema hotel which is still within easy reach of several popular towns and villages.