Mighty history mixed with an easy-breezy modern vibe
The sun-kissed archipelago of Malta is a dreamy Mediterranean destination. With nearly 250 kilometres of coastline, 300 days of sunshine, a weighty history, and some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean for swimmers and divers (Martha Gellhorn, the most famous war correspondent of all time, was obsessed), Malta epitomes less is more.
Small but mighty, this island nation may be at Europe’s edge, but it’s at the very heart of the Mediterranean and its history. Located 98 nautical miles south of Sicily, some might expect an extension of Italy, but not so; the archipelago is all its own. Malta is the product of a fascinating history linked to the sea and successive waves of Phoenician, Greek, Romans, Carthaginians, Byzantines, Arabs and British invaders and settlers. Not to mention the saints (St. Paul), sinners (Caravaggio) and statesmen (Napoleon) who have washed up on shore here and left their mark too.
Maltese is close to Arabic, but English is spoken too. The food scene is a culinary mash-up, but Italian influences are the most tangible. And the architecture ranges from UNESCO-listed Neolithic temples to Baroque cathedrals and modern masterpieces like Renzo Piano’s City Gate. If you sense the landmarks seem familiar, Malta has starred in Gladiator, Troy, Murder on the Orient Express and Games of Thrones, to list just a few of its credits.
There are few better places to watch the world go by than a gallarija, a brightly painted, wooden Maltese cantilevered in the capital, Valletta, a city imbued with both the past and a fresh creative spirit. Named after its founder, the Grand Master of the Knights of St John, Jean Parisot de la Valletta, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is inexorably linked to the medieval military order. With 320 monuments, it’s one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.