In Malta you’ll find an amazing cocktail of UK, Italian and Arabian cultures. You can explore 7000 years of history yet live passionately in the present. You’ll span the millennia with an astonishing array of things to discover. And wherever you go, the island’s scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop. The colours are striking. Honey coloured stones sit alongside the deepest of Mediterranean blues. Described as one big open-air museum, what makes Malta unique is that so much of the past is visible today. You can delve into the islands’ mysterious history, retrace the footsteps of St Paul or see where the Knights of St John defended Christen-dom. Malta is no regular museum though, it is the new place to be seen in 2004 after receiving an injection of Hollywood glamour. You can visit the Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha beaches, used as location for the hit movie Troy, starring Brad Pitt, or go off the beaten track into the ancient villages. Marvel at the fireworks and revelry of the summertime festivals.
How to get there: Theheart of the Mediterranean is closer to home than you think, a short three and a half hour flight away to be exact. Direct Holidays offer flights to Luqa from five airports nationwide, including Manchester. For further information call Direct Holidays on 0870 191 9084 or visit www. directholidays. co. uk
When to visit: A popular long stay holiday spot, Malta can be enjoyed any time of the year. Between the months of May and October every parish celebrates its Saints’ Day with a grand «festa». Parish churches are decorated with flowers and expensive embellishments. Thousands of light bulbs are used in the churches and to line the streets while a procession lead by a hand carried statue of the parish saint, followed by the local band, march through villages. This is the Maltese way of life at its most religious, yet the atmosphere is one of merriment. A truly awe inspiring spectacle, well worth see-ing.
Food & Drink: Maltese cui-sine is basically British and continental with a strong Sicilian influence, meaning bangers and mash are not too hard to find. However, the Maltese do have some of there own delicious specialities that are worth trying. Timpana (macaroni in a pastry case), ross il-forn (baked rice in a bolognese sauce) and hut biz-Zalza (local fish cooked with Gozo’s citadel in alta capers and tomato sauce) are popular choices. To make your meal complete be sure to sample some of the locally produced wine ranging from dry (white) to sweet (red).
Nightlife: From dancing the night away in lively clubs to dining al fresco on romantic courtyards, you’ll find something to do to suit all moods. Malta offers a vibrant calendar of educational theatre performances and concerts, many of which are held outdoors, in historic venues or at the floodlit Grand Harbour. As well as this cultural aspect, Malta is fast becoming a place for clubbing. Top international DJs have made guest appearances this year with the resorts of Paceville and St Julian’s playing host.
Getting around: The public bus service on Malta is a col ourful way to get around and they serve all of the major tourist areas. The capital Valletta is easily explored on foot although by horse and carriage is a far more enjoyable option. Renting a car is also a good idea.
What to see: The best way to get a good look at this breathtaking island is by sea. Set sail from Valletta passing the impressive fortifications that line the Grand Harbour. Head south enjoying unimpaired views of the quaint fishing villages of Marsascala and Marsaxlokk where you can catch a glimpse of the colourful fishing boasts moored in the bay. Further south admire the pristine waters of the Blue Grotto caves, in sharp contrast to that the imposing Dingli Cliffs and not forgetting yet another important landmark, «Popeye Village» in the picturesque Anchor Bay. If your sea legs tend to let you down, organised tours of the islands famous landmarks are easy to come by. Be sure to see the magnificent Most a Dome Church, the handicrafts village of Ta Qali, the old medieval capital of Mdina and «the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen», Valletta.
Daily Post (Liverpool) January 8, 2005