Malta: Unexpected Malta!
19 July 2022
Wow, where to start with my trip to Malta. Having spent four nights here we didn’t come up for air as we experienced everything to see, do and eat whilst exploring the island and neighbouring Gozo. This is a destination far from the package holiday and cruise ship world you may picture when you think of Malta. All my preconceptions have been blown out of the water and here is why…
Being just a stone's throw from Italy’s glam Sicily and the North African coast, Malta is home to many cultures and seems to draw on the best from all of them. A shining gem in its own right, Malta is a strong Mediterranean contender to pick for a long weekend, promising to give you fascinating history, stunning architecture and a delicious culinary journey for all the devout foodies out there. For an island so small it really packs a punch!
The va va voom of Valletta…
Valletta sets the scene and was the base for our trip here. Staying at the Iniala Harbour House Hotel, we were spoilt with the waterfront location looking out over the dazzling Grand Harbour, with views to the Three Cities beyond. Fab location, stunning Michelin starred menu and exceptional service, all whilst staying in the exclusive Incognito suite hidden in the vaults of this 16th century town house, quirky, unique and sumptuous. Malta is proud to offer a selection of luxury hotels, boasting boutique townhouses such as the Iniala Harbour House, The Rosselli and The Xara Palace tucked away in the silent city of Mdina and the grand dame of Valletta, The Phoenicia, the perfect option to enjoy as a family with its stunning infinity pool.
Make the most of exploring the chasm of narrow cobblestone streets, flanked by towering townhouses with colourful shutters and the famous Maltese balconies. Here you will find a myriad of cafes, bars and restaurants that spill on to the ancient steps, creating a vibrant and fun atmosphere, where better to sit and enjoy your morning coffee or an evening aperitif?
I learnt a lot about the rich and fascinating history of Valletta and the Knights of St John, soaking up the opulent baroque design of the St John’s Co-Cathedral along with its famous Caravaggio paintings, and soaked up an abundance of fascinating stories from the remaining resident Knight as we toured the Fort St Angelo in his company. Meeting local instrument artisan Francesco Sultana was also a highlight, whilst enjoying our delicious meal in a private home in the Three Cities, we were lucky to meet the local musician. We were wowed by his personal creation of one of Malta’s most unique musical instruments – the Maltese Bagpipe – made from a whole goat! It really did take the exceptional evening in beautiful surrounds to the next level.
Although rich in history and celebratory of its past, Valletta is proud to be hosting Euro Pride 2023, showcasing its passion for diversity and inclusion as it continues to put Malta on the map as a destination for everyone.
Tuck into a pastizzi
Food is central to everything in Malta, and I quickly came to realise it is very much a vibrant foodie destination. Most surprising was the range of stunning Michelin starred restaurants, which we were very lucky to sample during our trip. What stood out was not only the beautifully intricate delicious food but the level and warmth from the service that accompanied it. The passion flowed from all the staff through the whole process of the meal. We savoured next level tasting menus at The Rosselli ‘Grain Street’ restaurant, Iniala Harbour House Hotel’s, ION Harbour with Head Chef Alex Dilling and in Mdina, Xara Palace’s The de Mondion Restaurant.
But it’s not just the Michelin scene that really stands out but the love for their traditional bites, such as the famous Maltese pastizzi – delicious flaky pastry snacks, a skill which had been passed down through generations. We had a blast trying to replicate this art on our ‘rural delicacies’ experience day, where Guilian and his wife Nancy shared their passion and love for this tasty morsel. We explored olives groves, devoured a rustic farmers lunch, tasting local cheeses, wines, coffee and a variety of local farm produce – all supporting the Maltese rural tourism project, enhancing local traditions for the better of the countryside
Go to Gozo
When in Malta a trip over to Gozo is a must. Home to yet more glorious coastline and countryside, fun activities and delicious food. It’s so easy to just hop on a boat to this neighbouring island. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful inland sea and colourful cave system you go through out to Dwejra Bay, taking in the striking rocks and azure window with cobalt blue sea, perfect to stop for a dip or arrange a scuba diving trip if you fancy.
We were very lucky to enjoy a sensational picnic for lunch, created by Ana from Gozo Picnics, she’s takes the time to create a homemade feast tailored to your tastes and finds the perfect spot to sit and devour this sensational picnic. We were treated to lunch on the shore with the sound of the lapping water as our backdrop. We tucked into local Maltese delicacies and homemade bites all presented to perfection. For families Gozo offers lots of experiences, including tuk tuk or quad bike adventures to explore the island.