ADVERTORIAL • August 2020
Praised by the World Health Organisation for its ‘model’ response to Covid-19, Malta and its 300-plus days of Mediterranean sunshine are just a three-hour flight (and 8,500 Avios away) from the UK. The author of Lonely Planet’s Malta and Gozo guide, Brett Atkinson proposes his perfect five days
Wake up refreshed in Valletta Vintage’s penthouse apartment before an organic coffee from Lot Sixty One. Compact and easily walkable, Unesco World Heritage-listed Valletta offers 320 historical sites. After being dazzled by the Baroque exuberance of St John’s Co-Cathedral, the most important church of Malta’s Knights of St John, explore the island’s earlier Neolithic history at the National Museum of Archaeology. Adjourn for a lunch of ftira (traditional flatbread) at Nenu the Artisan Baker, before discovering Maltese and European art at the National Museum of Fine Arts (MUŻA) and innovative Blitz Valletta.
The table to reserve: Arabic, Mediterranean and Italian flavours combine at Michelin-starred Noni.
Where: Valletta and Vittoriosa
Charter a traditional dgħajsa water taxi to cross Grand Harbour to Vittoriosa, a 400m-wide peninsula crowned by hulking Fort St Angelo. A vital bastion during 1565’s Great Siege, the fort houses an excellent history museum. Back in Valletta, explore Malta’s military heritage at Fort St Elmo and the National War Museum, before a guided tour of the Lascaris War Rooms, a subterranean complex that housed the Allies’ top-secret command during WWII. Time a visit for the spectacular 4pm cannon-firing at the nearby Saluting Battery.
The bar to visit: Blend gin, tapas and live jazz at Yard 32 on historic Strait Street.
Where: Mdina and the Dingli Cliffs
Journey by taxi to the hilltop walled city of Mdina. A fortified citadel since the Phoenician era around 700 BC, its honey-coloured lanes provide meandering pathways through this ancient wonder, which has also seen occupation by the Romans and Arabs and has been historically favoured by Maltese nobility. Essential stops include St Paul’s Cathedral, but getting pleasantly lost amid Mdina’s labyrinthine streets shouldn’t be underestimated. Continue for lunch at Diar il-Bniet, a village restaurant offering farm-to-table dining, before negotiating well-marked walking trails along the Dingli Cliffs.
The guided walk to join: Book ahead with The Cliffs to explore Malta’s highest point.
Where: Gozo’s northern coast
Cross by ferry from Ċirkewwa and secure a rental car at Mgarr on Malta’s smaller and more rural second island. On Gozo’s western fringes, Dwejra Bay is rugged and spectacular, and exploring the nearby Blue Hole reinforces the islands’ reputation for offering some of Europe’s best diving. Join a boat trip on the Inland Sea, a cliff-encircled lagoon linked by a tunnel to the ocean. Continue by car to Wied il-Għasri, a perfect shingle beach crowning an improbably narrow inlet, before taking the quiet road along Gozo’s northern coast to the historic salt pans at Marsalforn. In a converted farmhouse, Ta’ Frenc Restaurant is ideal for a leisurely meal.
The boutique hotel to book: Thirtyseven offers style and luxury in a quiet Gozitan village.
Gozo’s bijou capital is built around Cittadella, a hilltop fortress dating from the 15th century. Until the 17th century, the compact fortified town was used to shelter the island’s entire population from Ottoman raiders. Within Cittadella are museums and interactive displays showcasing Gozo’s history and culture, and stores sell traditional crafts and produce. Ascend the citadel’s walls for spectacular views, and have lunch of local wine, cheese and honey at Ta’ Rikardu.
The craft beers to try: Gozo-based Lord Chambray brewing has a good selection.