This post is part of the ’10 things to do in Malta this summer series’. Use the link below to see the other 9 posts:
1) Venture off the beaten track, 3) See a Caravaggio, 4) Party all nights, 5) Dine in honey-coloured bastions, 6) Work on your tan, 7) Take a walk along a promenade, 8.) Get yourself on a boat, 9) Drive along the coast road, 10) Experience a true Maltese summer event
2) Rent a farmhouse in Gozo and explore the island
When I was younger, for years there was talk of building a bridge to connect Malta and Gozo and eliminate altogether the ferry which crossed every half hour from one island to the other. As I was sailing on one of these ferries this past June, I asked my parents what had happened to those plans.
‘It’s not going to be built’, my mother answered. ‘Because no one wants it.’
‘If we got that bridge’, my dad continued. ‘It would be the end of Gozo. It would be too easy to get to it if we lost the hassle of taking the ferry, and developers would ruin it like they are ruining Malta.’
I knew of course, that they were right. Many foreigners seem to fail to understand why Gozo is so important to the Maltese. It’s not because we think it’s so indescribably beautiful, but it’s because it’s what Malta used to be in the past before the building boom; quiet, a bit greener, and with less traffic. It remains until this day an easy trip from the ‘mainland’, and a break from it, as it were. We know that it still lacks trees and that it gets brown in summer for lack of grass. We know that even there we’ll find potholes and bad public transport, but we love it nonetheless. Tourists tend to have mixed feelings about it, but my advice to fully experience it the way the locals do is to get yourself there with a rented car, since it takes ages to get from one point to another via public transport and a lot of buses only work until late afternoon. At the time of writing, a round trip fare for car+driver was 15.70 euros, and one for a passenger 4.65. Even better, stay overnight or for the weekend at one of the many splendid traditional and authentic farmhouses available for short-lets, many of which offer quiet, orange-tree-surrounded courtyards and a pool, ideal for those evening summer barbeques under the stars. For prices and pictures visit a website like aboutgozo.com, but a quick google search will yield more options.
When you get there, don’t make the mistake of expecting to find some local Maltese Disneyland on steroids - Gozo is all about the open spaces and the slow pace of life. Don’t expect too much green either if you’re visiting in summer. In fact, during my last visit at the end of June, I found myself constantly thinking of the word ‘parched’ to describe the landscape around me. If you’re after rolling green hills and a bit of colour, it’s best to visit in winter. But if you do get yourself to Gozo in summer, take it easy. Visit the market in Victoria, which offers the usual touristy wares but also a few things, like local fresh or jarred produce, which may be worth your time. Drive around and let yourself stumble upon spots from where you can enjoy views stretching out to the sea, and do the rounds of the little bays and beaches dotted around the island.
The secret to falling in love with Gozo is to keep moving, to take in little corners for short periods of time unless you feel an irrepressible need to linger. To top a great day of exploration off, then buy a bit of beer and wine and a good meat selection and dine in the courtyard of your farmhouse, chat until late with your friends and dip into the pool. You’ll find yourself thinking life could hardly get any better.
P.S As in other parts of the Maltese islands, as a tourist you’ll be prone to annoying salespeople and rip-offs. A little research goes a long way to experiencing Gozo more like a local than some wandering easy-buck foreigner. Even better, make Maltese friends and get them to come with you. They will usually jump at the suggestion.
-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @www.theartofslowtravel.com