GOZO – Malta’s Sister Island
The word ‘Gozo’ means ‘joy’ in Castilian, and the island is the second largest within the Maltese archipelago, with a population of approximately 35,000 people.
Although it’s only 5km away from Malta, Gozo is distinctly different from the main island. Gozo is only a third the size of Malta, and it’s also more rural and tranquil. It’s culture and way of life are rooted in tradition and yet open to the present.
Radiating a relaxing pace of living, Gozo is the ideal secluded haven that can be reached with around a 25 minute ferry ride from Malta.
For well over two millennia, life in Gozo was harsh, as the island was left exposed to any passing raiders. Unlike Malta, it didn’t have any defences. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the rule of the Knights, Barbary corsairs and Saracens raided the island at intervals. In 1551, the Ottoman forces carried out a devastating raid, taking almost the entire population away into slavery. The island never really recovered from this and remained underpopulated for centuries. However, the Knights of the Order of St John refortified the medieval Citadel native Gozitans began to venture down to the rest of the Island.
Gozitans have their own distinct character and identity, with noticeably different lifestyles, accents and dialects. Gozitans are known for their friendliness and warm welcome. They are known for going out of their way to help a visitor find their destination.
Feasts and Carnival celebrations in Gozo have a different feel than those taking place in Malta. The village of Nadur celebrates Carnival with a black sense of humour, quite unlike its more joyful counterparts elsewhere.
The real beauty of Gozo, apart from its stunning seascape and medieval architectural buildings, lies in the villages. Here, it seems as if time really stands still. The locals treasure their peace and the villages are tranquil, providing a wonderful respite from the modern pace that many of the city dwellers have to endure in their everyday life.
The Capital City of Victoria
All roads in Gozo lead to Victoria, also known as Rabat, which is where the fortified Citadel sits atop a summit. Victoria is not just the geographic heart of Gozo, but also the centre of everyday activity. It manages to combine the hustle of its markets and shops with a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. It is a great place to watch the islanders go about their day, especially when the main market square, It-Tokk, comes to life. The town also has a thriving cultural life of its own, with some surprising attractions ranging from opera to horse races in the main street on feast days.
Restaurants and Food
Gozo is well embellished by restaurants, where a variety of traditional Gozitan dishes as well as international foods are served. Apart from restaurants and cafés offering local dishes, one can also enjoy restaurants specialising in ethnic cuisines, such as Chinese or Indian. You will be spoilt for choice in Rabat, Mgarr and the resort towns of Marsalforn and Xlendi, as well as in several other places around the island.
You will find that it is comfortable to walk about at any time of day or night. The sense of safety and security is tangible as the locals take pride in the absolute absence of serious crime and the almost non-existence of theft.
Where to Stay
For a taste of village life, rent a villa or farmhouse, and a taste of luxury, rent one with a pool. Other accommodation ranges from deluxe hotels to self-catering apartments. Sea or country views are never hard to find in Gozo, wherever you choose to stay.