|After arriving at Valletta airport, we were welcomed by a funky yellow bus, with no suspension, and transported to the old city in style if not comfort. The Maltese must all be born without knees as the gap between the seats on their buses is worse than Tiger Air economy.
Valletta is the only remaining fortified capital in the world and is a remarkable expanse of sandstone and marble, thanks again to the Venetians. As Malta consists of three small islands (Malta 246 sq km, Gozo 67 sq km and Comino 2.7 sq km), it is easily explored as day trips by bus and ferry. So we spent 3 days based in Valletta sampling the island of Malta, transported by those funky yellow buses, with no suspension or leg room. On day one we visited the cliffs of Dingli, which soar to a height of 250m above the sea, the old capital of Mdina, another masterpiece in sandstone and marble, and then on to the western harbour, Valletta’s glitzy bar and club strip, a British package-holiday maker’s dream. Day two consisted of visiting Marsaxlokk, a little fishing village with a morning market and the hypogeum, a prehistoric burial chamber carved 10 metres down into the ground. We finished off the day wandering around the 3 cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, bordering Valletta’s Grand Harbour on its eastern shore. On day three we took a cruise that circumnavigated the islands of Malta and Comino, with the highlight being the afternoon spent at the Blue Lagoon on Comino, with its crystal clear blue water, hence the name.
Valletta’s food scene was almost as impressive as its fortifications. We were introduced to pastizzis, Maltese platters, Maltese wine, and found amazing restaurants with large, tasty servings of Maltese specialties. Maybe we should have spent more time in the churches in quiet contemplation and less time gorging on carbohydrate loaded treats, but we think that walking up and down all the stairs of the old town between the bars and restaurants would have worked off all those calories.
We then sailed to the island of Gozo, which is smaller and quieter than Malta and had funky red and grey buses to distinguish itself from the larger island. We stayed in the little fishing village of Xlendi with a small harbour between impressive cliffs and of course crystal clear water and a strip of lovely fish restaurants. On Gozo we visited Dwejra, with its Inland Sea, Azure Arch and Blue Hole, three amazing natural formations. We also visited the capital Victoria and the temples of Ggantija, prehistoric megalithic temples which are reportedly the oldest free standing structures in the world. More lovely Maltese treats were experienced here including Bragioli (Beef olives; a thin strip of beef wrapped around a meat ball and served with a tomato sauce) and baked rabbit in a wine and garlic sauce.
On the first day of summer it started to rain as we headed back to Valletta for our last day roaming its old streets, discovering cool bars cut into the fortifications, experiencing more Maltese wines and maybe again having Bragioli and rabbit for dinner.
Pastizzis, Bragioli and rabbit.
The Blue Lagoon.
The funky buses.
The beginning of European high tourist season.
The lack of free hotel Wi-fi.