Malta: The Mediterranean’s Hidden Gem
When you see €40 round trip flights from Pisa to Malta, you don’t think, you book. Considering a one-way train ticket from Florence to Rome can sometimes cost more than €40, a steal like this is an irresistible weekend getaway.
So, here I am in Malta, a place that most people haven’t heard of before. It’s the fourth smallest country in Europe and lies in the middle of the Mediterranean, off the south coast of Italy. The main island, Malta, is accompanied by its smaller counterparts, Gozo and Comino.
My first observation after getting off the plane and looking for transportation to the main port town of Sliema was that all the cars were driving on the wrong side of the road – “wrong” meaning left, from my American perspective. I learned that Malta was ruled by the British until 1964 and was used as a military base during World War I and II.
I arrived in Sliema at night and was greeted by a captivating view of the lights of the city reflecting off the waters of the bay. For reasons hard to explain, it reminded me of my visit to Iceland when my friends and I walked around near the bay trying to escape the city lights as we hunted for the northern lights.
After sunset, Malta has a lot of great nightlife and beautiful weather that makes it perfect for exploring the city and walking along the bay. The smell of salty air is so refreshing and noticeably stronger than in most other European coastal cities.
I would recommend dining at Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant, where you can enjoy a great view of the waterfront while dining on typical Maltese fare. Rabbit is a specialty in Malta, so I tried a rabbit dish along with salmon and avocado risotto. The view perfectly complemented the meal.
My waiter also suggested that I try a traditional ‘Helwa tat-Tork’ tart covered with chocolate, which was a sweet ending to my first night in Malta.
When the sun rises, the island turns into a bustling tourist attraction as the port is always busy shuttling visitors from the main island of Malta to its sister islands Gozo, home to ancient ruins that predate both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, and Comino, home of the famed Blue Lagoon.
Taking one of the ferries to the other islands gives a beautiful view of the shore of Valletta, the historic capital of Malta located near Slima.
While the islands are dotted with great architecture and great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, there are no forests, mountains, or rivers in Malta. The beauty of the island is entirely derived from its strikingly blue waters and its unique landscape that strikes me as a cross between Arizona and Hawaii.
Although popular among British travelers, Malta is the Mediterranean’s best kept secret that Americans need to get on their radar! From historical cities and ancient ruins to otherworldly hiking scenery and bluer than blue waters, it offers something for every traveler.