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Inspiring Islands Part 2: Malta & Gozo

Discover beautiful Malta and Gozo – sister islands that form part of an archipelago of three inhabited Mediterranean islands just 43NM south of Sicily.

The moment you sail into Grand Harbour Marina in the capital, Valletta, you will become immediately enchanted by the spectacular, historic backdrop of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Grand Harbour Marina itself is widely recognised as one of its finest, whether for cruising or as a home-port or winter stopover for some of the world’s superyachts and their crew.

Grand Harbour Marina is one of the few fully ISPS compliant yachting ports in the region – and the only one in Malta. The 500 year-old exquisite architecture of Valletta and Vittoriosa creates a charismatic atmosphere, further enhanced by the waterfront buildings, which house chic restaurants, bars and café society.

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Malta is renowned for its breathtaking scenery. The colours are striking – honey-hued stone against the deepest Mediterranean blue. And, of course, the temperate climate makes it one of the few destinations where year-round cruising is a reality.

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Both English and Maltese are the official languages and although Malta has a culture very much its own, there’s no mistaking its charming Southern Mediterranean heritage and customs. Malta is also a member of the European Union.

In January, Malta was voted no: 3 among 52 Places to Go in 2016 by The New York Times, with the introductory accolade: ‘Malta is an affordable Mediterranean playground with a superb climate, sublime beaches, megalithic temples and a distinctive crossroads culture.’

Steeped in history

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Grand Harbour Marina is set between the Malta Maritime Museum and the UNESCO heritage site of Fort Saint Angelo in Malta’s Grand Harbour. The former was the Royal Navy bakery when this part of Grand Harbour was known as Dockyard Creek; while the latter was the headquarters and naval base of the Knights of the Order of St. John and played a heroic role in the Great Siege of 1565. It was they who, under the leadership of Frenchman Jean Parisot de Vallette, Grand Master of the Order, withstood the Great Siege of Malta by the Ottomans in 1565. The Knights, with the help of Spanish and Maltese forces, were victorious and repelled the attack against truly overwhelming odds.

In fact, the bravery of the Maltese people during the second Siege of Malta during the Second World War moved King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis on 15 April 1942.

The history of the island dates as far back as the Neolithic period. Since then it has played host to many visitors and occupying powers including the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Arabs, the French and the British.

With so many visitors over the centuries, the Maltese have gained a reputation for making guests feel welcome. The ones with good intentions, that is.

Sightseeing

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Malta’s capital, Valletta, and its main historical villages, like Birgu – also known as Città Vittoriosa – offer a myriad of museums, palaces, and forts steeped in heritage. You really will be spoiled for choice when it comes to visiting museums and heritage sites. From museums of art, crafts, folklore, and military and maritime history; to churches, cathedrals, palaces, gardens and ancient archaeological sites, you’ll gain a deeper insight into the island’s history and its people over the centuries. In fact, Valletta holds one of the largest concentrations of antiquities worldwide.

Here are just a few treasures awaiting you:

St. John’s Co-Cathedral – one of the most historically and artistically significant monuments of Malta, the Co-Cathedral’s Oratory is home to masterpiece The Beheading of St John the Baptist (1608) by Caravaggio, as well as a set of 28 Flemish tapestries woven in Brussels.

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The National Museum of Archaeology on Republic Street, only a few steps away from the Cathedral.

Casa Rocca Piccola on Republic Street is an aristocratic house inhabited by the most noble Nicholas De Piro, a renowned art lover. He offers private tours every hour on the hour between 10:00 and 16:00; and on Fridays between 19:00 and 20:15. Champagne Tours for groups can be organised on request.

Naxxar Palazzo Parisio is another private home, best known as a great lunch venue particularly during the spring or for afternoon tea on your way to the old capital city of Mdina.

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Once known as the ‘Silent City’, Mdina is a medieval walled town situated in the centre of the island and now home to Malta’s most exclusive boutique hotel, the Xara Palace.

The Xara Palace is Malta’s only Relais & Chateaux and is also the site of the award-winning De Modion restaurant as well as the Palazzo De Piro, an entertainments venue which commands magnificent views of the island.

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Culture

Malta and Gozo play host to a number of cultural events throughout the year, not to mention the passionate celebration of religious festivities. Malta is very much a year-round destination, offering a diversity of events, ranging from the Valletta International Baroque Festival in January, to the colourful Carnival in February, the Easter processions in March plus much more.

Valletta, the capital, has been nominated as European Cultural Capital for 2018. It’s already an exciting time for Malta and Gozo, in anticipation.

Birgu Fest – the old town’s most popular event – is where it is lit by candles for three days and nights. This unique festival attracts a large audience who wander the atmospheric narrow lanes of the old town. An unforgettable and magical experience for all ages.

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