The Maltese archipelago, (which occupies a centre
position in the Mediterranean, lies 90 kms to the south
of Sicily, 290 kms to the north of the African Mainland
& 1830 kms to Gibraltar), consists of Malta, Gozo
and Comino - the inhabited main islands - and the
smaller uninhabited islands of Cominotto, Filfla and St.
Paul. The Maltese islands cover an area of 316 square
kilometers (Malta 246 km squared; Gozo 67 km squared;
Comino 2.7 squared) and the total population of the
islands is appoximately 380,000.
Malta is the largest island in the archipelago. It is
the more urban and cosmopolitan of the islands. Malta
has neither rivers nor mountains, but is characterized
by a series of low, flat-topped hills with terraced
fields on their slopes. Malta’s coastline is well
indented with bays, sandy beaches, rocky coves, and most
importantly, natural harbours. Malta’s Capital City is
Valletta and Sea Ports are the Grand Harbour and
Gozo is smaller than its sister island Malta, and has
a character of its own. The Island is more rural and
much quieter than Malta. The countryside is greener and
has some spectacular cliffs and inland scenery. The
flat-topped hills here are more evident than in Malta.
Gozo’s coastline is as pictureque as Malta’s. The
Capital City, Victoria, is also known by its older name,
Comino is the smallest inhabited island in the
archipelago. There are no cars on Comino, nor any noise
to distrub the peace & quiet. The Island’s numerous
bays and its famous crystal clear waters make it the
perfect choice for most kinds of water sports,
especially swimming, snorkelling and diving.
When Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette laid
the foundation stone of Humilissima Civitas Vallattae,
the last thing he had in mind was a city of fine
palaces. Valletta was intended as a fortress to protect
the two harbours on either side of the rocky peninsula
on which it was to be built.
Valletta may be referred to in many ways….the
‘modern’ city built by the Knights of St. John, a
masterpiece of the baroque; a European Art City; and a
World Heritage City. Valletta is not only the political,
cultural and historical centre with most of the Island’s
best sights, but also a busy shopping destination, full
of government and corporate offices. In the evenings,
Valletta becomes a beautiful ghost town.
Valletta is Malta’s capital city: a living, working
city, the administrative and commercial heart of the
Islands. The grid of narrow streets houses some of
Europe’s finest art works, churches and palaces.
Valletta hosts a vast cultural programme. Street
events are staged against the city’s magnificent baroque
architecture and floodlit bastions. There is theatre and
music and all sorts of things to see and do. The city is
a delight to shop in: narrow side-streets are full of
tiny shops selling antiques, maps, books, clothing and
fashion items and jewellery.
When walking through Valletta, you will come across
an intriguing historial site around every corner:
buildings, statues, niches, fountains and coats-of-arms
high up on parapets.
Valletta boasts three Parish Churches and a host of
others, but a must-go-and-see is the St. John’s
City Gate is the large square where all buses
terminate their journey. Once you have walked past City
Gate, you are in the famous Republic Street. Take in the
atmosphere of Valletta’s most important street and begin
your journey from here.
Each Parish Church on the Maltese Islands celebrates
the feast of its patron saint, therefore every village
has its own festa.
Every village, no matter how big, small, rich or
poor, celebrates this day in an elaborate manner and try
to outdo its neighbour involving rather steep costs
which are borne by the community.
The interior of the Church is embellished with
expensive fabric and beautiful flowers and in the
evenings the frontage of each church is impressively lit
up with hundreds of small bulbs, the streets decorated
with banners and statues.
The main village square, as well as those secondary
streets, are full of people celebrating. A brass band
parades along the village streets, the procession winds
through the streets carrying the figure of the saint and
the festa ends with a grand finale of a firework
The long Maltese summers indicate festa time. No
visit to the Islands, during the summer months, would be
complete without seeing a village festa in full swing.
It is a fantastic opportunity to get a feel of the
Island’s life and of a tradition that stretches back to
the 16th century.