Why are the Maltese Islands luring visitors from all over the world?
If like me, you have been to Malta year after year for decades, if you have just returned from your first visit, or if you are planning a visit, you will know that there is something about those little shimmering islands in the heart of the Mediterranean that is special and alluring to tourists from all corners of the world.
It may be the long hours of all-year-round sunshine, the rich blue sea lapping its shores, the amazing 7,000-year history, or the unique art and architecture that continue to enchant visitors, warming their hearts and luring them back for more inspiration and pleasure.
The Maltese Islands are a sun and sea destination. There is certainly an abundance of both. They get at least 300 sunny days a year and are surrounded by clear blue waters, the best in the Mediterranean, which is why it is enjoyed by so many visiting swimmers, snorkelers and divers from all over the world.
Not many countries can match Malta’s 7,000 year history. Here you will find a greater density of historic sights than anywhere worldwide. Its unique prehistoric temples are some of the oldest stone buildings in the world, its Roman catacombs, medieval towns and villages, and the exquisite architectural and artistic creations of the Knights of Malta are visible and cherished throughout the islands.
With this intriguing 7,000 years of history, the Maltese Islands are steeped in culture and heritage. There are a myriad of heritage and culture areas to be explored – the 16th century masterpiece Grandmasters’ Palace, the “Sacra Infermeria”, which is now a fully equipped conference centre, the St. James Centre for Creativity – a superbly restored fortification where contemporary works of art are exhibited against the original rough-textured walls and rediscovered spaces. With these buildings, the past and the present blend into a delightful insight in the Maltese art of living.
The arts have always played a large role in Maltese culture and continue to do so with cultural events occurring frequently. The National Museum of Fine Arts – MUZA, housed in the historic Auberge d’Italie, exhibits some magnificent art, ranging from the early Renaissance to modern times. Both established and budding artists are encouraged to display their efforts through publicly-supported programs. There is always an exhibition of some kind running.
Valletta, The Fortress City, Citta’ Umilissima, “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen” is Malta’s capital city: a living, working city, the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Valletta is named after its founder, the respected Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. The magnificent fortress city grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Started in 1566, Valletta was completed, with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in the astonishingly short time of 15 years, even more remarkable is considering the fact that mechanical tools did not exist at the time and the whole city was built entirely by hand.
Valletta has many titles, all recalling its rich historical past. It is the “modern” city built by the Knights of St John; a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
So these are just a few of the reasons why I regard Malta as special. There are many others: the cuisine, the picturesque land and seascape, the magnificent churches, the quaint little fishing ports and especially the charm and friendliness of the people.
It’s my ‘home from home’ my little ‘Gem in the Med.’