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Perched between Europe and Africa, in the center of the Mediterranean, there is an island with limestone coasts. Its land has witnessed thousands of years of history and the passage of many different peoples. Arab and Italian, English and Spanish, Malta is an island of beautiful countryside and unique artworks, the ideal destination for a vacation set against crystal-clear seas and millenniums of history.
MALTA, THE MAIN ISLAND
Malta is an archipelago bringing together the Calypso Islands, which gained this name due to their association with Ogygia, where the nymph Calypso interrupted Ulysses' journey home and kept him prisoner for seven years. The three largest islands are Malta, Gozo and, in the middle, Comino. Connected by a past of various invasions and now as an important commercial and trading location, traces of people from every age and provenance who have lived there remain intact. This is why everything in Malta has at least three names: in Maltese, the official language which is of Arabic origin; English, the second official language; and Italian. This feature has made it a favorite destination for young people who wish to learn English and have found the perfect compromise between beauty, fun and possibilities for learning here in Malta.
The key city on the island of Malta is its state capital, Valletta, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been named as a European capital of culture for 2018. The "most humble city" was built 500 years ago as a fortress thanks to its location overlooking the sea and with two natural ports: Grand Harbour and Marsamxett, where the Phoenicians landed when they arrived at the archipelago in the 9th century.
MILLENNIUMS OF HISTORY
Valletta has many symbolic places, beginning with the religious buildings across the island, testifying to a faith that has never faded. The baroque style is represented primarily in St. John's Cathedral, as simple outside as it is rich and ornate inside, with sculptures and ornamental stones that make it a place of great fascination. The cathedral also contains works by Guido Reni and Caravaggio's Beheading of John the Baptist.
The Grandmaster's Palace is now home to the Parliament, but there are over 400 years of history in its rooms, especially that of the Tapestries, commissioned by the Order of the Knights of Malta, who governed the island until the arrival of the Napoleonic troops, who were in turn pushed out by the English. Testimony to this is in Republic Square, which is dominated by a statue of Queen Victoria.
Very close to Valletta, in Paola you can see two true wonders of the island, which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first is the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni, an underground archeological site dating back to the 4th millennium B. C., considered to be the only prehistoric underground temple in the world, and the second is the Temple of Menaidra, which is older than the pyramids and is the oldest dry-stone structure in the world.
A short distance from the capital is a place famous for its beautiful clear sea and its history: St. Paul's Bay. This is the area where it is believed St. Paul was shipwrecked and a short distance away is Rabat, where you can visit the saint's catacombs, an extensive network of crypts and tunnels from the 3rd century A. D.
COMINO AND GOZO, UNSPOILED NATURE
It is the smallest of the three main islands of the archipelago but Comino, which is almost uninhabited, is a small natural oasis, a bird reserve and a favorite destination for scuba divers, who can explore the riches of the Mediterranean in the crystal-clear waters of the Blue Lagoon. Motorboats are forbidden in order to preserve the unique beauty of the bay.
Malta's third UNESCO World Heritage Site is found on this island. It is the megalithic temple of Ġgantija, which dates back to the 5th millenium B. C. The coast is full of unspoiled countryside and wonderful places, like the Inland Sea, the Azure Window, Calypso Cave and the red beach of Ramla bay.
TYPICAL MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE
Malta's cuisine is the result of the various invasions the island has experienced. It therefore offers a wide variety of fish and meat dishes, in line with the Mediterranean tradition. Aljotta soup is a fish soup with herbs and spices whereas fenek is rabbit, served with pasta or in small steaks, but there are many local products, such as fresh or dried goat's cheese (Gbejna), local bread (Hobz) and zinnie, an orange and herb drink.
Malta is a jewel of the Mediterranean waiting to be discovered, book your flight now with Alitalia!