South of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya , between Europe and Africa, there is an island, a tiny magnet. Both continents are proud of this gem, once dubbed "the Mediterranean's mini-Hollywood" by the London Times.
Simply put - the camera loves this island! While honeymooning and filming their new drama By The Sea in Malta, The Jolie-Pitt clan during their stay in September had plenty of fun-filled days with their children. A group of rustic wooden buildings was a film set for the production of the 1980 musical film Popeye, starring Robin Williams. Today this “village” located in the north-west corner of the island, is open to the public as a family entertainment complex.
So how does this group of small, barren rocks, just 16 miles long, popping out of the middle of the dark blue sea, attract people? The answer is summed up in one word: water. If you are fond of turquoise sea, warm climate, if you like a good party, then Malta is the right place for you. But if you think that this is only a place for parties, sunbathing, water fun and irresistible shopping, upon arrival it will become clear that there is something more to it.
In this case size doesn’t matter. This small but very populated country has unique beauty and treasures made of rich history and culture. Malta has been described as one big open-air museum. With each step you can find and see a historical monument and what makes it unique is that so much of the past is visible today. St. John's Cathedral, which houses one of the last masterpieces of Caravaggio, as well as The National Museum of Fine Arts exhibits some magnificent art. The Palace of the Knights of Malta has an amazing interior decoration and today this building is the seat of the President and the Parliament. The sister islands of Gozo and Comino offer many natural treasures and a lot of interesting stuff for water sports lovers, but also those seeking true relaxation. Gozo is a place with landscape composed of many hills and valleys. With the most common activities being farming and fishing. Here, life runs pretty quietly. Comino attracts tourists for snorkeling, swimming and surfing. The water is turquoise, crystal clear and its famous Blue Lagoon just leaves everyone breathless.
The islands of Malta are now an independent nation, but it hasn't always been this way. Ever since the archipelago was first conquered, they have never been far from the centre of events. Their strategic role makes up for the lack of resources that nature gave to the rest of the globe. Malta's location, has made it a strategically attractive since the Phoenicians first colonized it around 800 B.C. With their arrival on the island, they’ve named Maleth meaning "a haven" in reference to Malta's many bays and coves. The greatest impact on the history of Malta has the arrival of the Order of St. John, who ruled it for nearly 200 years (from 1530 to 1798). Founded in Jerusalem, with the primary purpose to give treatment to the wounded and sick. From such humble beginning, the order has grown into the strongest army under the control of the church during the Crusades to the Holy Land. But the strength of Islam overwhelmed and they were forced to leave the Holy Land and go to Rhodes, and when they were expelled from there, they settled in Malta. The most important event occurred in 1565 when knights with the help of soldiers defended Malta from the attack of Ottomans under the command of the vizier Suleiman. After this victory, Malta Knights became the heroes of Europe. From the old continent they’ve received financial help, so Malta was turned into an unconquerable fortress. They have built Valletta - today the capital of this country which is named after the French commander La Valette. In 1814 Malta became part of the British Empire, for the next 150 years. Finally in 1964 the country gain independence.
This history has influenced the country's language, religion and architecture, creating a nation that is a blend of many Mediterranean cultures. From centuries of occupation by different civilizations they all brought their own taste to the island. As a vegetarian, I ignored the national meals of Malta – rabbit, so popular with its residents. If you don’t want to eat bunny, there’s a lots of local dishes that will also tickle your palate. For non-meat eaters a diamond shaped pastizzi filled either with ricotta cheese or pea mixture, is ideal. This popular puff-pastry squares can be bought practically everywhere. You can also try hobz biz zejt - slices of thick bread topped with sundried tomatoes and drenched in quality local olive oil. A Maltese version of Italian bruschetta is served in a bar whit some delicious local wines. If your flavour is a strong, subjective and controversial, then you will try to find an answer to the question: “Who is Margo?” especially if you are a pizza person. There is a place in Malta where the perfect one is waiting for you to bite into it. Most times they get it right, at least they try for every single one to be a work of art. The concept is going back to the roots, when 130 years ago an honest, true, authentic, genuine pizza was created.
In this teeny-tiny country you can find relaxation, adventure or peace. Just reach for the opportunities to explore beauty and breathe the spirit of the island. This bridge between Southern Europe and North Africa that has lived off tourism for the last half century and is a stepping stone for people travelling from all across the world. It truly was an experience for me and many others who visit Malta, they all wish to come back one day.