Gozo – Island #40

I visited little Gozo on a day trip from Malta.  I had been there many years before but couldn’t remember very much.  This time I travelled with public transport and took the bus from Valletta’s huge and well-organised bus terminal.  Buses #41 and #42 leave for the Cirkewwa ferry terminal in the north west of the island – the journey takes about an hour and costs €2. You see a lot of Malta from the bus on the way but the windows are coated in something that keeps the sun out and makes photos turn green!

The Gozo Channel Ferry runs a very regular service across the channel to Gozo for €4.50 return. It’s a slick operation with a big departure lounge, a bar and a well-organised route to the ship.  It’s a large vessel – carrying vehicles and people – there’s a bar/restaurant and an enormous sun deck for those who wish to sunbathe on the way over.  The day I went, it was very windy! The crossing takes less than an hour and drops you in Gozo’s main harbour town of Mgarr, a small port on the south east of the island whose main purpose these days is to welcome and despatch visitors from Malta but used to be a fishing port.

Gozo (Għawdex in Maltese pronounced ‘hore-desh’) is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago, covering an area of 67 km² (14 kms x 7.25 kms) with a population of approx. 37,342 Gozitans, as the people of Gozo are know.  Its largest town is Città Victoria (Il Belt Victoria in Maltese and sometimes still known by the older name of Rabat by some older residents).

Gozo is green with rolling hills studded with little golden stone towns and villages and enormous domes churches that can be seen for miles.  Oleanders with colourful flowers and lots and lots of well tended green pot plants are everywhere and give a lovely cool impression to the hot and dusty streets. The bus from Mgarr took the scenic route to the capital, via the western towns of Il Qala and Nadur, and gave me a chance to see more of the island.

Victoria is a bustling town of nearly 7,000 inhabitants. The centre of town is up the hill from the bus station and centres around the Piazza della Republica and the neighbouring Piazza San Gorg, two lovely squares full of cafés, bars and restaurants with tables under huge patio umbrellas and awnings. The area is buzzing with locals and tourists eating and drinking. I heard a lot of British voices in the crowds. I treated myself to lunch of ‘Aljotta’ a traditional and delicious soup of fish and rice (and the obligatory wine of course).

After lunch I visited the lovely church of San Gorg, on one side of the square, and then explored Il Borgo – the labyrinth of deserted alleyways and narrow streets situated in the area behind the church. This was my favourite part of town.

The jewel in Victoria’s crown is the stunning Citadel, Il Kastell, perched on the very top of the hill upon which Victoria is built. Newly refurbished and beautifully looked after, the citadel is a smaller version of the Malta’s Mdina complete with Cathedral, narrow streets, alleyways and amazing views over the rest of the island from the battlements at the top.  I arrived only 40 minutes before closing but the lovely two older gents running reception were most insistent that I saw the film before visiting.  To keep them happy, I agreed to watch it in German and they smilingly bustled me into the room where they showed a 360° film of the potted history of the citadel and of Gozo. It was actually really good!

Some EU money has been used to refurbish the citadel and it has been done beautifully.  A lone male singer stood in the courtyard in front of the Cathedral singing lovely songs.  Narrow alleyways and steps lead up to the highest point where you can walk around the battlements and enjoy amazing views over the whole of Gozo. From this fantastic view point you can see the huge domes of Gozo’s many churches in towns all over the island.

Most bus routes radiate outwards from Victoria so I took a bus to Xlendi on the south west coast of the island, one of Gozo’s popular seaside resorts.  Xlendi is situated in a deep natural inlet with bars and restaurants lining the harbourside.  A path runs around the rocky headland close to the water.  The tide was high, the sea was rough and the wind was blowing the waves against the quayside.  Sea spray was soaking the coastal path and the diners were getting a little soaked! The trees in the main square at dusk were full of hundreds of birds all singing and chirping as dusk fell.

I liked little Gozo.  The people were jolly, friendly and helpful, it had a nice relaxed vibe and the Aljotta fish soup was delicious! Once again, a car would have made it possible to see more of the island but I enjoyed my day here on the bus. And, of course, it had some lovely doors!

I took the last bus back to Victoria at 6 pm and then another one back to Mgarr and the ferry. The sun was setting over the sea as the ferry sailed back to Cirkewwa and the bus home. A lovely little day trip.

NEXT ISLAND:

The last island in my visit to the Maltese Islands, the next one is little Comino.

 

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