GOZO – VICTORIA
After we’ve done 10 posts about some of the most beautiful places in Malta, it certainly is now time to turn our eyes towards Malta’s sister island, Gozo.
To me, Gozo is greener (and more relaxed) than Malta. Maybe it’s because they have long been farmers and only part-time fishermen – they do after all supply Malta with much of its produce.
Many visitors to Gozo are day-trippers (like we were on our first holiday in 2011), arriving mid-morning and leaving again late in the afternoon. But we’ve realised that you need to stay a little bit longer to fully appreciate and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle. And so, it happened that we’ve booked a weekend in Gozo, in the beautiful little seaside village of Xlendi.
The ferry trip usually takes about 20 minutes (a little longer when the sea’s a bit rough), but it was always a pleasant ride between the two islands.
You will remember from my previous posts about Malta that I’ve mentioned just how small this Mediterranean island is … well, Gozo is just over a quarter the size of Malta – 15km (19.5 miles) long and 7km (4.5 miles) at its widest point.
In this post, we will take you to Victoria, Gozo’s capital. Here, we will discover their beautiful cathedral, the ancient Citadel, and a museum (or two). We hope you enjoy this visit with us.
Short history on Victoria:
Gozo’s capital city Victoria was formally known as Rabat, but renamed Victoria in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee – a move not really welcomed by the locals, who still refer to Rabat rather than Victoria.
The Citadel is built on one of the many flat-topped hills in the centre of Gozo and its origins can be traced to the late Middle Ages.
In the early 17th century country folk trudged up the hill to spend the night in safety in the Citadel – it was the law (however, in 1637 this law was overturned and people moved out of the city).
Many of the buildings within the walls were destroyed by the 1693 earthquake and today we can find a number of museums, some craft shops and crumbled medieval dwellings.
On a clear day, a 360-degree panorama unfolds from the top of the Citadel and offers spectacular views of Gozo.
Museums inside the Citadel:
As mentioned above, there are several museums inside the walls of the Citadel. The Cathedral has its own museum, then there’s an Archaeological Museum, the Folklore Museum, Natural Science Museum and the Old Prison.
Here’s a quick tour of two of these museums:
This 17th century former home of a Gozo family contains the rich material culture of Gozo from prehistoric times to the late medieval period. There’s also excavated relics of the Ggantija temples (which we will present to you in a future post).
The Folklore Museum is spread over three late medieval houses and display mostly rustic memories of old Gozo. Implements used by fishermen, hunters, weavers and carpenters are on show, along with an old country kitchen.
After our visits to all of the museums, we’ve visited the Craft Centre. And eventually I had the opportunity to visit a place where the beautiful lace of Malta’s been made.
Lace is probably the most famous traditional craft. Women, particularly in Gozo, keep up the tradition in their own homes. At Bastion Lace we’ve met Maria Mizzi, a wholesaler in handmade Maltese Bobbin Lace. She enthusiastically showed us the displays of locally-produced lace … and of course, I had to buy a beautiful handmade piece of lace.
We’ve saved our visit to the Cathedral for last and as always, were blown away by the beauty of these cathedrals.
The Cathedral was started in 1697, replacing a previous church on the site, and completed in 1711. It was built in the Baroque style and built entirely of local limestone.
You may search in vain for the dome – because it isn’t there – which is one of the cathedral’s distinguishing points. It seems funds were running short before its completion. So, the islanders hired the Sicilian artist Antonio Manuele to paint a “trompe l’oeil” (optical illusion) dome on the ceiling.
After all of this sightseeing, it was time to have lunch. There are many restaurants inside the Citadel, but we’ve heard of one with splendid views over Gozo and went in search for the San Martino Citadella.
At San Martino Citadella we did find the splendid views, as well as a great plate of food. The waiter suggested deep fried cheese and bruschetta with marinated tomatoes – it was delicious and we drank a crisp glass of white wine with our meal.
After lunch, we took a leisurely stroll through the maze of passages within the fortified walls, as well as into Victoria.
Earlier, at the Bastion Lace shop, Maria told us that we might just be fortunate to find one of the local women of Gozo making lace in one of the side streets. And how happy was I when we’ve came across one of these women where she was busy making lace in the traditional way.
In our next post about our visit to Gozo, we will take you to the Ggantija Temples. This is the largest, best preserved and by far the most impressive prehistoric temple.
We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013