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Chill out in Gozo

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Gozo Island

Gozo may be tiny, only 14km long and 7km wide, but people have been living and farming here for many thousands of years. It’s quieter and more laid back than Malta, and the clay soils mean its greener too in the summer months.

Most tourists come just to see the Ggantija, massive prehistoric temples thought to be the oldest free-standing monuments in the world. The limestone walls date from 3500BC, and still tower above surprised tourists who inspect the libation holes that probably caught sacrificial blood. Then, they hop on the coach and head back on the ferry to Malta.

Now the island breathes a sigh of relief and does what it does best, chill. Staying on Gozo is to step back into a quieter, more relaxed style of living. The elegant houses and carved balconies of Gharb reveal perhaps how this attitude influenced another nation; many Gozitans have returned to their island having lived in Australia. It’s easy to spot; carved kangaroos and other symbols adorn the newly built but traditionally styled houses, build with the Aussie dollars.

Every turn on Gozo’s limited roads leads to a small treasure or unexpected sight. The most famous view has to be of the Azure Window, a massive arch of rock hanging over the clear sea, worn through by waves and now decorated with fossil hunting enthusiasts. Below, the sea laps into a pool fringed with rock that scuba divers drop into like pebbles in a millpond. Minutes later they bob out beside the window, having swum under the rock pool lip into the open sea via a cave metres below.

Gozitans are great church builders, from the elegant Cathedral with its trompe d’oeil dome to the modern magnificence of Ta’ Pinu, literally built around the original 16th century chapel where miraculous voices were heard. They also had to defend themselves against frequent raids in the past, and the impressive Citadel fortress was built so that citizens could retreat to safety at night.

Perhaps the village that sums up Gozo best is Xlendi, a former sleepy fishing village with gorgeous harbour. It’s still a relaxing place to sit, eat and watch the world go by, despite that fact that the road down is lined with modern Gozo hotels.

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