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The Citadel in Victoria Gozo
Before the British came to Malta, the capital of the small island of Gozo was simply called Rabat, meaning ‘the town’. Needless to say, the British decided to change the name to honour the Queen of England at the time, Victoria. And, needless to say, over 120 years later, most of the locals still call it Rabat! However, since there is a town called Rabat on the island of Malta itself, we’ll stick with the British name of Victoria.
Victoria, Gozo: Driving to Gozo and Victoria
All roads on Gozo eventually lead to Victoria, so you need never worry about getting lost in your Malta hire car on Gozo. In fact, a hire car is by far the best way to get to Gozo anyway, since the drive from the airport on Malta shows you some lovely countryside, before you board the ferry across to Gozo. Ten minutes drive from the ferry, and you are in Victoria.
Victoria, Gozo: The Citadel
Victoria is dominated by the impressive Citadel, which stands protectively over the town. There has been a defensive position here since Roman times, but after Turkish invaders breached the walls in 1551, the Knights began to seriously improve the fortifications. The Citadel was big enough so that every citizen of Gozo could fit inside at night, and indeed for over a hundred years citizens were ordered to spend their nights in the Citadel.
Today, as you walk up the steep road to the Citadel and through the gates, you enter a wide piazza dominated by Gozo Cathedral. Unusually, Gozo Cathedral has no dome, although one was designed for it by its designer, the great Malta church builder, Lorenzo Gafa. Instead, the flat ceiling is covered by a clever trompe d’oeil, a painted ceiling which gives the illusion of a high dome.
Victoria, Malta: Museums and Collections
The Cathedral Museum holds a collection of fine church silver. The Folklore Museum in Victoria is probably the most popular, featuring day-to-day exhibits from Gozo’s past, while the Archaeological Museum has a good collection of Roman items and early finds.
Wander down from the Citadel, and you’ll find shops selling lovely Maltese lace and fine filigree silver jewellery. Gold is alss a good buy here, and some shops also sell Gozo glass, although the main outlets for all Gozo crafts is just a quick drive away in your Malta hire car, at the Craft Village.
Victoria, Gozo: Markets and Shopping
In the mornings, there is a small market in the main square of It-Tokky, but it is small! Once you’ve made a quick look, walk down the streets behind the market and browse the local shops, which are far more interesting. At the end of these streets you come into Pjazza San Gorg, and the highly decorative church of St George. Built in 1678, it has been extensively added to over the years, and really is a triumph of decoration over taste.
Victoria is a fascinating mix of Renaissance and British, as a quick walk down Republic Street reveals. Here you’ll find old buildings and colonial offices side by side, and then suddenly in the middle, a cashpoint for a major UK bank!