Golden Gozo: Malta’s little sister is a holiday in itself

1 year ago 136

Warm h2o rushed up the soil and fizzed implicit our feet similar soda. Screaming with a operation of joyousness and nerves, my two-year-old scrambled connected to my backmost arsenic the adjacent question washed astir my waist, draping ribbons of seaweed implicit america both. Just 9 months aged erstwhile the archetypal lockdown struck, she had ne'er seen the oversea and didn’t rather cognize what to do. Soaked, she threw herself connected to the hot, camel-coloured soil and was soon camouflaged. Amid snorkelling teenagers bobbing connected the h2o similar buoys, my four-year-old rode an inflatable pinkish flamingo, watching older swimmers chopped done the Mediterranean’s greenish swirl and caput towards its navy depths.

Outdoor cafes successful  St George Square successful  Victoria, the superior  of Gozo
Outdoor cafes successful St George’s Square successful Victoria, the superior of Gozo. Photograph: E Fesenko/Alamy

Measuring hardly 9 miles by five, the land of Gozo is Malta’s small sister, the quiescent 1 with concealed coves, past churches and family-run restaurants serving rabbit stew. Most visitors travel connected the ferry from Malta for a time trip, but we were present for a week, enjoying the calm and slowness arsenic we drove astir vineyards and pumpkin patches, the odor of citrus trees beardown connected the evening air.

Ramla Bay, wherever we were swimming, is simply a conservation area, backed by soil dunes and taxable to sand-sifting and clean-ups, arsenic evidenced by the deficiency of integrative and cigaret butts. The seabed is strewn with boulders and champion tackled successful a brace of aquatics shoes; your swimwear volition capable with reddish sand. But nary of this dissuades beach-goers, who rev up connected quad bikes, propulsion grandmas successful wheelchairs, and stock caller pizza to Nelly Furtado beats earlier dozing arsenic their limbs crook bronze.

The constrictive  streets of Rabat, Gozo’s capital.
The constrictive streets of Rabat, Gozo’s capital. Photograph: E Fesenko/Alamy

By noon, taunted by the aroma of fried food connected the breeze, we gathered up toys, shook retired towels and children, and called a Bolt to instrumentality america for lunch. Although autobus services tally astir the island, we were advised to download the ride-hailing app, which offers a prime of green-energy taxis, minivans and cars with booster seats, on with the accidental to chat to Gozitans young and old. In 15 minutes we arrived astatine Ta’ Philip, conscionable supra the harbour successful the colony of Ghajnsielem. Pushing done curtains made from threaded vino corks, we stepped into a modernised winery and were met by a teen named Benjamin, who smiled done braces and showed america to a array by the unfastened kitchen, from wherever we could perceive the whomph of occurrence successful pans.

With a farm-to-fork ethos, proprietor Philip Spiteri opened Ta’ Philip (Philip’s Place) successful 2016 to absorption connected section specialities. Adamant astir accepted methods, the 56-year-old restaurateur installed a wood-burning oven wherever suckling pigs are slow-roasted from midnight to 10am, on with section lamb and kid. While we waited, ail baguettes arrived successful brownish insubstantial bags. Lightly charred, they were truthful caller the food burned my fingertips. Philip swooped successful with 3 ramekins of butterbean and ail puree, herb relish and kunserva helwa, an intense, sticky herb conserve that’s “stirred and stirred with oversea brackish and sugar”, past dispersed into dishes to adust connected the extortion successful the sun.

He brought implicit a vessel labelled “Ta’ Mena Estate”, and explains that Mena was his precocious mother, who began the effect and rootlike workplace overmuch of his nutrient comes from. All his food is caught locally. My lobster spaghetti was spun similar a chignon and clipped with a flaming orangish ammunition filled with meat. It was steeped successful garlic, basil, achromatic vino and stock, and truthful rich, steadfast and filling that I struggled to marque it done my main people of qarabaghli mimli – a trio of circular courgettes plumped with minced beef and pork, and capped with a crust of parmesan. But it was the homemade tiramisu that ensured we were the past customers to leave.

On the locomotion into the capital, Victoria, known locally arsenic Rabat, we passed houses named Ave Maria, Saint Leo and Saint Anthony, galore of which had cubby holes scooped retired to acceptable a statuette of Mary oregon the section saint. But 1 happening was ever-present: a yellowish aura created by the gebla tal-Franka, the soft, aureate limestone that lights up the land against a crisp bluish sky. And arsenic the prima reddens astir 7pm, Gozo’s balconies, ramparts and farmhouses instrumentality connected a rose-gold hue, appearing to shimmer astatine the edges.

Ghajnsielem. Photograph: Allstar/Alamy

In the market, dense ladies sat with their knees isolated selling lace and earrings, grumbling arsenic mopeds revved down the chromatic passages. My four-year-old and I sat unneurotic connected the steps of the 18th-century Banca Giuratale, eating watermelon ice-cream and watching a filfola lizard shimmy up the bench, its feet shaped similar pods of prima anise.

The quadrate is the hub of the enactment and I got chatting to a section surgeon. During the pandemic Gozo didn’t fare arsenic severely arsenic immoderate had feared, owing to its “double isolation – arsenic an land disconnected an island”. Maltese tourists, incapable to question anyplace else, flocked to its beaches and restaurants successful what was possibly a redemptive infinitesimal for a radical who person often felt fto down by their Maltese siblings. “Dating backmost to the clip of the Knights of St John,” the doc said, “when Malta failed to support Gozo, we person not felt arsenic though we were decently looked aft by the sister island, truthful determination is simply a definite deficiency of spot there.”

The adjacent morning, we spiralled down to the depths of the Ramla Valley, surrounded by an abundance of prickly pear cacti, their pads dispersed retired similar rabbit ears and rimmed with ripening fruit. It wasn’t adjacent 10am but the vigor had risen, and similar a cardinal maracas, the dependable of cicadas shook retired from the trees. We’d travel to Dreams of Horses Farm, an equine therapy centre wherever rescue horses are brought to recuperate and, successful turn, assistance radical recovering from trauma. The owner, Victor Muscat, crunched crossed the thrust tailed by 2 ducks and a turkey. Deeply tanned nether his worn suede hat, helium asked the children if they’d ever been astir horses.

Lobster spaghetti astatine  the Ta’ Philip restaurant
Lobster spaghetti astatine the Ta’ Philip restaurant, adjacent the harbour. Photograph: Daniel Cilia

“The archetypal happening radical bash is interaction them connected the nose. Imagine if I did the aforesaid happening to you: I don’t cognize you, but I locomotion implicit and interaction your face? Horses are not capable to spot you from the front; you request to beryllium lasting to the side.” Victor led america into the stables to conscionable a young stallion rescued from an proprietor who could nary longer look aft it. He stood by its enarthrosis and began to hitch with his fist. “Two warnings,” helium said. “If his ears are flat, determination back. And if helium turns his caput and opens his rima a bit, that’s the 2nd warning.” The equine nuzzled into his enarthrosis and Victor whispered, his look breaking into a fatherly smile.

A equine  whisperer interacts astatine  the Dreams of Horses Farm successful  Gozo’s Ramla Valley
A equine whisperer astatine the Dreams of Horses Farm successful Gozo’s Ramla Valley. Photograph: Victor Paul Borg/Alamy

Open for a mates of hours each time successful the cooler evenings, the workplace welcomes children and adults with disabilities oregon troubled backgrounds to travel and groom the horses and donkeys. Victor brought retired eight-year-old Shooting Star, a hip-height falabella equine with a heavy fringe. He stood patiently portion the girls plaited his blond mane, earlier walking him astir the paddock successful delight.

On the thrust backmost crossed the island, we twisted circular coastal roads, watching the oversea drift successful and retired of view. Single crosses appeared connected hilltops and tiny trucks passed by, piled precocious with watermelons. Winding done a village, we peeked into fisheries, antique shops and ice-cream parlours. Church bells pealed sweetly, neighbours chatted connected steps and that section limestone illuminated the scene. Perhaps this small sister erstwhile felt obscured, but there’s small uncertainty that she is present retired of her sibling’s shadiness and bathed successful her own, beauteous aureate light.
For much accusation spot