I spent last weekend in Gozo. It’s the first time I’ve stayed a night there in years. I’ve always just day tripped, usually taking guests for a quick tour doing the sights like any guide. One of Gozo’s attractions is the chance to stay in an old farmhouse which the island specialises in as accommodation. I live in one in Malta, so I have less urge to island hop for that reason.
But shame on me…
Because over nighting in Gozo is far more than staying in an old stone place. Two days and a night in Gozo give you a totally different perspective on this micro island; one that day trippers can never savour as they rush for the ferry at sundown. Gozo is, quite simply, different – a fact which has caused much sparring between the two inhabited Maltese Islands.
Maltese will often pop to Gozo for both summer and winter weekend breaks, especially at certain times of year such as Carnival in February and the summer shutdown week around the Santa Marija public holiday on 15th August. But day tripping tourists among you might want to linger longer once you’ve scanned my main reasons to stay in and not speed around Gozo.
That Gozo moves at a far slower pace is true. It is a cliche’ in some ways as it always billed as a more rural, quieter sister island to Malta. If you are en masse on a day trip you never quite get to feel the vibe of Gozo. I have to say it took me a whole day to not get wound up by ‘slow’ but to come to appreciate it as de-stressing, not stress inducing. It is the place not to take any Wi-Fi device, forget work, escape and just take life around you at face value.
Weird and Wonderful Land and Seacapes
It might be 20 minutes from Malta, but Gozo has a landscape all its own. It is dominated by steep-sided plateau. Some are topped by landmarks – Cittadella just above the chief town, Rabat (Victoria); the Ta’ Giordan Lighthouse or the village of Zebbug with its church rising high and proud. Then you’ve coastlines like that at Dwerja with the Azure Window and Fungus Rock, or the weather worn shapes on the coast at Qbajjer. You can of course rush around in a mini bus and see all in a day. But nothing beats eating out watching their contours change with the onset of dusk and the rise of the moon. If you do stay and eat in the evening when you’re on a day trip, you’re still clock watching for that ferry back to Malta and never quite in a slow enough lane to really enjoy the play of light on the scenery.
Of course you get to eat out on a day trip, but it’s nice to have time to discover somewhere new and pop back to favourite places over a few days in Gozo. On a day trip you are unlikely to discover, for instance, one of Gozo’s food icons, Maxokk’s pizzas in Nadur. There are some weird places to come across too, like the ‘Death Bar’, Tal Mewta, in the street to the right of St George’s church in Rabat. I didn’t see it open this time, but it used to have some old men boozing in it when I last went.
A Gozo insider did a good round up of where to eat in Gozo as the day ebbs and flows. We bumped into him on his regular Sunday walk in Rabat in St George’s Square and he reeled off details of a great value feast he’d had at Beppe’s in Marsalforn, and a Sicilian restaurant in Mgarr. We dined at Otters, also in Marsalforn. It used to be a humble beer and pizza place but has turned into a relaxed wine bar come restaurant since I last visited. It has fantastic seafood, a good wine list and an al fresco (very al fresco in gale force 5 last night) terrace where we watched waves crash below us. Our other find this weekend was Rangers Bar in Gharb. It has to-die-for views from the roof of Ta’ Pinu church and serves homely, hearty portions of family food – pizzas, pasta, fish ‘n’ chips – at amazing value. It’s an unpretentious place that attracts tourist families dining early (like us!). For an unbiased review of Rangers from an overseas visitor, click here.
Doing nothing in particular
Rushing around on a day trip is an anathema to those who’ve discovered Gozo. If you stay over, you can ‘do the sights’, one or two perhaps each morning, then spend the rest of your time doing absolutely nothing that requires brain or brawn. A family I know leave Malta most Friday nights or Saturday mornings for their weekend house in Gozo, returning Sunday evening. They do take computers but say Gozo forces them to have more relaxed quality, family time. They just can’t resist its wind-down feel. If you’re on holiday in Malta, you might think you’re already winding down. But if you aren’t stuck on a package deal, try a night in Gozo and you’ll see what relaxing is all about. Malta will feel so urban and busy when you return.
We’ll do a list of must-sees in Gozo and places to swim in another article. I find the pull of Gozo is to not see much and just relax quite frankly!
Photo: Hondoq ir Rumien, Leslie Vella.