So, if you’re joining us heat-bored or -averse locals, and not inclined to the hit the beach every day of your stay, what are the cool alternatives? Well, caves and catacombs of course, and the odd wood or garden.
Catacombs are cool. Not as in “Hey, dude” cool, but temperature-wise. There are St Paul’s and St Agatha’s Catacombs at Rabat, both wonderfully cool. There is also the subterranean Hypogeum at Paola (numbers of visitors limited; pre-booking compulsory). The site is not only cool but also an amazing feat of neolithic skill – be overawed by this smoothly-finished complex of underground rooms and passages way underground.
Hasan’s Cave near Hal Far has a stunning view from the vertical cliff and is quite a large complex of caves. It was closed for some time due to safety issues, so check whether it’s open before going. A torch is a must as the lighting was barely adequate when I visited some years ago, and the floor is very uneven.
There is also Ghar il-Kbir near Clapham Junction, close to Buskett. It’s a bit of a trek across a field, but shady and interesting. It would be much shadier had the British not decided to blow the roof in order to evict the troglodytic dwellers whom they considered were living in insanitary conditions. An even better opportunity to stay cool in summer lost for ever!
3. Gozo Caverns
In the village of Xaghra, Gozo, there are two underground caverns; one very small, one slightly more substantial. Both have stalactites and stalagmites and are damp and refreshing after the heat above ground. They are accessible through private houses so one must visit during the official opening hours.
4. Gardens and Woods
Trees are shady and cool: try Buskett Gardens after 4pm or the woods at Mizieb near Manikata. There are many gardens which are little known: Hastings, Sa Maison, Argotti and Herbert Ganado Gardens as well as the better known Upper and Lower Barakka Gardens. There are the San Anton Gardens near the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Attard and the Romeo Romano Gardens at Santa Venera, both of which provide welcome shade and a quiet retreat from the dusty summer streets.
Photo: Walter Lo Cascio