Gozo is more relaxed, quieter, greener and everything in Gozo just seems as though there is no reason for pace. It truly is the perfect getaway, especially if you are looking for something familiar but slightly different.
All photography in this article belongs to Alex Turnbull.
Gozo – sister island of Malta
Gozo is much smaller than Malta, but is also less built and is fuller of greenery. It is a perfect getaway location from the busy lifestyle in Malta.
Getting to Gozo
The sister island of Gozo is about 15 minutes by ferry from Malta to Gozo. The ferry is the most popular means of transportation between Malta and Gozo, however, you can also get there with a personal boat.
Sites to visit in Gozo
The Cittadella, which is also known as the Castello, is the citadel of Victoria, Gozo’s capital city. The Cittadella is on a tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998. There were also a few Neolithic remains that were found on site of the Cittadella, which suggests that it may have been inhabited during the Stone Age. During the Bronze Age, it was inhabited and today, the site of the Cittadella is believed to have been the acropolis of the Punic-Roman city Gaulos, or Glauconis Civitas. In the 15th century, just outside the walls, a suburb began to develop. This entire area is part of the core historic Victoria. In 1551, the defenses of the castle did not stand when a force of the Ottoman invaded, capturing and enslaving the Gozitans. Between 1599 and 1622, major reconstructive works were made on the southern walls of the Cittadella, which transformed it from a medieval castle to a gunpower fortress. The northern walls remained untouched, and today you can notice the medieval structure. The structure contains several churches and historic buildings, including the Cathedral of the Assumption, built between 1697 and 1711, which was also the earlier church on site.
When the French occupation was on the Maltese Islands, on June 1798, the Gozitans rebelled on the 3rd of September, forcing the French to withdraw garrison from the Cittadella, until the 28th October has capitulated after some negotiations. A day after, the British had transferred full control over the Cittadella back to the Gozitans, who made Saverio Cassar, a provisional government during a brief time when Gozo became an independent state, La Nazione Gozitana. Between 1839 and 1843, when the Gozo Aqueduct was built, a water reservoir was also constructed in the ditch of the Cittadella. On the 1st of April 1868, the British decommissioned the fortifications of the Cittadella. The ruined buildings within the Cittadella, along with the Citadella’s fortifications were included in the Antiquities List of 1925. Today, there are several buildings within the Cittadella that are open to the public, such as The Old Prison, The Gozo Nature Museum, The Gozo Museum of Archaeology, and the Gran Castello historic house, dedicated to Gozitan folklore.
Ta’ Pinu church
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu, in short Ta’ Pinu, is a roman catholic minor basilica and a national shrine located in the village of Gharb. The basilica overlooks open views of the countryside and is something magnificent. Ta’ Pinu has great importance to all Gozitans, both those who live on the sister island of Malta, and those abroad. Although the origins of Ta’ Pinu are unknown, the first record of it was found in the archives of the Curia in Gozo, it mentioned that a chapel was rebuilt and belonged to a noble family of “The Gentile”.
In 1575, Pope Gregory XIII was delegated to visit the church and found that it was in a bad state. He gave an order to demolish the church and pass its duties to the parish church, today’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Gozo. Just as demolition began, the first workman broke his arm as he made his first strike. This was taken as an omen, that the church should not be demolished. It is only the church to survive Duzina’s decree ordering the demolition of churches alike. In 1598, Pinu Gauci became the procurator of the church and the name of the church was changed to Ta’ Pinu, meaning “Of Philip”. Following 1611, when he offered money for its restoration, works began on rebuilding it and ended in 1619.
There is a tale that the Ta’ Pinu church is a church of Miracles. There is an allocated space with letters, photos, and even silver hearts, all votive offerings, which people brought to the church asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for miracle cures and for help with many other problems in their lives. People speak of those who have written for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary and that their cries had been answered. People speak of health and other issues clearing out from their lives once they asked for help. Many say that Ta’ Pinu is a place where if one asks and wishes for something that it will certainly come true.
Dwejra, Azure window remains, Inland sea & tunnel, the Fungus Rock
Dwejra is a very well-known place as, until recently it had the iconic Azure Window, which was a 28-meter-tall natural arch made of limestone. Unfortunately, on 8th March 2017, there was a strong storm which the arch could not withstand, breaking at its base, the entire natural structure collapsed. It was always one of the top touristic attractions, as well as being featured in Clash of the Titans (1981), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), miniseries The Odyssey (1997), and HBO’s tv series Game of Thrones, the Dothraki wedding scene (2011).
In the same area, there is a small Inland sea. A small lagoon leads to a natural narrow cave opening, which leads into the open sea. On the opposite side, you can also view the magnificent cliffs of San Lawrenz as well as the Fungus Rock.
The Fungus Rock sometimes referred to as the Mushroom Rock is a 60-meter-high rock made of limestone. The Knight Hospitaller had discovered a rare fungus, which had medicinal properties that they used for styptic dressings for wounds and to cure dysentery. In 1746, Grandmaster Pinto posted a permanent guard to make sure there were no trespassers entering the rock. Today, no one can go on the Rock as it is a nature reserve, however, you are allowed to snorkel on the shoreline which is part of the Dwejra coast, located in close proximity to the Fungus Rock.
Places of interest in Gozo
Santa Cecilia Chapel
Found in the limits of Ghajnsielem is the Santa Cecilia Chapel. It was built around 1540 and reconstructed in 1644, it is the only surviving medieval chapel in Gozo. It was severely damaged in 2007 by an arson attack and partially collapsed in 2008. The Wirt Ghawdex NGO restored it between 2008 and 2011 and it was inaugurated in 2012. It is now open to the public once a month.
Ta’ Kola Windmill
The Ta’ Kola Windmill, closely located to the Ggantija temple in Xaghra was built in 1725 by the Fondazione Vilhena of Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena. It was later rebuilt in the 1780s and in 1992 became a museum. Just like many other windmills on the Maltese islands, it has a round central tower and a number of rooms. The miller’s living quarter and both the sailing and milling machinery have been restored.
Il-Hagar – Heart of Gozo Museum
Established in 1998, the Fondazzjoni Belt Victoria has the main aim to promote Gozo’s cultural identity and to create a Museum-cum-Cultural Centre in collaboration with St. George’s basilica. The museum showcases treasures that belong to St. George’s basilica as well as other historical and cultural artifacts. A project aimed at reviving Il-Hagar, a medieval town in Gozo, allowing this museum to display a rich collection of artistic and historical artifacts which were previously not seen by the public.