By Ashutosh Mishra
London: The island of Malta, located slap-bang in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, is being touted as one of the hottest destinations for the footloose and fancy-free looking for a perfect winter getaway. One of the newspapers here has run a two-page ad feature that begins thus: “shrug off winter’s chill and make for the heart of the Mediterranean, where short-haul Malta basks in over 300 days of sunshine a year. Vibrant Valetta serves up delicious food, a fascinating backstory, and a warm welcome.”
In a world of ever-changing landscapes, Malta is described as a miracle that has remained virtually untouched with its fortified ruins, faded palazzos and honey-hued facades that cast a spell on any visitor. In spring or autumn, you are more likely to be greeted by cobalt-blue skies and thin crowds. The capital, Valletta, is an ancient walled city where quirky artisanal markets, buzzy bars and al fresco restaurants meet 7,000 years of history.
A UNESCO heritage site Malta’s capital is located on a hilly peninsula between two of the finest natural harbours in the Mediterranean. The Siege of Malta in 1565 captured the European imagination and mobilised the resources needed to create the new city of Valletta, founded soon after, in 1566. The Knights of St John, aided by the most respected European military engineers of the 16th century, conceived and planned the city as a single, holistic creation of the late Renaissance, with a uniform grid plan within fortified and bastioned city walls.
The fabric of the city includes a compact ensemble of 320 monuments that encapsulate every aspect of the civil, religious, artistic and military functions of its illustrious founders. These include the 16th century buildings relating to the founding of the Renaissance city, such as the cathedral of St John, the Palace of the Grand Master as well as the improvements attributed to the military engineers and architects of the 18th century such as the Auberge de Bavière, the Church of the Shipwreck of St Paul, the Library and the Manoel Theatre.
No wonder over the years its ancient cobbled streets and flattering golden light has attracted big-name filmmakers. It has been the favourite haunt of many A-list celebrities. They can’t have enough of it.
As one of the promotionals puts it culture-vultutes are spoilt for choice in Malta’s capital city with more than 300 historical sites to explore. For those who prefer the wind in their hair, the neighbouring islands of Gozo and Comino offer sandy coves, clear waters and first-rate diving sites. Experts tell you that Maltese archipelago is one of the best places to dive in Europe, with a raft of caves, reefs and wrecks to explore.
The promotionals also talk about Maltese food that is rustic and largely Mediterranean. There is particularly inviting reference to the ‘catch of the day’ seafood including fresh tuna, swordfish, prawns, lobsters, and octopuses. So are the Brits, tired of their MPs fighting over Brexit, packing their bags for a refreshing break in the not so far Mediterranean island? One will know very soon.
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