It starts as soon as the ferry pulls away from the quay. Heading out from the bustle of the main island of Malta into the shimmering blue waters of the Gozo Channel, the Mediterranean sun warm on your skin, tensions just ebb away. Sliding past the tiny island of Comino, its solitary defensive tower giving a gentle thumbs up, the pretty little port of Mgarr is already in sight.
It’s only 25 minutes on the water from Malta to Gozo, but it’s time enough to slip back a few decades, throw off the stresses of modern life and prepare for a holiday on GMT.
No, not Greenwich Meantime, Gozo Maybe Time, the island’s default setting and the ideal time zone for a truly relaxing break.
Gozo is rural in a way Malta no longer is. Terraced flat-top hills punctuate fertile valleys, mosaics of tiny fields surrounded by dry-stone walls. The local limestone – honey-coloured and glowing – is everywhere, the island’s building material for everything from Neolithic temples and farmers huts to the towering Medieval Citadel that rises dramatically from the centre of the island, popping up in almost every inland view.
Each village square on the island has its shop or café and most have a red letter box or phone booth and a tiny police station hung with a traditional blue lantern – a colourful dash of leftover Britishness.