Take your time
In Gozo everyone seems to have time. Time to sit beneath the citadel in It-Tokk (literally ‘the Meeting Place’), the main square of Gozo’s charming little capital, Victoria. Time to chat in the shade of an oleander tree or the oversized Parish church that dominates every village square.
Gozitans make time for visitors too. Ask the way, and you may find yourself accompanied rather than told. That is not to say they intrude; they don’t – not even on celebrities. Which is one reason the likes of Gary Neville and Billy Connolly escape here.
Follow in Brangelina's footsteps
One of Connolly’s haunts is secluded Mgarr Ix-Xini. He comes here to eat at the peaceful little fish restaurant that sits at the head of this steep-sided rocky creek from March to November.
A narrow path, flanked by sweet-smelling wild fennel and rich aromatic thyme, winds up the rock above clear waters. The sea here is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving, protected from the prevailing northwesterly winds.
Until recently it was truly off the beaten track, but Mgarr Ix-Xini has just landed on the map as the place where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt filmed their latest movie, By the Sea. In the film this is the South of France in the 1970s and the restaurant’s tiny interior is the French village shop. Colourful shelves and a few props remain and you can now sit on the Tamarisk-shaded terrace sipping wine ‘mis en bouteille par Jolie-Pitt’.
Marvel at Gozo's magnificence
Mgarr Ix-Xini is just one of Gozo’s many coastal attractions. Edward Lear, master of the nonsense rhyme, who came here to rest, walk and paint, described the island’s landscape as “pomskizillious and gromphiberous, being as no words can describe its magnificence”.
The landscape is indeed amazing; from the dramatic Ta’Cenc cliffs plunging 145m into the sea to a strange clay hill like a giant grey doorknob, and the rich red sands of Ramla Beach – arguably the best beach in the country.
At ‘Calypso’s Cave’, meanwhile, Homer’s Odysseus is said to have been held willing hostage by the charming sea nymph. The collapsed cave isn’t much to look at but the view is stunning and it isn’t hard to see how Odysseus might have fallen into GMT and forgotten to go home.
Gozo has been feeding a human population for 7000 years. In fact, it may have been the first place in Malta to be settled, with farmers arriving by sea from Sicily just 90km to the north.
Evidence of this can be seen on the stretch of coast just west of the little resort of Marsalforn. Scooped out cliffs of smooth golden sandstone, like desert dunes, form the backdrop to chequer-boards of seaside salt pans.
It’s a place that time forgot, where a few families still produce salt as it has been made since Roman times, storing it in rock-cut rooms behind the bright-painted doors tucked into the cliff face.
You can buy salt at Jubilee Foods in It-Tokk, which also offers tastings of other local produce like sweet prickly pear jam and tangy dried Gozitan goats cheese.