Gozo

CitadelGozo, which in Maltese is called Għawdex (pronounced: Awdesh), is popularly called The Island of Calypso, that is a nickname originating from the Greek mythological location of Ogygia referred to in Homer's Odyssey. In this epic poem, the fabled island was controlled by the nymph Calypso, who had detained the Greek hero Odysseus for seven long years as prisoner of love. The Gozitans thrive on fishing and agriculture and this is evident in the small fishing villages that dot the island. The scenery provides a spectacular backdrop of limestone farmhouses, rolling hills and clear Mediterranean blue sea.

Gozo, meaning “joy” in Castilian, is the second largest Island of the Maltese archipelago, with a population of approximately 30,000. Though separated from mainland Malta by a 5km stretch of sea, Gozo is distinctly different from Malta. The Island is a third the size of Malta, more rural and simple, its culture and way of life rooted in fishing, as well as in primitive pastoral and agricultural activity.

Exuding a relaxed pace of life, Gozo is the ideal secluded safe haven and at just 25 minutes or so by ferry from Malta, the hop can easily be made for even the shortest stay. Life in Gozo was harsh for well over two millennia, as the Islands were left exposed to any passing raiders, much more so than Malta with its natural harbours and defences.

Gozo and its inhabitants have their own distinct character and identity, with noticeably different lifestyles, accents and dialect. Gozitans are known for their friendliness and welcome to visitors, going out of their way to indicate a direction or help a visitor find their destination. Festas and carnival times in Gozo also have a different feel to those on Malta.  The village of Nadur celebrates carnival with a black sense of humour, quite unlike its more joyful counterparts elsewhere.

The real beauty of Gozo, apart from its stunning seascape and interior, lies in the villages.  Here, it seems as if time really does stand still. The locals treasure their peace and the villages are tranquil, proving to be a wonderful respite from the trials and tribulations of everyday life for visitors.

Village bars open early in order to cater for the early risers who attend the first mass of the morning and close fairly late at night, catering for the socialising needs of locals and visitors. These watering holes have stayed unchanged for decades, the only sign of time passing by being the food and drink displayed for sale on the solid shelves and the Edwardian glass cases.

All roads in Gozo lead to Victoria, also known as Rabat, which is where the fortified citadel sits atop a summit.

Victoria is not just the geographic heart of Gozo, but also the centre of everyday activity. It manages to combine the bustle of its market and shops with a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. It is a great place to watch the Islanders go about their day, especially when the main market square, It-Tokk, comes to life. The town also has a thriving cultural life all its own, with some surprising attractions ranging from opera to horse races in the main street on festa day.

Gozo is well served by restaurants, where the eating is good and varied. Apart from restaurants and cafés offering local dishes as well as continental menus, one can also enjoy themed restaurants, such as Chinese or Indian.

Map of Gozo

Gozo Weather

Live flash weather feed from Gozo Weather Station - www.gozo.ws

Historical Background

ggantijaGozo was first inhabited before the Neolithic Period (ca. 4th Millenium BC). Even so, according to archaeological finds, this means that Gozo received its first inhabitants from Sicily before mainland Malta. Today's Gozitan has typical Mediterranean features that closely match with Spanish or Italian looks. Gozitans are renowned hard-workers, religiously influenced and with an admirable sence of hospitality. The population of Gozo stands at about 31,000 and is distributed amongst Victoria and the surrounding thirteen villages.

Throughout the years Gozo has been vastly influenced by the cultures and history of a series of dominators including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, the Knights of St. John, the French and the British, who all left their mark on the cultural and the folkloristic heritage of the population.

IThroughout the Middle Ages and into the rule of the Knights, Barbary corsairs and Saracens raided the island at intervals.  In 1551, the Saracens carried out a devastating raid, taking almost the entire population away into slavery. The Island never really recovered from this and remained under populated for centuries until the arrival of the Knights saw the medieval Citadel (in Victoria, or Rabat) refortified and the Gozitans began to venture down to the rest of the Island.

Aerial view of GozoIn comparison with mainland Malta, one finds a more varied geology and larger relief contrasts, with typical flat-topped hills. Over 31000 people inhabit the island and this amounts to one-twelfth of the overall population of Malta. When compared to the overall area of the Maltese Islands, Gozo covers approximately one-third of that area. This means that the island of Gozo is not overpopulated, and therefore greener and quite more peaceful. The main sources of income are from Tourism, Agriculture, Fishing together with a number of small and medium-sized enterprises. Politically, Gozo and Comino form one of the thirteen electoral districs of the Republic of Malta. Five representatives are elected to the Maltese parliament, and to better look after the Gozitan people's interests, one of these is always a central government cabinet minister. Besides, each of the fourteen localities or village communities have their own local council and therefore their mayor.

Goz\o coat of ArmsThe official coat-of-arms of Gozo is a field divided horizontally: the upper two thirds silver; the lower one third made up of six parallel wavy horizontal bands alternately silver and black, the top one silver, the bottom one black. Upon the upper part, three slightly pointed hills in black, the centre hill higher and in front of the other two hills. Above the shield is a mural coronet with five eschaugettes and a sally-port in gold. Simultaneously with this emblem, Gozo earned its popular nickname the Island of the Three Hills probably derived from the hilly view when observed from mainland Malta.