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Malta, Italy & Med Islands TTG Features


Those who go to Gozo for only a day are missing out, says Katherine Lawrey, who spent four days there checking out the island’s eco-friendly qualities


hen someone pops a cork in Gozo, locals think it’s the start of a revolution, our tour


guide jokes in his introduction to the island. Peaceful Gozo is a little sister to Malta, and a snapshot of what life used to be like on the mainland. Their geographical closeness – it takes just 25 minutes on the car ferries that plough back and forth between Mgarr (Gozo) and Cirkewwa (Malta) – makes Gozo a popular day trip for holidaymakers in Malta. But those who pay more than lip service to Gozo will be richly rewarded. With an inventory of 400 farmhouses and traditional houses of character for hire, Gozo has the infrastructure in place for a flexible, independent rural break. My Gozitan home for four nights is Girgentina, one of seven stone-built Abraham’s Farmhouses in the sleepy village of Xaghra. With its big social kitchen, Girgentina lends itself to a group of friends or a family, and there’s an industrial-size barbecue on the terrace outside, an easy solution for mass catering. The close proximity of the houses in the gated development will not suit those looking for complete peace and quiet – guests socialising on neighbouring terraces are clearly audible. But the development would work for a bigger group who book together and aren’t too fussed by the sounds of children splashing about in a neighbouring pool.


Getting around To venture away from Abraham’s Farmhouses, a hire car is a must – there is much to explore on Gozo. One of its most famous sites is the Azure Window. A natural sea arch that


has been carved by the forces of nature, it makes for a great photo opportunity, which draws coachloads of day-trippers like bees to a honeypot. But it’s worrying to see so many people ignore the “danger – do not cross” signs, and walk up to and over the fragile arch. A quick Google search will tell you that a significant chunk came away in April 2012, and the arch is not expected to last many more years. Gozitans have already come up with a new name for the resulting stack – the Azure Pinnacle. But you don’t need to put the


breaks on your clients’ fun – Gozo has a secret arch, Wied il-Miela, in


Why Gozo’s a corker W


Comino cave accessed by kayak


better condition, on the north coast of the island. And the coachloads of tourists don’t know about it! With the help of local adventure operators, those with a daring streak can climb safely all over it, and being a more stable arch, there’s little danger of


them ending up on the evening news. My view of this arch is a highlight


of a bike tour with Gozo Adventures, which has me sailing along quiet country lanes and dirt tracks, and soaking up blue-sky views of rugged coastal cliffs and lunar-like Roman saltpans, protruding into the sea. Sea kayaking is another activity


offered by Gozo Adventures. We paddle across the slip of water between Gozo and Comino, the third island in the Maltese archipelago. But Comino’s headline attraction fails to match the pristine pictures I’ve seen in glossy brochures. The Blue Lagoon turns out to be more like a party resort, with a flotilla of boats competing to have the loudest music, and rubbish lapping at the shoreline. However, a 10-minute paddle around the rocky coast and we find ourselves in a secret cave, where the water glows turquoise and there’s not a discarded plastic bottle in sight.


Finding a beach A car also comes in handy to access Gozo’s unspoilt beaches, such as Ramla Bay, framed only by sand dunes and rocky headlands. After a morning sunbathing and swimming, we drive to Marsalforn in the next bay along, a pretty fishing village with a row of waterfront restaurants, where you can’t help but linger over the catch of the day. It’s worth checking out Victoria,


also known as Rabat, the administrative centre of the island. There is an ancient citadel here. Its elevation gives it an impressive 360-degree view of the island and the nickname “the crown of Gozo”. In the narrow streets below, I learn


Urge clients to see the Azure Window sooner than later; erosion may soon turn it into the “Azure Pinnacle”


more about a Gozitan tradition stretching back centuries. The quality of the lace work on show in Marika Mizzi’s Bastion Lace Shop is impressive, but it’s sad


13.03.2014


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