Victoria – Good food and Fascinating History

Victoria – Good food and Fascinating History

Any backpacker staying at Hostel Jones simply has to take the time to visit Malta’s sister island, Gozo. The tiny isle has some beautiful beaches of its own, fantastic restaurants, and a noticeably slower pace of life than Malta. One place you definitely have to visit is Victoria, also known as Rabat, the capital of Gozo.

Good food is an important part of the Gozitan lifestyle and two delicacies that visitors to the island just have to try are pastizzi and ġbejniet. Pastizzi are a Maltese and Gozitan speciality and any Gozitan has his own opinion on where you can find the best pastizzi. The snack is a diamond-shaped savoury pastry, filled with either ricotta or peas. One of the best spots for pastizzi in Victoria is Tal-Lajku, a pastizzeria near the bus terminus. Once you get off the bus ask someone for directions, it’s about a five minute walk, and it will definitely be worth it. You could also head to St Francis Square, where you’ll find a pastizzeria called Tapie’s Bar. If you face the church, the tea shop is on the right side of the square. I’ve been going to this pastizzeria since I was a child and have never been disappointed. You sit down in metal chairs, sipping hot tea served in glasses instead of mugs, and biting into soft ricotta enclosed in flaky buttery pastry.

Another local speciality is ġbejniet, a small round cheese which can be prepared plain or peppered, hard or soft. Ġbejniet tal-bzar, the peppered cheeses, are a particular favourite of mine. At the side of the Independence Square in Victoria, you’ll find a few small shops that sell some amazing fresh ġbejniet. Unlike pastizzi, these can be bought packaged and taken back to the hostel in Malta to enjoy later on!

If you feel like doing some shopping, you can head to Arkadia, a shopping mall on the main road, or The Duke, a smaller mall also in Victoria. Arkadia has a well-equipped grocery store on the bottom floor, many jewellery and clothes shops, and a floor dedicated to household goods. Further down from The Duke, you’ll find a lovely park which was recently renovated, called Villa Rundle Gardens. It’s a beautiful place to sit a while, and enjoy the scenery away from the hustle and bustle. A more rustic option for shopping is the market that is set up daily in Independence Square, known as It-Tokk. You can browse the stalls, and the rows upon rows of sunglasses, jewellery or pretty scarves. Traditional Gozitan folklore skirts are for sale, long and colourful, sold by loud hawkers.

If you’re looking for a chance to immerse yourself in the past, a must see is the Cittadella, the main touristic attraction in Victoria.

A fortified town, towering above the capital, it was first developed in the pre-historic period. Later on, it was the only refuge on the island for the Gozitans from the many attacks by corsairs, especially during the 16th century. Inside the Citadel, the magnificent 17th century Baroque Cathedral designed by Lorenzo Gafa is well worth a visit. The Cathedral is open daily, from 9.30 to 4.30. Once you’ve clambered up the many stairs leading up to the entrance, and stepped inside, look up! A famous trompe l’oeil painted by Antonio Manuele, an optical illusion, depicts a dome that does not actually exist.

Another beautiful church in the capital is the Church of St George, the second most important in Victoria. The photo above depicts part of a typical Maltese festa. If you want to dive into a Maltese feast, make sure you’re in Victoria around the 15th August for the feast of Santa Marija.

Make sure you go for a leisurely walk in the small streets around the church. You’ll find many tiny shops and picturesque alleys. If you need a break from the busy town, and want to go for a walk in the countryside, head for Wied il-Lunzjata, a valley on the limits of Victoria (technically in Kercem). There’s a small chapel and you’ll find it a peaceful place for a quiet walk.

Victoria has a lot to offer travellers and backpackers, as does Gozo. It’s definitely worth staying the night so that you’ll be able to see and do more around the island.

 

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Victoria - Good Food and Fascinating History
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An insider's guide to Victoria. the bustling capital of Gozo.

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