The Maltese archipelago lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km north of Africa.
The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of over 400,000 inhabitants occupying an area of 316 square kilometers.
Malta is the largest island and the cultural, commercial and administrative centre.
Gozo is the second largest island and is more rural, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture.
Comino, the smallest of the trio, has one hotel and is largely uninhabited.
In Malta you can span the millennia with an astonishing array of things to discover. And wherever you go, the scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop. The colours are striking, honey-coloured stone against the deepest of Mediterranean blues.
Malta has been described as one big open-air museum. What makes it unique is that so much of the past is visible today. Delve into the island’s mysterious prehistory, retrace the footsteps of St. Paul or see where the Knights of St. John fought their most famous battles.
The history of Malta is a long and colourful one dating back to the dawn of civilisation.
The Maltese Islands went through a golden Neolithic period, the remains of which are the mysterious temples dedicated to the goddess of fertility. Later on, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines, all left their traces on the Islands.
In 60 A.D. St. Paul was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta. The Arabs conquered the islands in 870 A.D. and left an important mark on the language of the Maltese. Until 1530 Malta was an extension of Sicily: The Normans, the Aragonese and other conquerors who ruled over Sicily also governed the Maltese Islands. It was Charles V who bequeathed Malta to the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem who ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798. The Knights took Malta through a new golden age, making it a key player in the cultural scene of 17th and 18th century Europe. The artistic and cultural lives of the Maltese Islands were injected with the presence of artists such as Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray who were commissioned by the Knights to embellish churches, palaces and auberges.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte took over Malta from the Knights on his way to Egypt. The French presence on the islands was short lived, as the English, who were requested by the Maltese to help them against the French, blockaded the islands in 1800.
British rule in Malta lasted until 1964 when Malta became independent. The Maltese adapted the British system of administration, education and legislation.
Modern Malta became a Republic in 1974 and joined the European Union in May 2004.
Culture and Heritage
With 7,000 years of history, the Maltese Islands are steeped in culture and heritage. This historic legacy, unique in the Mediterranean, is reflected in the country’s national architecture and collections. There are so many areas of heritage and culture to be explored – the 16th century masterpiece Grandmasters’ Palace, which is now parliament, the “Sacra Infermeria”, which is now a fully equipped conference centre, the St. James Centre for Creativity – a superbly restored fortification where contemporary works of art are exhibited against the original rough-textured walls and rediscovered spaces. With these buildings, past and present blend into an enduring and admirable lesson in the art of living.
The arts have always played a large role in Maltese culture and continue to do so with cultural events occurring frequently. The National Museum of Fine Arts, housed in an exuberant Rococo building dating from the 1570’s, exhibits some magnificent art, ranging from the early Renaissance to modern times. Both established and budding artists are encouraged to display their efforts through publicly-supported programs. There is always an exhibition of some kind running. Theatre and music are also very popular in the Islands. A variety of theatres – including the Valletta’s Manoel Theatre and two opera houses in Victoria (Gozo) – as well as several open-air venues offer wide selection of plays, musicals, operas and concerts.
Towns & Villages
There are walled cities and baroque towns, sleepy villages and bustling fishing ports. Then there is modern, urban living with cafés, nightlife, clubs and restaurants.
There are places in which to live it up and others where it seems like time stood still. In Malta you can enjoy life at its simplest one day and at its most cosmopolitan the next.
Malta’s capital, the World Heritage City of Valletta, and the medieval fortified towns of Mdina and Cittadella in Gozo, are the Islands’ historical highlights. Tas-Sliema, Bugibba, Qawra and St. Julian’s in Malta and Marsalforn and Xlendi in Gozo are the main resorts. They bustle with activity, and not just in summer.
Valletta is a treasurehouse of art and architecture. This city of the Knights remains virtually intact, its streets flanked by palaces and tiny, old-world shops. Across Grand Harbour lie the Three Cities of Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa. Older than Valletta, they offer a fascinating insight into the islands’ maritime fortunes.
The southern fishing village of Marsaxlokk and neighbouring resort town of Marsascala are also worth a visit.
With little effort, just a desire to explore, you’ll find inland towns and villages with character and treasures of their own. Churches reveal masterpieces by the artists to the Knights while each village square is a slice of history, its café-bar the hub of authentic rural life.
Worlds apart from the main resorts and the capital Valletta, are the Islands’ villages. They are the epitomé of Mediterranean life. The soul of the Islands’ past. Yet, with their lively festas and unique everyday life, they are very much part of the Islands’ culture today.
Even the smallest village has its own baroque wonder, the parish church. And to locals, each village has its unique character. After visiting a few, you’ll soon pick up on the differences.
Some are known for their festas and traditions, others are national gems as they house archaeological or architectural treasures. Then there are the seaside villages, where the rhythm of life is dictated by fishing. While life in inland villages is determined by the harvesting of the various fruits and vegetables grown nearby.
The oddity about the islands’ villages is their size. A village is not defined by the number of residents or streets. The description really dates back to a time when village boundaries were defined by parishes. Some of the larger ones, like Ħaż-Żebbuġ in central Malta are still referred to as villages.
Malta also has its ‘Three Villages’, rather like its Three Cities of Vittoriosa (Il-Birgu), Cospicua (Bormla) and Senglea (L-Isla). The Three Villages are Ħ’Attard, Ħal Balzan and Ħal Lija in central Malta. During the Golden Age of Malta, after the Great Siege, many noble families built houses here, and identified the villages with a semi-urban sophistication.
Malta’s climate is typical of the Mediterranean and is strongly influenced by the sea. The Maltese Islands have a pleasantly sunny climate with a daily average of around 12 hours sunshine in summer going down to 5 to 6 hours in mid-winter.
Summers are hot, dry and very sunny. Day-time temperatures in summer are often mitigated by cooling sea breezes.
Spring and autumn are cooler, except when the occasional Scirocco wind from Africa brings unseasonally high temperatures and humidity.
Winters are mild, with the occasional short cold spells brought about by the north and north-easterly winds from central Europe.
Annual rainfall is low, averaging 568mm a year. Bathing in the sea is quite possible well into the ‘winter’ months, and the peak beach season can last until mid- to late October.
The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English.
Maltese, a language of Semitic origin written in the Latin script, is the national language of Malta. Over the centuries, it has incorporated many words derived from English, Italian and French.
Italian is also widely spoken.
The Maltese language is a source of fascination to both visitors and linguists. The Maltese speak a unique language, Malti, the only Semitic language written in Latin characters.
Through the ages, many foreign words, particularly English and Italian, have become part of the language. English, which is also an official language, is widely and fluently spoken and is the language of international business.
What is surprising is that the islanders managed to retain a unique language in face of so many others brought by various powers over the centuries. Maltese was largely only a spoken language until the latter half of the 19th century when its grammatical rules were defined and written down.
The earliest written evidence of Maltese is a ballad by Pietro Caxaro, (d.1485). The Knights attempted to script it as well. The survival of the language is perhaps testament to the resilience of the Maltese to remain a distinct people and culture. Malti is thought to derive from the language of the ancient Phoenicians who arrived in Malta in 750 B.C.
The influence of the Arabs who made the Islands home from the 9th to 13th centuries is clear in the Maltese language whose roots are closely akin to Arabic. Place names and numbers are the most obvious examples of Arabic influence on the language.
Currency & Banks
On 1st January 2008 Malta adopted the euro as its currency. On 1st February 2008 the euro became the only legal tender currency in Malta and Gozo.
Banks are normally open until early afternoon from Monday to Friday, and until midday on Saturday. Some banks/branches work longer hours. Summer and winter opening hours may differ. Banks, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and exchange bureaux can be found all over the Islands.
Medical care in Malta is available through both public and private hospitals and the quality of medical care in Malta is excellent. Malta has an excellent health service. Hospitals are modern and supported by a regional network of health centres.
Malta and Gozo are becoming increasingly popular locations for the purchase or rental of second homes.
Situated at the very heart of the Mediterranean Sea, with easy access from all major cities in Europe, North Africa and neighbouring states, the islands have many advantages to offer, including the following:
– An excellent climate with pleasant all year round weather.
– Genuinely friendly and hospitable people who will make it easy to integrate within the local community.
– Very low levels of crime which make Malta one of the safest places in the region.
– A member of the European Union since 2004, Malta is an independent republic enjoying political stability.
– English is one of the two official languages of the Islands and is spoken fluently by everyone.
– The island boasts a high standard of hospital and medical services, both private and public.
– Excellent schooling with a choice of English-speaking schools and University.
– A relatively low cost of living.
– A stable property market offering a wide variety of properties in all price ranges, and good prospects for capital growth.
These, together with an abundance of historical and cultural attractions, crystal clear seas, a variety of sporting facilities (including world class diving) and a lively calendar of events, make these islands a favourite for those seeking their dream ‘Place in the Sun’. Moreover, the residency conditions are very attractive and include a favourable tax regime and the absence of Rates or Council taxes.
Purchase of Property by Non-Maltese Buyers
It is quite easy for a non-Maltese to purchase property in Malta and Gozo. Naturally, some conditions apply including certain restrictions regarding the minimum value of property that can be purchased and the use that the buyer will make of the property. Some buyers may also require a special permit.
For further information and assistance, we recommend that you contact Malta Prime Estate Agents who can offer professional guidance and advice to help you make the best choice.