From time to time my wife and I take mini-breaks without the kids in order to get a little alone time and also think about what it would be like to live in other places than Finland. As the sun was beginning to get lower and lower in Finland, we decided to take a trip down to the sunniest place in Europe (literally) Malta!
The capital city of Valletta is a veritable time capsule of 16th century architecture. Nearly all of the buildings are built from the local limestone which gives the city a lovely uniformity. It’s truly old world Europe at it’s best and has been the set of several period movies such as Troy and Gladiator.
We booked an apartment through Airbnb directly in downtown Valletta. It was a lovely period property with a rooftop terrace which had views towards the city and the sea. It was a bit noisy in the morning, but that’s what you get for staying in the heart of a medieval city that has a daily market outside your window! But in terms of location, you cannot beat it. Where else can you have wine on your own rooftop terrace overlooking the Mediterranean for less than 100€ per night!
The city itself was filled with nice cafe’s set in city squares, winding medieval streets, lovely seaside walks along the city walls and plenty of viewing points along the way. It’s a rather small island (316 sq km or 122 sq miles) so you’re never far from the sea. The elevated position of the city means that you’re also never far from a great view.
We took several day trips while in Malta and one of them took us to the Azure Window on Gozo and the Blue Lagoon in Comino. They were both incredibly beautiful and as we were traveling in September we managed to avoid the worst of the summer crowds. However, the Blue Lagoon was still quite crowded and as you can see in the picture the beach is very small, so don’t go there expecting a lazy day at the beach. There were some small food trucks and we ended up grabbing a bite to eat and sitting on the hillside overlooking the water.
Another thing to remember is that even though the distances in Malta are short they can take FOREVER. We took a bus from Valletta to the ferry terminal at Cirkewwa in the north of the island in order to get to Gozo. The distance was approximately 27.7km and it took over an hour by bus as it wound it’s way through 16th century streets. At this point you may be thinking it’s better to rent a car, but think again. The Maltese make the drivers in Rome look like grannies! So when we called this a day trip it truly took 1 full day to go to both sites and come back. However, the reward for such a trek was truly beautiful. So beautiful in fact that even the bathroom had a view!
Traveling has a wonderful way of making you aware of the things you appreciate back home. Even though I’m not a fan of the winters here in Finland and we were visiting the sunniest capital in Europe, I could definitely appreciate the lush greenness, the efficient public transportation and the sense of open spaces we have in Finland. In terms of moving there with our family, the island was a bit to small without much diversity in the landscape. I also only saw 1 playground (next to the road) while we were there.
Where you live is about the trade offs you’re willing to make. There is no perfect place and finding the right place means having a clear sense of what you value and what you’re willing to compromise on.
Malta was a wonderful place to visit and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a city break in the Mediterranean. There was good food, lovely architecture and plenty of sunshine. But for me and my family, the search continues for our little slice of heaven!