The Maltese Mystique
Malta may be one of Europe’s smallest countries, but it s allure is anything but t iny.
KEPT MY EYES DOWN WHILE I NAVIGATED THE SMOOTHED STONE PATHWAYS THAT LED THROUGH MALTA’S OLD TOWN; PAINFULLY AWARE THAT WEDGED HEELS WERE the wrong shoe choice for my afternoon of exploring in Valletta. I glanced up as I entered Republic Square and immediately any thoughts of footwear vanished from my mind as I entered deeper into the buzzing square lined with historic architecture. It wasn’t the grand statues or quaint open-air cafes that struck me, but rather the uniform smirk that everyone I passed seemed to be wearing.
As if controlled by an unspoken code, everyone I passed in the square—shop owners, tourists, and waitresses alike—exchanged friendly head nods and sly grins, behaving like people who had been let in on a highly coveted secret. There was a unanimous air circulating through the
Isquare that we had all discovered something special, and there wasn’t a person in that square who took that privilege for granted. Listed as one of the smallest countries in Europe, Malta’s cosmopolitan sheen and uncrowded streets make it feel like visitors have won a prize for venturing off the well-worn tourist tracks of the Amalfi Coast and French Riviera. But its allure isn’t anything new; in fact, Malta has historically been a prized location since the beginning of civilization. Over the years, Malta’s strategic location in the center of the Mediterranean—just 93 kilometers south of Sicily and 288 kilometers north of Africa—have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Byzantines, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French, and, finally, the British who controlled the country until 1964.
Today the archipelago of Malta consists of three islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino), and is a part of the European Union. The