Malta might well be one of the smallest countries in the Mediterranean, but it boasts a fascinating history and culture. The country’s rich background and age-old customs are still very much evident today, giving tourists the opportunity to live life like a local.
From religious observances and legendary tales to traditional cuisine and annual festivals, there are numerous experiences and activities a visitor can discover or participate in. But if you only have a week in this alluring archipelago, travelling with First Choice or any other operator, here are some fundamental conventions to remember.
The Catholic Church is considered an important pillar of life in Malta, with the newspaper printing the Prime Minister’s daily agenda alongside the Archbishop’s point of view. Baptisms and weddings are a big deal here, which tend to involve huge gatherings of family, friends and food.
If you attend a ceremony or visit a church while on the island, you should dress modestly and cover up your shoulders and legs. While a Sunday service in a small Maltese village is as local as it gets, any traveller simply must visit the 16th century St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
Positioned slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta has plenty of fresh fish on offer, the best of which can be found in any seaside town. Visit a local market and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the amount of delicious fruit and vegetables too. These two ingredients combined are enough to make you want to become a full time citizen.
But if you really want to taste some tradition, try a bowl of minestra soup, typically served at the start of a meal. Look for a lampuki pie as well, which is a pastry-covered fish casserole filled with spinach, cauliflower, chestnuts and sultanas. Stuffed poultry and baked pasta specials are also commonplace. As for drink, the liqueur Bajtra is distilled from prickly pears, while Kinnie is a sparking soft drink with a bitter orange flavour.
Valletta will become the European Capital of Culture in 2018, which is an honour for Maltese residents who enjoy their art and music. Attractions like Fort St. Elmo and Grand Master’s Palace are great for learning about the remarkable events that have unfolded during Malta’s past.
However, to get a true feel of Malta’s cultural scene, grab a seat in one of the country’s several theatres. Classical music connoisseurs should take in a show at the Aurora Opera House while more contemporary performances can be found in St James’ Cavalier Centre for Creativity.
So, even if you only have few days to discover and experience the historical and cultural delights that Malta has to offer, there are several opportunities to live like a local.