Gozo’s capital city, Victoria, has to be the least capital-like capital I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Not only is it small, pretty and bursting with friendly little shops and cafes selling their own unique, local produce, it also has its own historical citadel. Yes, it does have a number of shopping ‘malls’, but neither of them has a Starbucks — definitely a good sign.
The bus from the ferry port was every 30 minutes and didn’t take long, about 20 minutes. My only problem with the buses here (this is the new Arriva service, introduced in around March this year) was the air conditioning. Yes, it’s hot outside – a little air flow is pleasantly cooling when you first get on. The same cannot be said for the arctic gale these air vents expel, directly onto the top of your head. I swear they almost gave me brain freeze. I learnt to minimise their effect by sitting at the lowest point of the bus available and on the aisle seat.
Walking into town, we discovered a little square centred around a fountain and surrounded by little cafes, offering delicious traditional snacks for bargain prices. I bought a pastizzi (crunchy pastry parcels) filled with soft Gozo cheese for 25 cent, while a large and tasty foil plate of timpana (macaroni baked in a tomatoey, sometimes bolognese-like sauce with a crunchy cheesy top) was slightly more than 1 euro. There were also Ross Il-forn (rice baked with with stringy cheese and mincemeat, scrumptious), mini pizzas, wudys (like giant sausage rolls) and pasties filled with either cheese or a dry mushy pea mixture. There were also loads of sweets and cakes, which tended to be either almond-based biscuits, filled pastries or sumptuous cakes. For me, the snack food sold out of little holes in the wall was definitely one of Malta’s highlights (although definitely not a healthy one)!
Having wound our way through several charming stony streets we found our way to the Citadel, a small but perfectly formed walled ‘city’ built around a magnificent cathedral. From this focal point, several paths radiated out into either narrow shadowed streets containing shops, museums and restaurants; or onto the high, many-levelled ramparts from which we had amazing views of not only the Citadel, but over miles and miles of sandy yellow and green land, dusted with trees and cacti, interspersed with chalky white cubes of houses.
And then it was home for our first dinner at home. Found some frozen ravioli filled with Gozo cheese, made fresh by the Rexy’s pasta restaurant down the road from our house in Ghajnsielem, in one of our local shops. Boiled it on the light-with-a-match hob of our ancient gas oven, of which we never did learn out to use the oven or grill with some sea salt. Served with some heated-through tomato ketchup, that I had mistaken for pasta sauce. Never mind – the pasta itself was divinely soft and creamy, and, eaten in the dusky terracotta light of our warm stone kitchen, a gentle breeze filtering through the wooden windows’ insect guard, real.