Malta is a small country in the Mediterranean Sea that I fell deeply in love with last year. As I recalled and anticipated from my previous visit, the span of the entire magical island and it’s archipelago were visible by the time we commenced our descent.
Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa is a marvelous five star hotel to which I’ve become a repeat offender due to it’s exquisite attention to detail and service, as well as wonderful amenities, delicious restaurants, and central location. It is conveniently located adjacent to the Presidential Palace, and positioned between the island’s capital Valetta and Mdina, the picturesque medieval silent city. It’s the little things like sending our driver, Charles in a pristine 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud to pick us up upon arrival at the airport that really made me smile. And it didn’t stop there. The friendly Maltese faces of the Corinthia Palace that left a lasting imprint with their smiles and charming patriotism remembered me, just as I had remembered them. It had been three and a half months since my last stay, and this warm welcome back made it feel like yesterday.
Upon check in, we went up to the Signature Suite and were informed that the last person to stay in our room was the Prime Minister of England; the regal vibes were on, and we were digging it. The Rolls Royce and Charles were inclusive with this suite, as well as breakfast and daily butler service. The friends I had made during my last stay left us a little extra something to make sure we had an extra warm welcome.
As I opened the master closet to begin unpacking, I discovered a garment bag with a stunning lace dress and a note from my dear friend Mary Grace Pisani, designer of Sani. Mary Grace had left one of her couture designs to wear to the Sani Fashion Show and Gala to launch the Marigold Foundation in aid of the National Alliance for Rare Diseases Support hosted by the Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat, under the patronage of Sean Hepburn Ferrer (son of Audrey Hepburn) at Villa Francia (Official Residence of the Prime Minister of Malta) that evening. Before I knew it, we were all dolled up and off to the Prime Minister’s for an incredible evening to remember.
After such a vivacious evening, we decided the next day would be great to soak in some Mediterranean moments. We went to one of my favorite spots, the Blue Grotto. Located on the south coast, it is known for it’s clear blue water and breathtaking sea caves. While my friend went free diving and explored underwater photography in the clear blue, I enjoyed soaking in some sun and Mediterranean bliss. To keep the mellow vibe flowing, that evening I had a girls’ night out with Mary Grace and Michelle Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife. We went to a cozy restaurant called Emperor of India in St. Julians, a trendy part of town known for it’s cool bar scene.
Since my first time in Malta, I’d been hearing about it’s sister island Gozo, and dying to check it out. Luckily for me, this time my friends from the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) set up an epic tour not only to see, but also to truly experience Gozo. The weekend had begun, and a Saturday of adventure was upon us. Our lovely tour guide, Audrey Marie Bartolo and a driver picked us up first thing in the morning and off we went! On our way to the ferry in Cirkewwa, we snuck in a quick stop to see a taste of “Hollywood” in Malta known as Popeye Village.
While exiting the ferry, we were immediately escorted inland to meet Kevin Grech from Gozo Segway Tours. I had always wanted to ride a Segway and now, not only would I get to give it a whirl, but a long one at that around heavenly Gozo. We started inland where we saw the local farmers working proudly on their fields. Just past them, I noticed gigantic, Godlike statue of the Risen Christ to find out that this was place on top of the 320-foot Tal-Merżuq Hill (also known as Tas-Salvatur, The Redeemer). This was the perfect place to stop and take some photos to remember this magical spot.
Continuing on our segways, and went seaside to Xwejni Salt Pans where the local salts of Gozo come from. Who knew saltpans could be so celestial! Surrounded by limestone mountains formed from the ocean over the years, we met the family who has been harvesting from these saltpans – passing them from generation to generation for about 200 years. We bought some salts from the daughter to proudly support their local business.
Wrapping up the segway portion of our tour, we headed off to have a typical Maltese lunch at Ta’ Rikkardu. We were in for a real treat as this was an intimate family run restaurant just around the corner from the famous cathedral, the Citadel. The Citadel is not only the cathedral, but also a small city surrounded by walls in the heart of Victoria, Gozo. The entire time, I couldn’t help but think about how much history lied there and if those walls could only speak, the stories they would tell. Our lunch consisted of Maltese cheese, local tomatoes, olives, bread and homemade ravioli that was out of this world. Following lunch, we stopped at a sweet boutique owned by a cute Maltese man named George Haber. As the Maltese are known for their lace and knitting skills, I bought a hand knit sweater. Ironically, out of all the pieces I could have chosen, I purchased a sweater that was knit by our tour guide Audrey’s “Granny!” I proudly wore my new sweater for the rest of the day.
It was now time for the grand finale of our tour, the Azure Window. This was unlike anything I have ever seen; it didn’t look real. I had seen this monumental spot in photos before, yet I stood there feeling like it was a photograph. Our adventurous tour of Gozo was now complete, and it was time to catch the ferry home and bid adieu to our new friend, Audrey.
Since we decided to start the weekend with adventure, we felt it was only suiting that we continued on that same path. The following day, we met with Simon from the Malta Climbing Club, a local non-profit organization started in 2010. Simon took us to one of his climbing spots called Ix Xaqqa, an ethereal spot one could climb above the Mediterranean. While my traveling partner was an advanced climber, I had only been climbing for about eight months, and was about to face the hardest, longest, highest challenge of a climb – my first “multi-pitch.” We had to climb down to sea level to initiate the climb, and my adrenaline was flowing. Words cannot describe how rewarding it was to make it to the top.
Returning to the hotel, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the evening as I had proudly used all of my energy climbing (and had no shame in admitting it!). Lucky for us, the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa has some outstanding restaurants to dine that evening. Among my favorite is, Villa Corinthia. The Villa Corinthia restaurant is a sophisticated space used not only as a restaurant, but also for weddings, banquets, and private events. While the villa has been restored, it is still a century old and you can feel the energy of the past in this elegant ballroom. The only thing to top the majestic ambiance was the impeccable sustainably sources, fresh, local produce that we indulged in.
Our final day had arrived, and sadly we had to leave for the airport by early afternoon. We decided this would be a great day to visit my dear friend, Pat Vella, who manages the Athanaeum Spa at Corinthia Palace. Pat set us up with two incredible masseuses, and we treated ourselves to a couple’s massage as well as a dip in the pool and some time in the sauna. We couldn’t have possibly ended our adventurous holiday a better way. Before we knew it, Charles and the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud were back, and it was time to say our goodbyes (or should I say see you later?!). We’ll go with the latter as I am already looking at tickets for my next trip!