The blog/magazine.
Travel, Design, History,
Culture & Accommodation.

Christmas and New Year

21 Dec 2021 | Gattaldo

The Magic Illuminated trail

The Verdala Palace is the official summer residence of the President of Malta and its lovely gardens are the ideal location for this festival of light. Walk through light tunnels, twinkling with thousands of fairy-lights, larger than life lantern illuminated sculptures, light installations as well as an impressive Projection on the Presidential Palace.

3 Dec 2021 to 9 Jan 2022 - Verdala Palace - Info

The Monteverdi Project

The Monteverdi Project Christmas Concert gives you Baroque music in Merchants' Street's beautiful Church of the Jesuits. Maestro Mencoboni, who is considered to be one of the leading specialists of Baroque and Renaissance music, together with Maltese Soprano Gillian Zammit, have been training a consort of local singers in ensemble work and Baroque vocal and musical techniques.

21 Dec 2021 - Church of the Jesuits - Info

Malta Spectacular

Malta Spectacular

60 outstanding performers in music, musical theatre, dance, comedy, mentalism & circus will celebrate the grand return of the live arts on the 29th & 30th December at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta.

29, 30 Dec 2021 - MCC - Info

Christmas Pantos

The Little Mermaid - The Panto Under the Sea
22 Dec 2021 to 05 Jan 2022
Manoel Theatre, Valletta - Info

A Panto in the Dark
19 to 23 Dec 2021
Esplora, Kalkara- Info

Valletta New Year’s Eve Celebrations

This is one way of celebrating a new year with the Maltese in St George's Square. Music Acts: John Newman – Palace String Orchestra – Jasmine – Aidan – Ozzylino – Gaia – Megan – Klinsmann - Debrii. Entrance Free.

31 Dec 2021 -  St. George’s Square, Valletta - Info

UK adds Malta to quarantine-free
'green list'

24 June 2021 | Gattaldo

It's been tough for those like us in the UK who craved a much needed holiday somewhere warm and sunny. The UK today has finally added Malta to its quarantine-free green list. As from 30th June we're ready to host you at Indulgence Divine.

This evening's announcement by the UK government will come as a relief to many of our previous guests in the UK, in particular those who have booked and have had to change their dates, sometimes even three times. Malta is among 16 destinations added to the list.

UK arrivals will still need to present a vaccine certificate, otherwise they'll need to quarantine.

Clear sea

The clear waters that await you - photo Mike Nahlii

Things to consider before travelling to Malta - Covid-19.

Update 03 April 2021 | Gattaldo

Malta is expecting to welcome tourists by the beginning of June. The prospect of a holiday break in the island of sun, sea and history appeals to many so I've done some research groundwork as though I was planning to travel from London to Malta in June. I hope you find it helpful but please make sure to supplement it with your own research.

The UK is my departure point so some of this might not apply to you. The UK is currently on the red list and the British can't travel out without a valid reason. The UK prime minister signalled that recreational international travel can restart from 17 May at the earliest so I'm aiming for June. I cannot vouch for all the information here as it is based on other sources online and because the situation can change from one day to the other.

Booking a flight

There are plenty of airlines operating already. Go to your favourite airline and check if they're flying. Prices will vary considerably at this stage so do your research before booking. Although there's already been a flurry of bookings (having the effect of hiking up the price) a Travel-Supermarket commentator The Guardian, made the observation that since many British have decided to opt for a staycation, it may actually be cheaper to book a holiday abroad.

Historic holiday accommodation in Malta

Indulgence Divine

Booking the right accommodation

Clearly it's in my interest to recommend booking your stay at our self catering accommodation Indulgence Divine, but there are obvious advantages to booking a self-catering over a hotel. To start off with, you do not have to contend with common areas where there could be a higher risk of coming into contact with others and therefore with the virus. Once you close the door to your contained house, you won't meet anyone. Everything is contained within.

It's also worth mentioning that all accommodations in Malta, whether they're hotels or self-catering, have had to sign to the same stringent cleaning protocols given to them by the Tourism Authority.

We at Indulgence Divine have been getting ready and up to date with all the regulation protocols required to make our accommodation as welcome and safe as possible for our guests (See previous blogpost below).

What to pack during pandemic

1. Masks (cloth ones will do but get a couple of them. Wash them regularly in hot water and soap)
2. Hand sanitizers*
3. Disinfectant spray (70% alcohol)*
4. Personal water bottle*
5. Hand soap*

• Indulgence Divine provides you with some of these inside the house but you'll still need a personal 100ml portable version of hand sanitiser and disinfectant spray to travel with and keep in your hand luggage.

Think of protecting your health and take with you any supplements which could strengthen your immune system. It's a good idea to start taking them ahead of your holiday. Try extract from fresh echinacea purpurea in tablet form and Vitamin D.

Pack for a longer stay than the one you're actually staying for. Think of the worst possible scenario of catching the virus on your travels and having to stay for an extra 2 weeks away from home. Better safe than sorry.


Currently, travellers arriving from countries on the ‘Amber List' are required to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate before boarding flights to Malta. The swab test should be carried out within the previous 72 hours. Those arriving from countries on the 'Red List' must have spent at least the previous 14 days in one of the safe corridor countries before reaching Malta. It is also recommended that these passengers undertake a PCR test within 72 hours prior to arrival. As regards quarantining when you return home, please check your country's regulations.

Malta International Airport has implemented social distancing. Technologies have been introduced which alert airport officials in real-time if social distancing is not maintained by passengers. Other technologies enable you to scan your passport and boarding pass at check-in on your return, and detect passengers with high temperature.

The airport's cleaning and disinfection schedules have been aligned to the recommendations of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

You'll find touchless facilities in washrooms and sanitising stations with alcohol-based rub around the terminal.

Remember that only people with a ticket are allowed inside the airport. Some outlets within the airport are still available to travellers. You will be expected to pay with card or phone (no cash).

Airport to accommodation

Unless you're picking up your rental car, we would recommend you take a taxi to your accommodation. We can arrange for one to be waiting for you if you're staying at Indulgence Divine. Just inform us at booking stage.


Although public transport has been doing a great job and is following the safety protocols on cleaning and distancing, I would recommend spending some more and renting a car. Choose a reputable rental company and make sure they have taken all the necessary steps to clean and disinfect your car. This means you can explore the less touristy, and therefore less crowded, places around the island.

An open 4 wheel drive on road on cliffs

Renting a car is a good idea - photo Michal Ampula

Social distancing applies in Malta as it does elsewhere so you should always leave a distance of 2 meters from others. Currently the maximum number of persons who may gather in public places are two. The measure does not apply to persons who live in the same household.

Museums and tourist sites, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, swimming pools, restaurants, snack bars and bars will be closed until at least 11 April 2021. Only takeaway service is allowed at the moment.

You can take away and sit on a bench outside. That's what's lovely about an island generous with the sun. As you know, it's much safer outside than in when it comes to the virus.

Young woman walking down road

Discovering the city on foot - photo Florian Weichelt

Masks are mandatory in shops, and anywhere that's indoors but also outside. Always wear a mask as you will be required to wear it both indoors and outdoors. Remember the mask is there to protect others as a matter of courtesy.

Expect to follow social distancing rules on beaches as well. Like everywhere else, you might also meet those who have a disdain for rules and might invade your space. Lifeguards have been introduced in some of the beaches across the island and beach supervisors are patrolling beaches to see to it that rules are adhered to.

The following beaches in Malta were promised lifeguards: Ġnejna Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, Golden Bay, Għadira Bay, Buġibba, Qawra point, St George’s Bay (St Julian's), Balluta Bay, Fond Għadir, Fajtata Bay, Pretty Bay, St George’s Bay (Birżebbuġa) and in Gozo: Ramla Bay, Marsalforn, Xlendi, Mġarr ix-Xini and Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

It may seem idyllic when you find a beach/bay with no swimmers, all to yourself, but the reason might be that there are strong currents so always check with locals if it's safe to swim (The Maltese in general love to be approached for information). Even the lovely Mediterranean sea can be treacherous. If you want the place to yourself, a little tip is to try early dawn or after 5pm during the week.

Risks and travel insurance

Almost all travel insurance policies currently on offer specifically exclude Covid-19-related claims for cancellation and curtailment. Some cover solely the medical expenses if you catch the virus abroad (try and find one which does) but they most probably wouldn't pay for accommodation if you're forced to spend 14 days in lockdown or missed your flight home.

It is important to choose an accommodation which gives you the opportunity to reschedule your stay (such as Indulgence Divine does) if you are forced to cancel your stay due to change in official Covid-19-related policies.

According to EU consumer rights regulations (ie. if you're travelling between two EU countries), airlines cancelling flights have the obligation - in all cases - to offer passengers the following options:
either a refund, re-routing at the earliest convenience or re-routing at a later date, chosen by the passenger.

For advice if you're flying from Britain have a read of the UK's Civil Aviation Authority page. In principle, if your flight has been cancelled, then your airline should offer you the choice of a full refund or alternative flights.

Indulgence Divine

Bookings have already started to flow and we are looking forward to welcome our first guests after this weird time of reflection.

Malta to welcome vaccinated British travellers from 1 June

Update 03 Apr 2021 | Gattaldo

British travellers who can show proof of full vaccination* received at least ten days before arriving in the country will not need to provide a negative PCR test certificate.

As the UK government announces trials of a series of measures in England, including Covid passports, to allow the safe return of sports matches, events and night clubs, Clayton Bartolo, Malta's Minister for Tourism has announced that Malta will welcome British travellers with proof of full vaccination.

Malta is a very popular destination for British holidaymakers and the UK and Malta have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in Europe, so it follows that Malta would be looking at the UK market first.

Forty percent of the adult Maltese population have received their first dose, following the UK's 50.85% vaccination rate.

The number of fully vaccinated people in the UK - those who have received both doses - has now passed 5 million. That's 9.9 percent of UK adults. This would mean that the over-55s would be possible candidates for travel by mid-June without need to take a PCR test if they've taken the offer of vaccination as soon as it became available.

*A full vaccination is both doses of a Coronavirus vaccine, received at least ten days before arriving in Malta

Malta sea

Sunset by the sea

We're re-opening from 1st June 2021

30 Mar 2021 | Gattaldo

Malta plans to welcome leisure travellers in June.

We're very excited about opening Indulgence Divine again on 1 June 2021. There's plenty to do to make sure we're ready and up to date with all the regulation protocols required to make our accommodation as welcome and safe as possible for our guests.

We've had plenty of zoom meetings with our housekeeper to plan the re-opening and we're going to give you a great welcome. We've gone over the cleaning so as to be extra vigilant and we have also introduced a one day gap between visits which means we now have a minimum 31 hour gap between each stay. This not only gives us ample time to clean but gives any trace of the virus to die before new guests arrive.

The great thing about a self-catering place is that any contact with us is remote, making it safer than a hotel with its shared spaces. You won't have to share anything with anyone once you're in through the main door.

We look forward to your bookings and we will try to keep you posted as things change.

Sitting room

Our accommodation - Indulgence Divine - ready to go

The Malta International Arts Festival 2019

26 June 2019 | Gattaldo

Malta - The Malta International Arts Festival is one of Malta’s most appreciated events with music, theatre, visual arts, dance, opera, installations, films, community projects, interactive and participatory events. Here's what not to miss.

Toujours et Près de Moi?

Clever use of holography in a music-theatre performance by Opera Erratica from the UK set entirely to music with a mixture of Renaissance madrigals and contemporary vocal music. The show puts a modern twist on the Victorian stage effect called Pepper's ghost, an illusion in which a piece of glass is suspended at an angle at the front of the stage to throw an image from below back on to the stage. The holographic figures represent the performers' younger selves in a doomed love-affair.

05 July - 9.00pm
VCT (Ex MITP) Valletta Campus, St Paul's Street Valletta.
How to get there from Indulgence Divine.
You can also go via the Birgu to Valletta ferry.


Zonzo Campagnie introduces music to children in a most creative way to entertain children and adults alike. After experimenting with John Cage and Miles Davis, it's now time to witness the music of the Italian composer Luciano Berio.In BerBerio you'll witness a sung comic strip, you'll hear what happens when music from different composers disappear in the mixer, and you'll be introduced to Berio's charming folk songs.

12 July - 6.00pm
VCT (Ex MITP) Valletta Campus, St Paul's Street Valletta. How to get there from Indulgence Divine.
You can also go via the Birgu to Valletta ferry.


Israel Galván’s wild flamenco reinvention has mesmerised audiences around the world. Complicated feet movements, rapid-fire footwork punctuated by moments of stillness and silence. He questions flamenco and turns it on its head. Not to be missed.

07 July - 9.00pm
Main Stage, Boat Street (il-Fossa) Valletta.
How to get there from Indulgence Divine.
You can also go via the Birgu to Valletta ferry.


An eerily stunning underwater concert from a Denmark band using custom-made instruments submerged in water tanks. Through their music they hope to draw people closer to nature by reminding them of their affinity with water. To me their music could very well be the mermaids' enticing call and I'll need to summon all of my self control to not dive into the water tanks myself.

13 July - 9.00pm
the Main Stage, Boat Street (il-Fossa) Valletta.
How to get there from Indulgence Divine.
You can also go via the Birgu to Valletta ferry.

Message in a Bottle

Set on a Turkish gulet (sailing vessel) acting as a floating stage, this double-bill programme with music by Luc Houtkamp is a site specific choreography by Pamela Kerr. The clarinet quartet composition is based on Maltese proverbs.

09, 14 July - 10.00pm
Birżebbuġa/Marsascala (location not yet decided).

Ancient Voices

Aerial view of Hagar Qim temple

Diane Portelli dances to ancient Celtic war horns and other primordial ritual instruments played by Scottish virtuoso John Kenny against the spectacular backdrop of Ħaġar Qim temple complex.

11 July - 9.00pm
Ħaġar Qim Temple, Qrendi.
How to get there from Indulgence Divine

8 Winds

The floating stage (Turkish gulet) this time nearer to home brings us a double-bill programme with music by electronic music artist Dr Zicotron and a site specific choreography by dancers Florinda Camilleri and Lucía Piquero (see them in another collaboration above).

10 July - 07.30pm - 09.30pm
Kalkara/Senglea (location not yet decided).

Old black an white photo of immigrants in suits

Maltese migrants arriving in Australia in the 1950s

Maltese Australians

13 April 2019 | Gattaldo

They speak Maltranian (a modified Maltese) and they're keen on keeping traditions alive. I interviewed Maltese Australians on their thoughts about Malta and what sort of itinerary they plan when they visit.

In 1948 an assisted passage agreement was signed between Australia and Malta and a substantial number of Maltese emigrated to Australia in the 1950s. By 1966, the Malta-born population of Victoria was 26,452. According to the 2016 Census, there were 175,563 people of Maltese descent in Australia and 37,614 Malta-born people residing in the country at that precise moment. That's equal to almost half of the population of Malta in 2016.

Most of the people I spoke to were second generation except for Sandie Ayling who moved to Australia in 1974. Sandie is fascinated by the island's rich history so it stands to reason that  on her latest visit to Malta 6 years ago, her time was taken with scouring the various museums and temples scattered around the island. Although Malta's sun and sea were an important feature of her stay, Sandie says she also found great satisfaction in revisiting places from her childhood and in sampling Maltese cuisine she'd yearned for. I guess it must have been a lovely trip down memory lane for Sandie.

With our second generation interviewees, I found that Malta's culture and history were also high on their list, as was their personal history - the places their parents had told them stories about and the Mediterranean dishes their family had introduced them to. It seemed that, without exception, they were all keen to trace the steps of their ancestors. I couldn't help feeling it was very much a personal journey of discovery for each of them. Bernardette Vella told me that St Paul's Bay and Xagħra both had familial significance to her, and were certainly first on her list of places to visit 7 years ago when she travelled to Malta. Bernardette says that despite the fact that she's very much a hotel-by-the-beach-person, her family's history led her to stray beyond the sun and sea. She loves a sea view, and that, she says, explains why she chose to stay by the sea.

Most mentioned wandering around aimlessly as one of the things they'd indulge in when in Malta. It is after all the best way to take in the character of a place without sticking to a guide book which dictates your journey.

Michelle Tyerman was very clear about what she would look out for on her visit. She was last in Malta 10 years ago where she visited the church her grandparents married in, her parents' childhood homes and their local churches in Sliema and Paola. "We enjoyed using buses," she adds "to expose ourselves to as much of the real Malta as possible."

Michelle says she's fascinated by "the traditions in past clothing, in particular the għonnella", the headdress similar to a Turkish Çarşaf, but starched around a curved frame instead of tight around the head.

The 'novelty vs used' dilemma

She specifically sought out restaurants and local shops for the authentic tastes of typical/traditional Maltese foods -"They are never the same here in Australia". The thing most special to Michelle  however is the Maltese lace (bizzilla) she bought to bring back home and get married in.

I asked Michelle if there was anything unusual about Malta she'd had to work out. "As a child," she told me, "whenever I heard the Maltese speak, I remember getting the impression that they were angry with each other, but with my first visit, i understood it was just their way. It didn't help that I had little or no grasp of the language." Michelle says that one of the things she'd like to do on her next visit is to practice speaking the language.

Times have changed and news travels wide and fast, so Maltese Australians can now keep in touch with whatever's happening back in Malta. I asked what was the latest thing they'd heard about the island. I got different answers to this. Some mentioned a soccer win for the Maltese, one mentioned crime, quickly adding "crime is crime & its everywhere unfortunately". A couple mentioned that they had read about the increase in tourism and high-rise buildings and another mentioned October 2017's murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia - "I saw a story on tv about a journalist that was killed because she uncovered mafia money laundering. That pretty well shocked me."

It amazed me how on the whole, even if Malta is so far from Australia, it still is deeply entrenched in the minds and hearts of the Maltin Awstraljani. Well, next time you're in Malta, do pass by for a coffee and a chat.

New Bradt on the block

09 April 2019 | Gattaldo

The 4th edition of the Bradt Travel guidebook Malta & Gozo is out in the bookshops.

I met travel writer Juliet Rix quite a few years back in Malta. She's visited Malta for decades and knows the place well. It's been a long time but I vaguely recall I was doing up our first property in Valletta back then and so we met for a coffee in the capital. The conversation flowed as we both have a great love for the island, both in its history and its people.

The Bradt travel guidebook

She encouraged me to start writing the guide's LGBTQ chapter of the book and so started a most pleasant collaboration.

Juliet's research is meticulous and the guide has built a reputation for getting beneath the surface of the island to discover what lies beyond the sea and sun. Its flowing style makes it easy to find the information but I find it also goes deeper with the historical and archaeological insights. In this edition there's also information on wildlife and bird-watching, and plenty on Gozo and Comino.

Before you head over to Malta, I recommend getting the 4th edition of Bradt's Malta and Gozo. I always find that reading on my destination's history is a big component of the pleasure of travel.

The Mġarr Strawberry Festival

09 April 2019 | Gattaldo

Mġarr (Imjarr) is a little village surrounded by lush green valleys at the North West of Malta known for its farming tradition. In its centre a beautiful church in a square on top of a hill – a lovely place to visit at any time of the year (it’s relatively close to some nifty beaches too) but at this time of year, it’s got something even more special to offer.

The strawberries are in season and the locals have decided that's a great opportunity for a general knees-up. The Mġarr Strawberry Festival is very much a family event and a great place to meet the locals. A constant supply of freshly picked strawberries are ferried regularly to the village square by the farmers themselves. Stalls sell a wide variety of desserts, snacks and beverages with a common ingredient, fresh Imġarr strawberries. There’s the expected home made strawberry wine, jams, conserves and other typical products but we also encountered such novelties  as strawberry ravioli (Tasted surprisingly delicious actually) ! So keep your diaries free on the 28th April 2019. Strawberry fields for ever!

The Mġarr strawberry Festival

How to be eco-friendly
with a holiday rental

27 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Giving your guests the best possible service while being socially responsible

Does this sound like an oxymoron? When we speak of eco-friendly accommodation, what usually comes to mind is a timber cabin nestled in the middle of nowhere with an open fire, lots of rustic charm and a septic tank. So is it possible to run a boutique accommodation in a 450 year old townhouse to a high standard while still loving the planet?

This was the question we asked ourselves as Guardian-reading, tree-hugging Londoners when we first bought the house. It's all about being responsible. We had to make the right choices when it came to the restoration of the house. Sourcing things locally on an island the size of a stamp proved rather difficult so wherever possible we tried to re-use building materials from the house and elsewhere. We also looked into ways of insulating the roofs and some walls while installing double glazed windows. Summer's the killer on a Mediterranean island so introducing airflow sorts out hot nights and also gets rid of  excess humidity.
Furniture wise, aside from the kitchen, we went for antique, which is another word for recycled,

or commissioned local craftspeople to make bespoke pieces for us.

The 'novelty vs used' dilemma

At home we try and use things for as long as we can, recycling them into other things when they're past their date (oh, ugly phrase - past their date!) but we somehow expect things in hotels and rentals to be brand new. This is because the very idea that these things were used by many before us seems to offend us. This can be a dilemma for the owner, so we tend to buy good quality stuff for the accommodation and when they're past-their-date (ouch!), we adopt them in our London home. We're proud that our sheets are hand me downs from the best boutique notel (by the way, that's another name for a non-hotel accommodation). The great thing is that quality stuff ages well. For example, a beautifully crafted wooden object actually looks better once it has been lived-in. Same with a marble or brass surface for example - age ripens them.

Addressing single use plastic

Plastic is an amazing and practical material... until you come to dispose of it so, rightly so, we're becoming more conscious of the need to reduce single-use plastic. There's no shame in constantly rethinking your strategy. We've recently introduced re-usable light coffee cups for our guests to carry with them if they fancy a coffee on the run. We have opted to replace the small free toiletries you get

in hotels with wall hanging dispensers in the shower. At home we're experimenting with options to replace the sponge (non-biodegradable). We've been testing a wooden brush to see if it does the job before we inflict it on our guests.


Provision was made to harvest and re-use rainwater. The great thing about most of the old Maltese houses is that they are built on top of  a cistern which collects rain water from the roof. We had a second tank installed on the roof to which the cistern water is pumped. This water is in turn used to water plants and for the toilet.

Informing our guests

Well, I thought educating would sound patronising so I went for informing. It isn't patronising of course because we learn as much from our guests if not more. It’s a great idea to get guests involved in loving the planet. In the green box below we have a few tips we encourage our guests to follow.

Try your best

The thing is there's always more to do and, unless we're ready to leave everything and live off the land (tempting I know), we're always a work in progress and there will always be other things we can do to save the planet. We all need to do our best. Do tell us what else we could do with Indulgence Divine.

Our Green Tips

We love our home and our local community and we hope during your stay you'll come to love it too. We have here some simple tips, to help us respect the local environment.

1.Keep shower time to a maximum of five minutes. Turn the tap off while soaping.

2. Likewise turn the tap off while brushing your teeth or shaving.

3. Open the windows for fresh air at least for a few minutes every day, including in winter. It helps have a more comfortable stay.

4. Close all windows when AC is switched on.

5. Turn all lights off when not in the room/house.

6. Carry our multi-use coffee cups with you, should you want to have a coffee on the run.

7. Always remember to carry our bag-for-life with you when you go out, just in case you buy something.

8. Please follow the recycling instructions (appropriate bin in kitchen) and recycle whatever is recyclable (paper, plastic, tin and glass)

9. Wherever possible please support our local shops and restaurants. They're what make the area what it is.

10. Besides the normal set of towels on the bed, we provide extra towels. We seal these so as to encourage you to pause before using more towels than are necessary.


Caravaggio arrives in Malta in Milo Manara's - Caravaggio - La Grazia

Caravaggio's back

26 March 2019 | Gattaldo

If the artist's story wasn't racy enough for you, erotic cartoonist Milo Manara retells it through his beautiful illustrations.

This feels like a wet dream to me - two artists I love, gathered in one project. Milo Manara has just published the second of two volumes on the life story of Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio.

The second volume includes the last 6 years of Caravaggio's life, including his stay in Malta where he was ordained as a Knight of the Order. The Grandmaster saved Caravaggio from a death sentence after he had killed someone in Rome. In exchange, the Order got several paintings from this master of Art, the most famous being the Beheading of St John now at the coCathedral in Valletta.

Manara's first book in the series Caravaggio Volume 1 is available through Amazon. The second volume is not available in English as yet. I've ordered my first and can't wait to read through it before putting it in the Indulgence Divine library to share with our guests. I shall keep you posted as to when the second volume becomes available.


Here's one I did earlier. It's our Minimalta mascot.

The Malta Easter sweet you won't be able to resist

25 March 2019 | Gattaldo

It's rather simple in design and it involves a good dose of sugar.

The traditional sweet that Maltese children and adults alike look forward to biting into on Easter Sunday is the figolla, a flavoursome pastry and marzipan combination that comes in various shapes and sizes. Its religious symbolism is that of feasting after fasting - the new life after death. Traditionally the most common shape was that of the fish and it represented Christ.

On my latest day visit to the beautiful island of Sicily (the ferry journey from Valletta to Sicily takes only 1 hr 45 mins) I discovered similar Easter sweets which the Sicilians call Pupi.

Pupi take the shape of animals, persons, doves (in Catania) or that of a simple basket. Further north, in Abruzzo (near Rome) they are covered in chocolate, or sometimes in a black mixture of sugar and cocoa called gileppo and they're called paste nere (Black pastry).

One could almost assume the figolla came from Italy - the name figolla derives from figura, italian for figure - but the presence of ground almonds and citrus flavourings seems to point to Arab provenance. Similar ingredients are found in sweet recipes from Sicily and places across the Eastern Mediterranean which have been under Arab rule. It's rather difficult to say for sure because recipes adapt to people's tastes and therefore evolve differently when they travel.

The figolla consists of two pastry layers with almond paste in the middle and icing on top. In an interview on the Times of Malta, university lecturer Dr Noel Buttigieg claims that the references to the Maltese traditional Easter pastry date back to the second half of the 18th century. However he also points out  that icing would probably have been missing from the recipe since sugar would not have been widely available until the 20th century.

 the Malta National Regatta

Rowers practicing for the Malta National Regatta

Malta's National Regatta

22 March 2019 | Gattaldo

While researching the Regatta, I came across this charming little British 1940 Pathé film about the occasion.

Click here to see Pathé Film.

This tradition is still going strong and to this day the race is held twice a year, to commemorate the withdrawal of British Royal Navy and Victory Day respectively.

At the end of this month on 31 March Malta celebrates Freedom Day (Jum il-Helsien) and rowers from 7 different clubs will, as I write, be intensely practicing to compete in races which can be viewed from the waterfront on the day.

Thousands of Maltese and visitors alike will gather on the walls of the cities surrounding the Grand Harbour to support their favourite club.

Our interview with David Camilleri

Insider knowledge

21 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Local hidden spots, ways of being, creative locations, literature, myths, language, David Camilleri tells all.

We had the opportunity to interview a Maltese friend of ours for his tips on Malta. Enjoy.

Birgu flea marketAntiques at the Birgu flea market in Malta
Collectible comics and books at the Birgu flea marketBirgu flea market

The Birgu Flea Market

13 March 2019 | Gattaldo

With a flea market only 5 minutes walk from Indulgence Divine, Sunday mornings are worth waking up early for.

You're on holiday, you tell me, and on Sundays you deserve a lie-in. You're right of course, but what if I tell you that some of our boutique rental's beauties were discovered there, would you think otherwise?

To get a bargain you need luck and to get there before anyone else does. There are times when you  come across nothing worth buying but the experience of nosing around the rows of stalls is in itself worth getting up for.

There are two types of sellers. The first are the professional ones. They know the value of each item so not much use haggling there. Their items are more refined and are themed. Then there are those who've set up store with what they found in their attics and that of their families. You'll have to look more closely here and rummage through their junk before possibly hitting on something they had no idea would be right up your street. I recommend dropping a couple of phrases in Maltese such as "Din kemm hi?" (Dean cammey?) meaning - How much is this? It helps to make the effort.

Pics: Collectible drinks bottles, books and comics, antique household stuff and 3 iron rampilas (the tortuous looking things the Maltese used to retrieve buckets dropped in the cistern in the past)

LVE Collaboration

11 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Designing the Branding and campaign for a charity that mentors young Londoners.

This was my first experience of doing work for a charity as freelance Art Director. I had been looking for the right charity, one the ethos of which would be in sync with mine. I asked around and was introduced to the LVE Charitable Foundation by a friend who said they needed help as they were just starting.

The Foundation mentors young Londoners who might not have had the opportunities available to others. We were after a campaign image that empowered and made their prospective clients feel valued and sure of themselves, precisely that which the foundation achieved through their mentoring programmes. We did a series of portraits with the campaign message being - LVE Transforms.

If you wish to help the Foundation by giving your time or money, head to their website and contact Karen Bellamy.

LVE Foundation boy

Art Director Gattaldo, Photographer Melvyn Vincent

LVE Foundation girl

Art Director Gattaldo, Photographer Melvyn Vincent

Divine LVE

11 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Indulgence Divine offered a week's stay to be auctioned in aid of the LVE Charity Foundation.

Penny Wycherley

Penny Wycherley

We interviewed the winner of the stay -
City College Plymouth's CEO Penny Wycherley.

ID: How did you become involved with the charity LVE Foundation?

PW: I know the founder of LVE - Michael Polledri, when he was developing the charity to support the mentoring work the foundation does with young people in North London.

ID: What enticed you to bid on a stay at Indulgence Divine at the LVE charity do?

PW: I was looking for something to bid on for the cause and Malta was already on my radar as I had always planned to visit on my retirement. Indulgence Divine looked interesting and unique so I decided to bid on that.

ID: Was Malta what you expected it to be?

PW: Yes and no. I loved the people’s pride in Malta and the sense of history embedded in the island’s fabric. I hadn’t realized just how badly the past had affected its present making it so dependent on tourism.

ID: What’s your favourite restaurant or cafe in Malta?

PW: BeBirgu Café on the ground floor of the St Lawrence Band Club, housed in a beautiful townhouse in Birgu’s central square is frequented by both visitors and locals. In my eyes, that’s always a good sign.

What’s the quirkiest thing about Malta or the Maltese?

PW: The feeling that the past seems so close. The island’s history is always present, both in the architecture and in the language with its words drawn from so many cultures.

ID: Which local place or event do you find to be the most underrated and which the most overrated?

PW: My travel partner and I especially liked Fort St Angelo, the trips across the harbour to Valletta and the Maltese Philharmonic Orchestra at the Manoel Theatre (Valletta). We weren’t that impressed with the food generally served in restaurants.

ID: Which did you find yourself being drawn into?
a. Island’s history,
b. Beaches,

PW: The island’s history is fascinating. Malta’s past rulers have all left their own mark on the island, most evident in the various architecture styles, in the racial mix, the language and the people’s way of life. Walking round Birgu I could see Spanish, Moorish and Italian influences and flat roofs which reminded me of parts of North Africa. The closed balconies were unique but also had characteristics which I have seen in Salamanca, Valencia and Florence drawn together in a Maltese style.

ID: Would you recommend using public transport or car rental?

PW: We opted for public transport which despite some eccentricities served us well. It also meant we could experience the island rather than the traffic jams.

ID: Which museum did you find most interesting and why?

PW: Fort St Angelo told a fascinating story, giving us a background to both the fortified city of Vittoriosa (Birgu) in which we were based but also the various dangers which the island faced. It’s a story well told through audio-visual displays and through the physical structure itself. Looking down unto the

harbour, we could visualize the courage shown in battles, particularly the struggle known as the Great Siege when the Fort was the stronghold of the Knights Templar. We later went to the Malta at War Museum where we were able to explore the subterranean existence of the Maltese in the Second World War when they displayed such courage and tenacity.

ID: What did you find most interesting about Vittoriosa?

PW: Its history and particularly the transition between cultures as the dominant powers changed.
I also liked that although the new “rulers” had changed its name to Vittoriosa the locals still call it Birgu 500 years later. They are indeed a people with tenacity.

If you had to return, which time of the year would you choose to visit?

PW: I’m interested in photography, so I guess that Spring would provide me with the best light to shoot the island - the shadows for photography would be more defined than in late summer. I would also love to see Birgu by candlelight.

ID: What is the thing you’ll remember most about your stay in Malta?

PW: The view across the harbour and the changing light reflected by the water

ID: Which book would/have you read while in Malta?

PW: I’m currently interested in what’s known as the nudge theory, so one of the various books on that subject and the impact on behavior. I could see this in action in the actions and responses of the changing rulers of Malta.

ID: Where did you travel outside of Birgu?

PW: We travelled to Mdina and had a very pleasant day in its magnificent setting and neighbouring Rabat. I was particularly pleased to be able purchase some fine pieces of locally crafted glass in translucent colours which will always remind me of our visit and seemed to capture light on the water.

ID: What is it you liked most about Indulgence Divine?

PW: Being able to watch the street life in the medieval streets from the window of a house that pays homage to the history with a unique style.

Expert's Choice badge from Tripexpert on detail of dining room

The curved facade of a church down Merchants Street

Eyeing Valletta

10 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Walking along, phone/camera in hand,
in the Baroque city.

The ferry from Bormla (Cospicua) was on time and it only took me 15 minutes before I disembarked besides an unusually beautiful building that badly needed restoration. Behind it, the majestically tall Valletta Bastions summoned me. A lift took me up to the Barrakka Gardens, a belvedere toastingly warm in the morning sun.

A visit to the capital city at different times of the day will present you with a distinct perspective each time. The light changes as does the mood, at times crowded with chaotic excitement, at others deserted and yours alone. Valletta presents you with plenty of eye fodder, but it's important to look up at the architecture, its shapes and shadows.

The city was built to impress, a European city built with money that poured in from Europe's elite after the Victory over the Ottomans in 1565. The ruling houses of Europe nicknamed Valletta as Superbissima - Most Proud

Steamy affair

9 March 2019 | Gattaldo

The steam engine that welcomes you to the Grand Harbour Marina

If you stay at Indulgence Divine, you're bound to wander down to the harbour and the marina with its cafes, restaurants and the exclusive gargantuan yachts of the rich and famous -it's only a 5 minute walk from the house.

You stroll under the arched doorway with the British insignia and by the Malta Maritime Museum on your right, past the cannons lined on the side of the street and then you notice this cast iron steam engine on wheels.

I've always wondered what its original purpose was. Now it stands proud and beautiful welcoming all that go past it in the direction of Fort St Angelo at the far end.

Do you know what purpose it served? If you do, please share by commenting below.

Expert's Choice badge from Tripexpert on detail of dining room

The steam engine at the entrance to the Grand Harbour Marina. Image - Danjel Sky B

Indulgence Divine wins 2019 Experts' Choice Award

8 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Now in its fourth year, Experts' Choice Awards reflect the consensus of journalists and other professional travel writers.

With accolades from publications like Lonely Planet, Independent and The Guardian, Indulgence Divine is featured on as one of the best accommodations in Malta. Indulgence Divine has also won TripExpert's Best of Malta award. According to expert reviewers, it is among the top choices for accommodation in Malta.

About TripExpert

Based in New York City, TripExpert aggregates professional reviews of hotels, restaurants and things to do. On, travellers can read over 1M reviews from leading travel media. The company was founded in 2014. TripExpert has been featured in The New York Times, GQ, The Daily Telegraph, and other publications.

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Expert's Choice badge from Tripexpert on detail of dining room

Image - Indulgence Divine dining room detail

A winding road in a valley in the Maltese countryside

Image - a winding lane in Zebbug, Malta

In touch with the earth

8 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Walking is the best way to discover Malta and its people

Winter brings with it rain to quench the parched island. Along with spring, winter is the season when the islands' countryside wears its Sunday clothes. The variety of flowers and shrubs can be fascinating. Sunny days provide the perfect opportunity to set off but, with its densely built up cities/ villages, where is it best to start your walks from?

A quick look at the Satellite map of Malta gives you an idea where it's less built up. Dingli is a good place to start from (take the ferry to Valletta and take bus 52 to Dingli). This walking trail takes you through Fawwara ending in Wied iz-Zurrieq where you can then take the bus back. Along the way, you'll come across pre-historic temples, a bronze age village, the famous cart ruts and pretty little chapels, not to mention the views from the cliffs in Dingli.

The second trail I recommend is the one starting at Marsascala (bus 124 from near Cafe Riche to Marsascala) which ends in the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk. The map provides you with more than one route. has other suggestions you might like to keep in mind before setting out for your walk. Remember to always take a bottle of water with you and a cap to protect your head from the sun.

Folly, sacrifice,
then rebirth

7 March 2019 | Gattaldo

Carnival, Lent and Easter on the island of Malta

Like with bachelor/ette parties before a wedding, Catholics around the world get a last binge on freedom before the 40 days of Lent where they're allowed to eat meat - Carne-vale. This festival of folly started with the Knights in the 1500s. A mask gave the knights and those with a reputation to protect, the opportunity to let their hair down and indulge in what they were not allowed to during the rest of the year, mostly a good old debauched time.

Malta has just celebrated its Karnival (Carnival) last weekend. Throughout history this celebration has evolved into a colourful display of colour in Malta and a darker, spontaneous, grotesque manifestation in Gozo. The latter's social comment element reminds me of carnivals around the turn of the 20th century (see picture)

historic b&w photo of carnival float

Image - Malta's Carnival at the turn of the 20th C.

Then Ash Wednesday arrived yesterday and the time for fun was over. The following is what I remember from childhood: On ash Wednesday (Ras ir-Randan) the parish priest would rub ash on our forehead to remind us all of our eventual demise (Catholicism is such fun!). I also remember having to forego sweets as a child until Easter.

What I  did not look forward to as a child was Good Friday. At the time there were only a couple of radio stations and each of them played funereal music all day long. It was just designed to take any fun out of life! I also recall the visit to 7 different churches with my family to meditate at the fourteen Stations of the Cross.

Then there was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, with a procession following a statue of Holy Mary with daggers in her heart. Such drama!

Whereas everything was slow and torturous throughout Lent, Easter was celebrated with the faithful carrying a statue of the risen Christ while simultaneously running like there's no tomorrow through the crowd. This is an event that still happens in the town square of Vittoriosa.

Three girls in skimpy shorts in a crowd of people standing in the village square

Image - The 3 Graces - waiting for the running Christ.

Travelling to Malta after Brexit

6 March 2019 | Gattaldo

With uncertainty at such a late stage, how can British travellers to Malta prepare themselves for all outcomes?

It seems counter-productive to worry too much about travelling after March. First of all, we don't have any idea when any changes will occur. We're not even sure when Brexit will happen or if it will happen. Life must go on and we'll all need our holiday break sooner or later. As beautiful as olde England is, we can't staycation for ever.

According to a recent study by site, the things that are on travellers minds are uncertain exchange rates (the possibility that the pound might fall further), the possible reintroduction of data roaming charges (in the case of a no deal), longer passport queues (I thought we adored queues), the loss of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and a possible increase in flight costs.

If we take the latest announcement by the European Council, it is highly unlikely that flights be grounded.

With that in mind, it is therefore best to book flights now before any changes in price may occur. Slight delays may happen in the case of a no-deal Brexit as British passports will have to be checked for issue dates (remember to make sure your passport is valid by using the Government online service that assesses your travel document). You'll most probably be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay and to show a return ticket.

According to The Independent, the air passengers’ rights rules stipulated by the EU will remain exactly the same, whether or not there is a Brexit deal.

Automatic VISA free travel across Europe is taken for granted but Brexit might change that for Britons travelling to the EU. According to the European Commission - "Entry/Exit system (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)... will apply to United Kingdom nationals once Union law on free movement of Union citizens ceases to apply to them, as to other visa-free third country nationals." What this means is that we'll be charged €7 fee for a visa, but the good thing is that this will not likely be in place before 2020.

What about souvenirs? In the event of a no-deal Brexit, imports from the EU will be treated as with other nations. What does this mean? One litre of spirits or two litres of sparkling wine,

Two men, owners of historic holiday rental,  posing in historic Halls painting of two women laughing as they escape from a burning home with their possessions.

Image - Roxana Halls - Laughing While Leaving (2017)

sherry or port; four litres of still wine; and 16 litres of beer, up to 200 cigarettes or 250g or tobacco are allowed. You're also allowed to bring in goods worth up to £390. Anything else you'll need to pay duty and tax on. If a single item’s worth more than your allowance you pay any duty or tax on its full value, not just the value above the allowance.

Information changes constantly so always consult the government's official information on travel.

Flirting with history

29 February 2019 | Gattaldo

What makes us interested in our history?

We have all loved a story and from the beginning of time, human beings have been storytelling. Our history is who we are. Think about cave art, aboriginal petroglyphs, the Bible, Homer, we've been telling and listening to stories since the beginning of time.

When we travel, we look for the accounts which built the place we're visiting. There will always be those who look for things they're familiar with wherever they go (that's why chains like McDonalds do so well) but for most of us, travel is a learning experience, a way to discover ourselves through finding about other people's stories. We also look for thoughts, ideas, feelings which are common with our own experiences to be able to grasp their history?

Two men, owners of historic holiday rental,  posing in historic costume.

We're fascinated by how others lived. We'd all love to travel in time and experience things for ourselves. What was it like when humans invented the wheel, when we first discovered how to create and control a fire? What was Malta like with the arrival of the Order of St John after so many rulers had left their mark on the island?

We do sometimes however get bogged down by the spectacle of fake history, historical re-enactments which, like bad taste souvenirs, can be rather detached from the real history. Much more interesting in my opinion are the actual walls of the city and its buildings which tell a much more intriguing story.

In this sense, the streets of the Collacchio in Vittoriosa are a place to get lost in, the fortifications around the city, even if restored to within an inch of their life, still encapsulate the stories of real people. The ghosts of history still haunt the 450 year old house we restored to share with you.

Image - Mike and I in a re-enactment of sorts.

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