The blog about Malta,
its history and culture,
travel and our holiday rental.

 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.

Trip Expert Best of Malta iconTrip Expert Expert's Choice icon
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.

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

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.

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