Gozo, as Meg Nesterov recently reported, is a spirited place. The smaller of the Republic of Malta‘s two main islands, the island also known as the Isle of Calypso provides the rustic antidote to big brother Malta’s package holiday flash. There’s a lot to do on Gozo. Capital Victoria boasts an incredible walled Citadel. There are trails for hiking. There are little villages that become shady and welcoming in the late afternoon; many of these have gloriously grand churches to visit. And then of course there’s the classic Mediterranean activity: setting down towel and various paraphernalia along the water for an idle afternoon.
Here are five tips for making the most of your time on Gozo, with an emphasis on local cuisine.
1. Eat lunch at Ta’ Rikardu. This little restaurant occupies space on a passageway in the walled Citadel at the heart of Gozo’s tourism core. Don’t let its popularity with tourists chase you away. The restaurant offers an absolutely delicious local platter (see above) of fresh tomatoes, local cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, and onions. Also delicious are the homemade ravioli, fat and enormous, stuffed with cheese and parsley. There’s a small shop on the premises selling local food and drink.
2. Book a taxi with Marcel Mejlaq. You should probably rent a car on Gozo. Those unable or unwilling to drive will likely need a taxi from time to time. Track down Mr. Mejlaq through your hotel. He’s friendly, full of good anecdotes, and charges under the going rate. Another cabbie charged €18 to go from the port to our hotel; Marcel charged just €13.
3. Eat dinner at Jeffrey’s Restaurant. Though far less explicitly local in orientation than Ta’ Rikardu, Jeffrey”s is a good place to taste Gozitan food. The fried cheese starter is especially nice and the beef-stuffed squash main is also quite good. A vegetarian version of the stuffed squash (called “marrow” here) can also be ordered.
4. Swim at Xlendi. Popular among locals and tourists alike, Xlendi’s bay features exquisite clear water and a lively weekend atmosphere. Avoid the tiny beach and plunk your towel down on the sloping rock along the left-hand side of the bay. Dive in or lower yourself down via a ladder. Afterwards stop by Gelateria Granola for ice cream. Don’t expect solitude or a village vibe here. Xlendi is tourism central, but the town has been developed in a manner that isn’t garish and the water is absolutely lovely.
5. Walk the Ta’ Cenc plateau. Adjacent to the very nice Hotel Ta’ Cenc is an attractive plateau. The views over Gozo and across to Malta from here are wonderful. There are Neolithic period dolmens and even the remains of a temple to check out. In the hours leading up to sundown the plateau is particularly captivating.