After a recent trip to both Maltese Islands, Mary Wilson found much to love about Malta’s laid-back little sister, Gozo.
Malta’s sister island, Gozo, is just over a fifth of its size, measuring 8.5 miles by 4.5 miles and far less populated. It lies just over three miles north-west of Malta and is prettier, hillier and greener with acres of farmland stretching into the distance and a rugged and dramatic coastline. It has mild winters and warm summers, excellent diving and sailing and unlike Malta – good sandy beaches. And because of the light, the views and the tranquillity, Gozo is a honeypot to artists and painters. Edward Lear loved it, the actor Robin Askwith, best-known for his starring role in Confessions of a Window Cleaner, moved to Gozo permanently in 1992 and Billy Connolly and his wife, Pamela Stevenson, bought a house there in 2003 to get away from it all.
The Gozotan friendliness and peaceful ambience is evident as soon as you step off the ferry in Mgarr Harbour, a 25-minute ride from Malta. The ferry runs day and night all through the year and is so cheap that you can easily pop over for lunch or to go shopping. “One can always spot a Gozophile, when their tensions melt away and they completely relax as soon as they on the ferry as it meanders silently over to Gozo. All their stresses of a day in Malta recede,” says David Pace of Move2Gozo (www.move2gozo.com). “The island has a slower pace of life than Malta and it is safe, particularly for children”.
There is a strong sense of community on the island and traditional values are important to the Gozotans. During the summer weekends, there is always some sort of celebration going on in one of the villages. Although Gozo is not renowned for its nightlife, one excellent outdoor nightclub does open every summer and the island boasts two opera houses in its bustling capital, Victoria. In spring, there’s a music festival and an opera season in autumn. “Another reason Gozo is so attractive is because of the signifi cant infrastructure works that have recently been completed,” says David Pace. “Village squares are starting to be pedestrianized further enhancing the café culture and major upgrades have improved island life. All these recent developments have given Gozo a fresh outlook that will only improve once the Government of Malta’s objectives to make Gozo an eco-island by 2020 are achieved.”
The villages are charming and hugely attractive – partly due to the local law which states that all new village homes have to be built in stone with a traditional façade in order to retain the authenticity of the island. Large stone churches dominate each village with the Xewkija church having a dome larger than St. Paul’s Cathedral in London! The island is also home to the Neolithic gantija temples, which are the oldest freestanding structures in the world.
“The most preferred area is the west side of Gozo and mainly the villages of San Lawrenz, Gharb and Ghasri. Since these villages are at the far end of Gozo, they are the most tranquil, but still only 15 minutes from Victoria,” says Marie Grech of Frank Salt’s Gozo office (www.franksalt.com.mt). The villages to the east of Victoria, where 6,400 of the 31,000 population live, tend to be busier with more cafés and restaurants.
Property in Gozo
Property is around 10 – 15 per cent cheaper on Gozo with new two-bedroom apartments selling from €170,000 (£138k). For anyone thinking of moving here permanently, the newly launched Malta Retirement Programme also applies, although the minimum price you can buy or rent a home is lower than in Malta because property is cheaper. There are hardly any villas in large plots on Gozo because the fertile valleys are protected from being built upon. “But it has the largest selection of farmhouses, new or converted, for sale in the Maltese Islands and several new upmarket but affordable luxury developments to match anything in Malta,” says David. A four-bedroom converted farmhouse with pool could cost around €380,000 (£308k), but a swanky new three or four bedroom house, finished to a very high specification with pool – up to €1 million.
So, for a quieter life in peaceful rural surroundings, the answer must be…to go to Gozo.
Source: A Place in the Sun by Mary Wilson