Malta´s dreams taste like the sea, the Mediterranean Sea, but maybe not the same Mediterranean that Joan Manuel Serrat sang about. But even so, surely the Maltese Republic itself, the island of Malta, can be appreciated in its own right even by one who does not understand the language of its songwriters’ lyrics.
Before travelling to Malta you need to know several things. It is an archipelago, is located in the Mediterranean, and is close, very close, to Italy; in fact only 90 minutes to Sicily by catamaran.
When people go to Malta they may visit one or more of the following islands, which are the only inhabited ones in the Republic: Malta, Gozo and Comino.
Interestingly, Malta is one of the smaller countries but with one of the highest population densities in the world. If you like the Mediterranean climate, which is likely, the blue sea will reflect in your eyes while your smile will always be warm from the heat of the sun over the Mediterranean.
This island, the Republic of Malta, is close to Sicily, Tunisia and northern Libya; the latter a country which unfortunately, like many others, is ravaged by war.
Maltese, which is the national language, and English are the two official languages of the country. The English language is important in Malta; it is the language used in business and in its own regulated education, for example, at university. Many people from all over Europe travel to this island to study English.
The use of the latter, which many of you surely are aware of, stems from cultural and historical reasons because this island of Malta was once a British colony. British influence was not in vain for the island, since, thanks to it, today schools abound that teach English, and the unmistakable British influence permeates the island known for its steep and rugged shores.
That's why many people head to Malta to study English because it has the advantages of British culture with the benefits of the Mediterranean climate and, as you've probably seen or guessed, yes, many speak also Italian − Parli Italiano?
Malta has 452,215 inhabitants, and, as we said, is known for its huge population density.
But what to visit in Malta? Some of the best places to visit are in Valletta, the capital of Malta. Its government, central government and the commercial and cultural centre are located there.
Also in Valetta, located in the eastern part of the island, are architectural and religious landmarks such as the Cathedral of St John, the former palace of the Grand Master and the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which offers beautiful views of the Grand Harbour. And, we mustn’t forget the National Museum of Fine Arts.
If, as well as the beaches and dining out, you still have time in your stay, you should know that other cities to see in Malta are Birkirkara, Qormi and Sliema. Make time also to visit the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, Mosta, and view the dome, the fourth largest unsupported dome in the world and the third largest in Europe.
Also, Malta has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004, when it joined other countries such as Estonia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the large communal family.
The climate makes the island smooth and peaceful, with warm weather typical of the Mediterranean: long summers with little rainfall and short but very wet winters. To give an example, it can reach 15°C on average in winter and 30ºC in summer.
For sightseeing on the island of Malta, note the characteristic absence of rivers and mountains and the slightly uneven surface in the countryside and the low hills. These no doubt are its landmarks, but the island’s landscape also comprises fields of terraces and gentle slopes separated by old walls.
It has a very rugged coastline, which leads to rocky outcrops and sandy beaches, and you will discover numerous sports marinas.
Regarding religion, most people are Catholics, while 5% is divided among other Christians, Muslims, Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Check out mealtimes − we assume that reading makes you hungry! We are talking about a kitchen with strong Italian and Turkish influence. This is especially related to seafood and vegetables, as well as the typical Bragioli − stuffed steaks accompanied by capers, eggs and bread, and, of course, wine.
On the island of Malta, as in the UK, drive on the left. So be very careful with this opposing form of driving to other European countries.
Shopping hours are usually from 9:30 to 13:00, with a lunch break. Shops are open again from 16:00 to 19:00.
The orange buses circulate through the city crossing Valletta and from there you are closer to other tourist destinations such as Sliema, Marsaxlokk, Mdina and the main beaches.
There is also a ferry that leaves every 20 minutes passing the small island of Comino, taking half an hour to reach Gozo.
Editing by: Catherine Parker