Sunday, 17 February 2013

Marsaskala-Malta | Sunny Destination Facing a Spectacular Bay.


Marsaskala is undoubtedly a very attractive and enjoyable place to visit in Malta, a sunny destination facing a spectacular bay in a country so famous for its incomparable mild climate, a delectable typical Mediterranean gastronomy, scenic rocky tips flanking astonishing beaches stretching along a ravishing coastline, all stunning details which delight many tourists with an eternally shimmering sun in a marvellous blue sky.

The fascinating charm of that land is the mirror and true image of the beauty of a magnificent island which is like a big coffer so inviting and ready to be opened finding inside it an endless number of jewels and that town is one of the shining gems you will discover in that amazing treasure.

Discovering places like that is also a great occasion for all those who love the beauty of a sea which transmits there all its charm and also to know and learn more the fantastic Maltese culture and history with a lot to narrate for a secular historic past boasting all around its territory a relevant patrimony which is another special attraction of that special Eden in the Southern Mediterranean.

Located at just 12, 0 kilometres south from the lively and vibrant capital of the country La Valletta, facing a spectacular gulf between the ravishing peninsula of Zonqor at north and the attractive Cape Il Hamria at south, that very attractive seaside town also flanks Bajja ta Sán Tumas, another sea marvel consisting in a striking bay beneath a captivating headland in the area of Xrobb I Ghaghin Nature Park, a place which shows including in its most remote corners some of the best images of the entire Maltese territory.

Since some decades ago that site is a Mecca for all people fond of snorkeling and diving, special activities which find in that famous and superb promontory called Zonqor Point a unique and incomparable paradise and thanks to that Marsaskala boasts today excellent diving centres of notable reputation well known at international level for their magnificent services and facilities providing everything the most skilled divers needs.

It is always a pleasure to enjoy the more than pleasant atmosphere of that town in a simple walk along the eternally animated and lively quays of its harbour all year because the colours and the suggestive aura surrounding its boundaries are always the same, every day so bustling and full of spirit and also that it is one of the several secrets which makes that centre so captivating at first sight.

It is enough to take a look to the inspiring image of the Mediterranean facing you from the seaside promenade or walking on its streets reaching its iconic fortresses and defencive bastions witnesses of centuries of sieges and attacks to breathe immediately something of magic in the air and all that accompanied by that unmistakable cool breeze which delights that idyllic scenery which is definitely another more than pleasant highlight.

Including if you move outside its boundaries towards south you will be in a while enchanted by a coast which is a mosaic of stunning bays, small picturesque gulfs and wonderful inlets where the stunning azure sea and the inland highlighted by picturesque hilly plateaus with a green mixed with an ochre tonality are equally protagonists for their magnificent and unique contrasts of colours.
  
Moving towards north is also a great experience and you will enchanted by the jagged coastline close to Rinella Bay in proximity of the outskirts of the capital and from there it is simply spectacular stopping in contemplation for a while to admire its entire large waterfront.

Facing that tip you will have in front of you the image of Il Forti-Sant Iermu, a fortress which seems the eternal guard of a promontory which every day looks at the several ferries sailing or landing to or from Sicily and also those views with those several ships coming and going along that blue and suggestive Mediterranean inlet is something of extremely great.
  
Highly recommended is in addition visiting places towards south until the headland of Fort Delimara situated on a pretty sharp peninsula called It-Taqtiegha-tad-Delimara facing from one of its sides the banks of Malta Freeport and from another an endless sea horizon with divine views in every cardinal point equally wonderful and all that is Malta in all its splendour.

M´Skala as it is called in Malti, one of the official languages, with a letter M pronounced almost with closed lips and a bit aspired as in Sicilian is a place with very kind and hospitable people and they are the soul of that centre which lived for centuries as a strategic cross road receiving, hosting and welcoming many people coming from different corners of Europe and North Africa since a long time ago.

You can reach the harbour and talking to the fishermen to know how was the catch during the day or sitting in a bar enjoying a glass of fine Montekristo wine and it is so easy to have a chat with some locals, very sunny people and also that it is more than appreciated in a while.

A good range of Hotels and accommodations, excellent communications and transports, the proximity of La Valletta which is pretty close and many kilometres of a marvellous coast all to enjoy metre by metre along a stretch which with its charm transmits the desire to stop in so many points are further great feature of that place.

The local cuisine is a festival of flavours and delights  with recipes having a strong local identity but with very strong Maghreb and Sicilian influences, Moorish spices as cumin, coriander and sesame from one side, fresh tomato, olive oil and red chili pepper from the other with many plates also combined in a special and delicious mixture delighting all the most demanding and exigent palates.

The history of that former British Protectorate, the fascinating  Malta is very old and extremely rich of events, it was originally inhabited since 5200 BC and it  has always been an important and relevant cross point of important civilisations and cultures since 1200 BC during the ancient Phoenician times when that active, emblematic population settled in that island establishing there a relevant link for its trades between the Southeastern and Southwestern Mediterranean.

That land was for them a beloved home but also a sort of strategic traffic light linked to a considerable commerce which depending of the good and advantageous businesses was oriented from the Middle East to Andalusia or Morocco or in other cases the green light was on towards north reaching the nearest Sicily and the Italic peninsula or also sailing further south landing on the Tunisian coasts, a feature which elevated Malta since those ancient times as a daily essential bridge always present on those iconic routes which endured for over three centuries.

The same operations were led by the successors, the Greeks, the first to take that as inheritance and the history continued as a relay despite many clashes highlighted by Carthaginians, Romans, Moors and Normans among others.

All those civilisations found in that geographic point a more than strategic base to land in all the cardinal points of the Southern Mediterranean basin with the Hellenic colonists who immediately understood how was important to found there docks for a flourishing activity.

All that started especially during the times of the well known Dionysus, father, leader and tyrant of the powerful Siracusa,one of the most relevant centres of the ancient Megale Hellas, the emblematic Magna Graecia who used since the 4th century BC that coastline which included Marsaskala in a solid stronghold to place his fleet.

The Roman Empire which inherited by the Hellenic settlers those lands established along the Maltese coasts a notable network of active harbours developed to be some of the main stages towards the North African coastline of the Maghreb and all that happened in large part after the victory in the 2nd Punic war against Carthage in 218 BC.

Rome left deep cultural marks as an important and relevant archaeological patrimony still visible nowadays in Marsaskala which was inhabited by a Roman colony of  prestigious ranking, probably very important Patrician families due to the discovery of baths and rests of a considerable Patrician Domus, a villa related to the highest Imperial Social Class.

Other rests discovered in that centre are linked to the first Christian period of the Roman Empire and including after further archaeological excavations emerged in the municipal boundaries remnants of old catacombs confirming a presence of a notable and numerous Christian community in the town since those ancient times.

After the fall of the Imperial Rome, the town as the entire island suffered numerous raids by the Vandals and also invasions by the Goths living a period pretty unsafe with constant incursions and devastation of those belligerent populations more hungry for loot and ravaging villages than to develop a flourishing society.

In the 4th century the Byzantines established in the island their influence which endured until 870 despite that long period of occupation by the Empire with capital Constantinople, former Byzantium did not leave as in other places remarkable marks.

All that because those five centuries were mainly focused to a constant organisation of the defence of the island to face the secular Arab-Berber enemy who conquered Malta in the 9th century.

The fall of that strategic Byzantine headquarter took place after a long siege led by the Moorish leaders Halaf-Al Hadim and Sawada ibn Muhammad members of the famous Aghlabid Dynasty former Emirs of Ifriqya founded by Ibrahim I ibn Al-Aghlab.

Those invaders  landed with an impressive army along all the Maltese coasts after endless clashes with the Roman-Greek Empire of Orient which lost that domain in 869 with the total destruction of a perfect and considered impenetrable walled fortifications encircling the entire Malta.
  
In that time the Arab rulers introduced a new system of irrigation very similar to that one which was established about one century before in the Al-Andalus,in Southern Spain by the first Umayyad Caliphs and the Moors since then developed different kinds of cultivations especially focused on the productions of citrus, cedar and cotton.

Many people since then started to use the Arabian as official language and including embracing the Islam as Religious faith. Those occupiers in addition established the introduction of the Jizya which consisted in a sort of per capita yearly tax for the residents applied just for the non Muslims who could continue to practise their Religion and that was a sort of strategy based on a tolerant feudalism.

The people who were converted to the Islam had to pay a Zakaat which was a sort of income and wealth fiscal contribution to finance the Islamic community but they did not pay the previous one which was economically much more expensive and furthermore they have free access to the most important public events with also rights of opinion and votations closely related to political issues as the election of a Wali, a governor.

The Aghlabids in those two and over centuries of Moorish Maltese history were replaced later by new emergent Emirs associated to the Kalbids, an Arab dynasty former vassals of the Fatamid Caliph Ismail Al Mansur, influential tribe which also ruled Sicily from 948 to 1043 with Palermo governed by Hassan and Yusuf-Al Kalbi with the latter who just after eight years of Reign delivered the power to his sons

That period due those several changes was the prelude of a decay due to various rivalry, misunderstandings and extreme jealousies inside the highest Arab-Berber social class, historical times which represented probably one of the darkest pages of various Caliphates 
which lost the spirit of unity and also in another aspect the sense of identity. 

In 1091 the Norman Sovereign Roger I, also known as The Great Count of Jarl Rogeirr or Roger de Hauteville conquered Malta pretty easily also for that consequent decline due to those previously mentioned reasons which weakened the new Moorish Governors incorporating the island in the Kingdom of Sicily previously released by that noble son of  Lord Tancred, direct French descendant of the Norsemen.

It was since then when started a period in which a numerous colony of Sicilians mainly fishermen with their families landing on the banks of Marsaskala and other Maltese coastal villages favoured by that character and later by his sons and successors Simon and Roger II.

Those rulers were replaced by the Germanic Swabian House of Hoenstaufen which left those territories in a further historic stage to the French Capetian House of Anjou founded by Charles I, descendants of Frankish branch linked to one of the Carolingian dynasties.

The Angevin period was probably one of the darkest pages of the history of Malta with the introduction of several taxes causing numerous riots, revolts and an intense struggle against those rulers never loved by the locals for their conflicts with the Marine Republic of Genoa considered for many reasons a loyal allied which supported many Maltese people who also entered in the army of that famed Marine Republic.

When that House suffered the famous Sicilian vespers with a large rebellion of the population in Sicily due to a very rigid regime never accepted and which was the first signal of the end of that domain in the 13th century with the same repercussion in the Maltese territory the island became a stronghold of the Spaniards with the Kings of Aragon.

Also in that case the life under that Iberian Royalty was not so peaceful for the strong opposition of the citizens loyal to the Crown of Sicily formed by the Normans centuries before and also because the new occupants did not consider Malta a place of relevance privileging their businesses and interests in other sites especially on the Italic Peninsula, marginalising the country with including Marsaskala as a secondary place.

In 1530 the entire Malta was given to the Hospitaliers Knights led by Philippe de Villiers de l´Isle d-Adam, an event closely related to the return into the French sphere. That  time was a period highlighted by the crusades when Malta received the St. John Knights coming from the Greek island of Rhodes expelled by the Ottoman Pacha Suleyman well known as The Great after the notorious  defeat against the Turks in the Dodecanese Archipelago.

In that historic period the current Nation was totally fortified to defend itself by the many attacks of the Ottomans and in 1675 Malta suffered a terrible plague which decimated the population.

Occupied by French troops led by  Napoleon Bonaparte and later by the British Army, Malta during its long history  lived long period of disputes, occupations and different rulers who created in the country despite many clashes and wars a very cosmopolitan culture still visible today in the surnames of the local inhabitants.

In more recent times and concretely in 1964 Malta acquired its independence declaring itself a Republic ten years later within the Commonwealth keeping strong relationships with the British Crown continuing to use the English as official language and officially entering in the European Community in 2004.
  
The name of the town as in many other places created debates, controversial opinions and different kinds of suppositions. One of them tells that it means Bay or Port of the Sicilians derived by local inflections generating a composition of two words as Al Marsa which in Arab means harbour or in determined cases gulf while the second is linked to a Maltese expression Sqalli which means Sicilians.

According to that supposition that denomination was acquired in the 14th century when a large group of colonists from Sicily landed on the local coast of the current town establishing a fishing port.

There are other suppositions especially linked to the second part of the name, Skala which for someone directly comes from Scala meaning step, some eminent historians consider in addition that denomination could be port on the step due to the formation of rocky steps in that coastal point.

The official name of the municipality in Malti language is Wied Il Ghajn and in that case it is due to a specific geographic reason not linked to the coastline or former inhabitants but taking it from the valleys in proximity of the town of Ghajn where the waters of a spring of a creek flow close to the centre with that denomination meaning valleys of the spring.

Despite Malta is not a big land it is a very cosmopolitan place and the Malti is the result of a meeting o different Mediterranean languages and probably the first linguistic origin is dated much before the Phoenicians landing.

It said that the first influences came by the Sicani, an old population living in Sicily who also later met those important colonists, the Greeks who founded in that Italian region some of the most important centres of the Magna Graecia.

Some historic documentations narrated that they originally came from the Iberian Peninsula and sailing in the Mediterranean to escape from the attacks by the Celtic Ligurians reached Sicily  landing in that Italic island firstly used as refuge and then occupying a vast territory in the south and centre of the current region moving later to Malta.

Another version is that they were autochtone, natives of that current Southern Italian land, they assimilated before the Greek alphabet and later the Latin by the Romans but continuing to speak their language, a sort o ancient mother of the current Siculo, the dialect spoken in Sicily characterised by a large number of vocals some pretty long in the speech and highlighted by a pretty accentuated aspiration of determined letters.

The Latin introduced by the Romans ever since the time of the Punic wars also brought notable influences just like the classical Arab language as base, much less guttural of the current particularly absorbed in a dialectal and vernacular way took by the ancient Moorish settlers from Ifriqiya which used several Berber words continuing with a partial influence by the modern Arabic spoken in the neighbouring Tunisia.

That sort of linguistic mosaic was furthermore highlighted by the Siculo Strittu, the old traditional dialect spoken in the Middle Ages and brought by those colonists and fishermen landed with Roger I of Normandy and Sicily.

In brief you can consider historically the Maltese a great fusion in its morphology of Arabian, Sicilian and Latin completed by accents and strong local influences.

All those civilisation landed in Malta left many important and relevant marks in architecture, culture, gastronomy, costumes and folklore although the Maltese has always kept with pride a strong identity.

The English is today the official language and since 1934 the Malti too. The Italian was previously another official one, many inhabitants of Malta can fluently speak a perfect Italian, especially the old generations also in Marsaskala.
  
With its approximately 10,200 inhabitants the town which is many cases is simply called M´Skala has always lived mainly of fishing, small maritime trades and agriculture in its interior, activities extremely rooted with a secular tradition  transmitted generation by generation and continuing nowadays.

Another notable activity corresponding to the salt production which was and is particularly successful since the beginning of its explotation thanks to the presence of several salt flats elevated since many years ago as a relevant economic resource while the tourism is a further industry of notable value in constant and great development.

That sunny town is arranged along the coast with its Triq and that word means street. The major axis of the town on its north side is Triq Iz Zonqor leading to the cape of the rocky peninsula facing Marsaskala bay at north while Triq Iz Xatt is the lively artery close to the marina and with Triq Sant Anna and they are connected to another important urban hallway called Triq Il Qalet situated at south.

The latter is located behind Triq Iz Salini corresponding to the road which runs along the salt flats on the southern side of the gulf facing Sant´Anna Church, one of the symbols of Marsaskala.

Around Triq Il Qalet, you will see many narrow streets and alleys and that artery also represents a sort of  ample ring encircling all the centre meeting at south-west Triq Tal Gardiel closing the circle embracing Triq Ix Xatt again.

Marsaskala harbour is very similar to many Sicilian ports, flanked by a very pleasant promenade highlighted by its charming low quays and the presence of several feluccas, those traditional vessels used by fishermen in the Mediterranean including for some Spadare, emblematic swordfish fishing operations.

You can start the visit from there, it is a very lively and bustling site also very significant for the local economy established in front of a pretty large bay lying between two Ras, a couple of capes called Ras-Iz-Gzira situated at south and Ras-Iz-Zonqor at north.

The lively and animated atmosphere makes that area an important meeting point of locals and tourists especially in a ventilated early evening enjoying a walk under the warm Maltese sun.

Once there you can have a chat with some fishermen returning to the harbour telling them how was the catch and if they have some delicious fresh sea product and also that is a lovely experience to try.

In its proximity and along Triq Iz Xatt you can find bars, restaurants and shops and all that area is immediately an enjoyable introduction of the town which has kept with pride the air of its past, eternally bustling with an unmistakable smell of coffee and delicious food coming from some catering establishments.

You can continue visiting Knjsia Parrokjali di Sant´Anna dedicated to St. Anne which is the Parish Church and it is simply called by the locals Parroca, a pretty modern construction, erected in 1949 and ended with the addition of some architectural details in 1953.

Despite the young age it is a beautiful religious building and its position adds it further charm facing the bay and flanking Triq Iz Zonqor Street highlighted by a scenic and imposing high bell tower of Venetian inspiration while the charming facade boasts a beautiful rose window placed over an ample doorway flanked by splendid arched windows with the upper section surmounted by a cross.

A peculiar architectural detail is its flat roof and very interesting are the walls on its sides with decorations and mullioned windows reflecting a very attractive revival  execution of a refined late-Renaissance style.
  
The bell tower was added in more recent times and ended in 1993. Elevated on a square plan it is situated adjacent to the presbytery wall and it consists in a high building with an upper strong block characterised by large arched windows inserted in its layout with terminal a pyramidal roof topped by a cross.

An important event linked to that Church is the Patron Feast of St. Anna celebrated every year, the last Sunday of July with a relevant participation of the entire local community and including many people coming from many surrounding villages and towns enjoying a day very animated and colourful.

The town was historically in several occasions attacked by the Ottomans when the Turkish Empire was continuous expansion in the Mediterranean basin and Europe and to face that powerful enemy Malta became an important Christian stronghold and an important centre during the crusades to the Holy Land. 

In that island born the order of the Knights of Malta which was practically the continuation of the former Cavalieri Ospitalieri, the Hospitaliers Knights, the latter, an Order which was probably founded by nobles from the Marine Republic of Amalfi which gave origin later to the Knights of St. John who fought in the holy land and also in the Dodecanese islands against the Turks in a period in which the Aegean Sea and all the Hellenic Archipelagos were focal points of endless clashes.

Marsaskala was one of the most relevant headquarters of those Orders elevating around its boundaries a strong and organised defencive system.

Despite a former impenetrable walled complex a big part of that fortified constructions were destroyed and closely linked to that you can see some relevant rests of the De Redin tower still visible today.

That construction was elevated by Martin De Redin who was Prince of the Order of Malta of Navarra and also Viceroy of Sicily in the 17th century and from that noble figure is derived the name of that former imposing bastion.

That remnant was part of a network of 13 watchtowers established in the main island while a further one was built in Gozo taking as inspiration the first former five former elevated by the eminent Ligurian Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris who was his predecessor.  

The most important survivor of that walled defencive perimeter is definitely the iconic Torri San Tumas,  St Thomas tower erected in the early 17thcentury, exactly in 1614 by Alof de Vignacourt facing the scenic headland of Il-Hamriga, established in front of a splendid wide square.

The name “tower” could be more appropriate to a fortress due to it is majestic profile because it is a high strong stone building developed on a big irregular rectangular plan with a narrow passage leading to an arched entrance consisting in the main doorway flanked by low stone walls established on both sides.

Highlighted by the presence of deep ditches which are the original developed in the former construction it also has four pentagonal towers elevated in strategic position covering the views of every cardinal point and also provided by watch windows arranged at the mid height of the walls.
  
The fortress was the local Citadel, inside it were established the headquarters of the Knights, the arsenal, rooms for guards and soldiers, a site which was always ready to host the local population in cases of attacks by sea and landings by the enemy.

The history of that stronghold is related to those many Turkish sieges along the coasts of Marsaxlokk, IL Kallanka and Marsaskala in the 16th century.The Ottoman fleet did not find a strong resistance on the Maltese coastline and the ships of that Empire could easily reaches all the bays with a massive landing of the troops who totally invaded the island.

That impressive invasion dated 1565 which saw over 6,000 soldiers also entering in the inland generated a huge devastation of many areas of Malta with an entire destruction of villages and towns including in the interior.

The construction of St. Thomas tower was mainly conceived after that tragic and sad event which left desolation and destruction all around the territory elevated with the aim to improve the defencive system of the local coasts to avoid a possible future negative experience without bastions of protection.

In 1716 it had a further modification with the addition of a relevant battery placed along the walled front side facing the sea and it  was since the 19th century used for military purposes by the British Army. 

 For the date of its construction, historic value and events in which it was protagonist it is considered Historic Patrimony of Malta and today after some restorations it is well preserved.

The Torri Mamo, Mamo tower is another other emblematic historic stronghold, remnant of  the old Marsaskala, smaller than the previous it was erected in 1657 by the family Mamo from which took its name.

It was erected with the main purpose to protect that centre by the continuous raids of pirates and corsairs penetrating inside St. Thomas Bay situated behind a low stone wall with a ditch and after its elevation it became for relevance the second local defencive structure.

It consists in a very strong building established on a polygonal base occupying a very strategic point with an adjacent stone complex flanking the tower providing a pretty large rectangular doorway along its facade and in its interior were developed four rooms and a staircase leading to the roof.

Torri Mamo originally had as main functions that of check point signalling with smoke and fire typical strategies linked to the historic Almenara towers used by Moors, Marine Republics, and Spaniards facing attacks by sea alerting the community with a fast evacuation of the residents in the interior.

The tower hold a small division of guards, an arsenal and some artillery pieces, in addition along its walled perimeter that construction is provided by rectangular windows and some slots all placed in strategic points of the structure.

In the 80's that iconic construction fell a bit in decay suffering a sad deterioration, it had some restorations with some works managed by the local Institutions to save a relevant historic patrimony. A considerable operation took place in 1994 when the exterior sides of the walls were totally restored with also a notable refurbishment of the interior and the addition of a system of illumination.

As further detail which worth a special mention is that in in the ditch beneath that tower was discovered a Roman tomb probably dating back the 4th century attesting that in such place there was something linked to that ancient civilisation corresponding to the Byzantine period.

Closely linked to that Marsaskala is a very important centre and great destination for all those who love archaeology boasting in its boundaries and immediate surroundings rests related to the Imperial Rome, furthermore other artifacts dating back prehistoric times were found confirming that the territory was inhabited since that era.

Other great discoveries with great ancient renmants were found in the area of the harbour and in proximity of Il Gzira Peninsula which were the most inhabited areas in those distant periods.

The history of that municipality is highly attractive and including it is also linked to a special episode dated 2003 highlighted by a controversial case due to the declarations by an American historian and archaeologist who wrote and  published a book titled "The Lost Shipwreck of the Apostle St. Paul on the coast of Marsaskala.

There were many controversial opinions and critics about that work narrating the shipwreck of that Saint and Evangelist on the island in the Bajja ta San Tumas, some historians denied that event but well, history in many cases is very captivating for all that, with different documentations, studies, pistes to follow, versions often opening new chapters and terms of comparison with numerous dates and details which are also themes open to several debates.

Some of the most important outdoor activities to practise in Marsaskala are definitely diving and snorkeling and the local coastline with its spectacular bay simply appropriate for that is an absolute paradise for all that.

Ras Iz Zonqor, the cape situated northern of the bay and especially the famous Zonqor Point is a great place for scuba-diving, that headland has low cliffs and a beautiful seabed ideal place to admire a relevant marine flora and it was also protagonist of great discoveries and scientific studies regarding marine biology and life.

Marsaskala has Diving Centres of very high reputation and in that area the visibility often reaches the 30,0 metres making that place one of the best in the entire Mediterranean basin.

The seabed along that local coastline is a fabulous heaven, a place in which you can admire a wide and ample marine Eden rich of different species of fish which find in those waters their perfect habitat to survive but also a destination for many marine turtles, special place for different marine plants, some sponges and in addition that sea area in the channel of Sicily is very rich of Tuna fish.
  
In addition to all that were discovered in the territorial waters several ancient artifacts as Roman amphorae probably linked to the iconic Antonina dynasty and other relevant historic objects which confirmed the establishments of very important Imperial settlements along that Maltese bay.

The local beaches are not long and sandy, they are pretty highlighted by pebbles and rocks but simply great for their wild image so true and intact and all around a great attraction is undoubtedly the magnificent contrasts of colours you can find in a few hundreds of metres

The tonalities of the sea which range from emerald to azure with also in some point a deep blue as protagonist dominated by cliffs with light brown, white and vaguely ochre colours is a further attraction of that wonderful resort.

I suggest you for that as excursion to explore the beautiful coastal stretch from Ras Iz Zonqor towards north from where you can see that scenic headland from another perspective along a straight coastal section with another spectacular view of the bay and you will enchanted by sea views simply unique, in that case prepare your camera and probably you will dedicate some hours also for a very pleasant contemplation.

After that magnificent panoramic view from there you can enter in the wild and picturesque countryside, an experience I suggest you very much to be enchanted by the great contrasts the magic Malta offers and where you can see a stone Church, the Chapel of St. Nicholas.

That construction is a religious building probably ended in the 18th century dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari elevated on a rectangular base with a high front side and a well defined framed portal beneath a polygonal rose window. 

In the high section of the facade was established a cross and the great attraction is certainly its upper layout with protagonist a scenic cupola placed in the centre of the roof surmounted by a turret covered by a small dome.

On the hill of that promontory in 1882 was established the Batterija Taz Zonqor, a military structure developed by the British Army to defend the bay later dismantled and despite that there are some curious historic opinions that never were installed pieces of artillery or cannons in that place but it was simply used as a simple check point with just the presence of guards.

You can continue the visit until Fort Leonardo stopping for a while to see that British fortification erected between 1872 and 1878 erected after a design developed in a notorious plan of defence of the protectorates of Malta and Gibraltar, a structure which was also used in more contemporary times during the second World War.

That defencive complex was originally called Fort Tombrell and Great Britain managed in that site military operations until 1970. Today that imposing building hosts a farm and you can see a bridge leading to a big arched gate flanked by strong, high walls consisting in an architectural section, part of that construction.

Another attraction is Trik il- Wisgha tower erected by De Redin in 1658, a small stone building which was inserted in the protective network established during the times of the Order of the Knights of Malta. From there you can have spectacular views overlooking the Mediterranean and a special attraction is the magnificent crystalline waters you will admire beneath that construction.
  
Another suggested itinerary is that leading to the surroundings of Fort Rinella. Once there you can visit that former military complex built between 1876 and 1878 by military engineers of Great Britain and used by the British Army until 1965. Despite that denomination it is well known as Rinella Battery consisting in a strong building erected in Victorian style at the mouth of the Grand Harbour in proximity of a small centre called Calcara.

The structure is highlighted by an arched doorway and inside, in the courtyard since 1991 after a total restoration Malta Heritage Trust opened a museum and another of the major attractions which worth a special mention is the presence of a single Armstrong 100 ton-gun  part of the former battery but never used.

That place was also protagonist of of some movies as Shout at the Devil produced In 1976 and based on a novel by Wilbur Smith, Young Winston, a British production dated 1972 focused on the yearly years of the Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Zeppelin  a further movie linked to the  1st  World War dated 1971.  

After that visit you can enjoy a splendid view of a marvellous sharp promontory ending your journey on the marvellous Rinella Bay facing a long scenic peninsula on which is situated the capital La Valletta with the stunning view of the silhouette of the Cathedral of Saint John with its two beautiful twin towers.

South of Marsaskala you can also see magnificent places and for that I recommend you to reach a point in proximity of  Il Bajja Ta San Tumas where you can have  wonderful images o Ras Il Kallanka, a very scenic cape situated after Xrobb i Ghaghin, a splendid promontory not far from the beautiful Bay of Marsaxlokk. The latter is a further beautiful place very suggested to enjoy great views, simply excellent and stunning for passionate photographers.

If you are spending holidays in the sunny and appealing Marsaskala during a stay including a Sunday, you can visit Marsaxlokk Fish Market, a great experience for its very lively atmosphere and delicious sea products, you can find everything, all is very fresh with stalls packed by superb fish and seafood enjoying in addition a great bustling and colourful environment.

The more than delicious Maltese cuisine is the result of several civilisations landed on the island, the Arab, the Sicilian and the local gastronomy was also partially  influenced by French and Spanish rulers offering  in all its great essence and true seafaring spirit a typical and traditional Mediterranean gastronomy highlighted by supreme flavours.

The quality of the Maltese Awwija, the lobster is famous all around the world just like the excellent tuna cooked in different styles, in many cases very similar to the typical Sicilian culinary traditions just like the superb Pixxispad-mixwi, grilled swordfish with a notable addition of oregano.

There is always a wide selection of outstanding seafood, fantastic Gambli, delicious prawns to prepare divine cocktails and do not miss to try the Tamar,  local mussels simply superb for their taste. Highly appreciated is a plate called Clamari mimlija consisting in stuffed calamari filled with cheese, parsley, oregano and breadcrumbs.

Very appreciated is the Quarnita, local octopus of high quality and every market in the island offer the chance to find the best about that emblematic product simply fantastic to prepare a delectable seafood salad or a delicious sauce.

A popular recipe is also the Fritturi tal-makku consisting in fried fish prepared with flour, garlic adding parsley and salt. I suggest you to try the Soppa Aljotta, a notorious gastronomic highlight, a delicious fish soup prepared with tomato, garlic, aromatic Mediterranean herbs, simply excellent.

The local Kapunata is the twin of the famed Caponata Siciliana using in its preparation fresh red and green peppers, tomato, onion, aubergines, celery olives, capers, garlic, onion,  seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt, vinegar and pepper.

Do not miss to taste the popular Tagen, a local replica of the well known Maghreb Taijne and in that traditional plate you can find the link with the North African culture which left that iconic speciality on the island.

Excellent are also some local cheeses produced in the interior as the tastefully Gbejna,a sheep cheese often used in appetisers, snacks and in many occasions accompanied by traditional local peperoncino, chili red pepper very spicy and worth a mention the local delicious Ricotta.

The Braggioli is another distinctive plate, traditional meat rolls cooked with a big quantity of red wine while the Fenek, the rabbit is a kind of meat very popular cooked in different styles such as grilled, baked, in sauce or Stuffat, a stew made with main ingredient that kind of meat with vegetables.

You can also find several kinds of Froga , kinds of omelets prepared with fresh basil or also with parsley and garlic while a further plate using eggs is the notorious Barbuljata consisting in scrambled eggs cooked on a base of onion and tomato adding salt and black pepper.

Of clear Sicilian heritage are the famed Kannoli, a loyal replica of the famous and iconic Cannoli produced in Sicily very common as dessert or as a sweet snack accompanied by a warm aromatic coffee or a hot chocolate.

About wines, Malta boasts excellent grapes and of course fine wines, the great micro climate of that island offers the chance to taste selected fine wines produced by Ghirghentina grapes really exquisite. 

 Delicata, Montekristo Tá Mena and Marsovin are other excellent and supreme smooth wines while others equally superb are produced by Gellewza grapes which are with the Ghirghentina the indigenous grapes producing fine wines highly smooth and including pretty versatile, very appropriate in addition to create cocktails or to be used in the finest Haute Cuisine.

The typical Mediterranean climate is a great source for the production of citrus. The Maltese oranges are classified in the international elite and try the typical Zinnie, a cool drink consisting in a little of Martini drink with ice adding fresh orange juice, it is a national drink to enjoy in social times  with friends, in a bar or everywhere. 

If you are planning holidays to that appealing place, choosing that seaside town as destination you will be delighted by a multitude of things, I added some useful links which could be useful to organise your plans and itineraries and well more than glad to give you more information of a place in which I spent great times returning there more than once, simply because I love it so do not hesitate to contact me.

Visiting Malta and Marsaskala is always a great experience I recommend you without hesitations and of course a fabulous choice for all those who want to know a new culture rich of a very interesting history with many events because every town or village there have always something of highly captivating to say and narrate.

The lively atmosphere, kind people and the crystalline waters of that Mediterranean island are part of many reasons to take in consideration that fabulous island as a great destination all year.

A stay in a place as Marsaskala means to be delighted by the captivating Maltese aura  you will feel around you facing a spectacular bay with a magnificent sea which with its fantastic tonalities will conquer and enchant you in a while.

Francesco Mari


Recommended Accommodations in Marsaskala

Hotel Cerviola
Hotel Ocean Reef

Recommended Restaurants in Marsaskala

Restaurant Le Luci di Marsaskala
Restaurant Grabiel
Restaurant Zonqor Point
Restaurant Tal Familja
Restaurant Don Fauzza
Restaurant La Spigola
Restaurant & Pizzeria Dell´Etna


Useful links