Holiday during Easter in Gozo

Easter on the island of Gozo is a true joy. It does not only coincide with the beautiful season of Spring but it is a time to experience the culture of an island whose roots are deeply embedded in faith and which have evolved into a mosaic of elaborate traditions and rituals over the centuries. Easter on the island of Gozo is a true joy especially if you’re going to stay at a Hotel.

The period before the feast of Easter, known as Lent, is associated with penance. For believers, it is a 40-day journey or preparation for the grand feast of Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In the Catholic tradition, Lent is a period of personal sacrifices, fasting and staying away from meat dishes. In times gone by, meat was considered a luxury and thus withholding meat dishes was part of the solemn rituals believers followed.  To this day, you will come across several dishes on the island of Gozo which are associated with the season of Lent.   Maybe one of the favourite dishes is the traditional stuffed artichokes. The first artichokes start becoming available at the vegetable market right on the onset of Lent and they are usually stuffed with a tasty mix of  parsely, garlic, olives, capers and breadcrumbs. It makes a great vegetarian dish!

Other dishes that are typical of the season,  include the Kusksu, a kind of green bean soup that includes tiny bead pasta and fresh Gozitan cheeselets; qassatat, a  pasty pocket stuffed with cheese and spinach and tuna pies.  On the sweet side, one can enjoy the Kwareżimal, the typical Lenten sweet that even its own name evolved from the Latin word quaresima meaning Lent.  You’ll also come across sweet and savoury bread rings known locally as the Apostles’ Ring.  And maybe you can ask for carob sweets produced from carob syrup that is known across the Mediterranean region for its healthy properties. These sweets are available at local gourmet stores all year round, but during Lent, they are sold at some stalls near churches or places where exhibitions are being held.   Easter cannot be celebrated in Gozo without the traditional Figolla, a sweet pastry that envelopes a layer of yet sweeter almond filling.  Figolli are baked in different shapes and sizes. Some of the traditional favourites are the ones in the shape of lambs, rabbits, mermaids, hearts and guitars!  Figolli are usually decorated with chocolate or coloured icing and come with an Easter Egg affixed on top.

When it comes to the essence of the season, the death and resurrection of Christ is best experienced not only during the various liturgical ceremonies and church services but also via the various pageants, processions, plays and exhibitions that nearly every village in Gozo organises.   From the deeply devotional procession of Our Lady of Sorrows, where many devotees follow the statue in the streets to the celebration of Palm Sunday and the Good Friday processions which include a string of rich statues representing different stations of the Cross, you’ll witness a facet of Gozo that is only visible during this time.  Many people participate in these processions some dressed up as Biblical characters or Roman soldiers in elaborate costumes and some in hooded dresses trudging heavy chains or crosses as an act of penance are truly gripping to witness.

Għammar Hill, opposite the shrine of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu in Għarb, is also closely associated with this time of the year.   The steep uphill path is marked with marble statues of the Stations of the Cross and every year one can join the pilgrimage that makes its way up to the top at dusk carrying candles and torchlights.   The event can even captivate the attention of non-believers as the scenery from top of the hill is very suggestive.

Easter Sunday is all about joy and this is visible everywhere in Gozo.  After 40 days of Lent, it’s time for church bells to ring again.  Apart from the numerous processions with the statue of the risen Christ, it is a great time to visit Villa Rundle Gardens in Victoria for the official Gozo Egg Hunt!  The processions with the statue of the Risen Christ, most of which are held early in the morning are usually fascinating to witness as the bearers of the statue make the extra effort and sprint parts of the procession as part of the joyful expression. Easter lunch is an important date and most of the local restaurants will make an extra effort with the menu on that day, usually ending up the meal with traditional Figolla and chocolate Easter eggs.

Away from traditions, culture, food and musical concerts of the season, Easter in Gozo is a lot about ushering in the season of Spring with a hint of Summer!  The weather is usually distinctly warmer as Easter approaches.  As the countryside blooms, the island becomes a wonderful destination for travelers of all types. Hikers and ramblers can have days of wandering around the paths, cyclists can follow the roads to their hearts’ content and families can enjoy picnics at the beach under clear blue skies.  Some will even take their first dip of the season.

 

Citadel – Gozo

The Citadel, or the Citadella, is the fortified center of Victoria known as the jewel of Gozo. Like the fortified city of Mdina on Malta, the Citadel of Victoria was created out of the need for protection against invaders. The Knights commissioned the construction of the Citadel in 1599 in order to protect the Maltese. Before the Citadel, life for the Gozitans was harsh.

Their small island was susceptible to frequent pirate raids and attacks. In 1551, Ottoman forces overtook vulnerable Gozo and captured around 600 people, leaving behind only the old and sick. The captive Gozitans were taken to Tripoli where they were sold into slavery. It was clear that something had to be done to protect Gozo’s people.

The Citadel continues to be one of the most frequented tourist attractions of the island. Visitors can walk along the bastions and take in stunning 360° views of the surrounding villages, farms and countryside. Within the fortification are plenty of sites to explore, including museums, restaurants outdoor farmers markets, the Battery and gun powder depot and it-Tokk, also known as Independence Square. The museums are open Monday to Sunday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Joint admission to multiple Citadel sites is €8 per adult and includes entrance to the Folklore Museum, Gozo Archaeology Museum, the Old Prison and the Natural Science Museum.

About Gozo

Gozo may be small, but it boasts a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy including exploring local villages, dining on succulent Mediterranean cuisine, soaking up the sun at the beach or sailing to nearby Comino for a fun-filled day at the Blue Lagoon.

Tales of Gozo are nearly as ancient as the island itself; it was immortalized by Homer in the Greek epic poem, The Odyssey. The poem tells us of the hero, Odysseus, and his 10-year voyage back to Ithaca from Troy.

The prehistoric Ggantija temples are one of the island’s main attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But your Gozitan history lesson won’t end there. rolling around Victoria (Rabat) will reveal centuries-old houses along narrow, cobblestone streets as well as charming pijazzas (squares). The island also features luxury hotels, scenic seaside villages and two impressive churches, the Gozo Cathedral and the Basilica of St. George. But if what you are really after is some R&R, you’re headed to the right place. Gozitans know how to relax and enjoy simple pleasures, and did I mention that they love to eat!

Getting around Malta with the newly established bus system is now easier than ever. Traveling by bus is definitely the the most cost-effective method of public transportation. Mainland routes pass through the main bus terminal in Valletta while direct routes provide service through smaller towns and villages without a stop in Valletta. Bus services run from 5:30 am to 11:00 pm with night buses in select areas

Book your Full-Day Gozo Island Excursion from Malta here.

 

 

 

 

Easter weekend in Gozo

Gozo – Art, Faith and Tradition, Easter activities comes to a close this evening, following a programme of events that have been held both inside and outside the churches and all across the island.
These have included concerts of sacred music, processions, pageants and exhibitions of statues, visual arts exhibitions, and many activities for children.

Heritage Malta senior passport for over 60s

Heritage Malta, within the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, has launched a scheme aimed at Senior Citizens – the Heritage Malta Senior Passport.

With this passport, an elder and two accompanying youths will have free and unlimited access to all Heritage Malta’s sites and museums (except the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum).

Heritage Malta explained that this scheme will be supported by the Local Councils’ Association and a memorandum of understanding will be signed in the coming days to effectively implement this scheme.

It said that individuals who are aged 60+ are invited to call with their identity card at their Local Councils to apply for Heritage Malta’s Senior Passport.

The Local Council staff will enrol them in the system, and the passport together with an information leaflet will be received by post within 10 working days.

Heritage Malta’s Senior Passport holders can enjoy free and unlimited visits to 27 sites which include prehistoric temples and caves, historic houses and prisons, fortresses and palaces, and a selection of museums relating to nature, archaeology, maritime, war, and art.

Gozo ferry crossings

According to data from the National Statistics Office today, 1,146,490 passengers crossed between Malta and Gozo during the first quarter this year, this was a 2.3% increase on 2018.

March saw the highest number of passengers – 477,945 or 41.7% of the total for the quarter. The number of vehicles increased by 7.1%, totalling 363,460.

There were 5,449 trips, which was an increase of 3.6% over 2018. The NSO noted that mos trips took place in March – 2,034, or 37.3% of total trips for the quarter.

Passenger traffic originating from Cirkewwa was busiest on Fridays (104,495) and Saturdays (98,900), whereas highest numbers from Mgarr were recorded on Sundays (117,125) and Saturdays (83,906), the NSO said.

Operas in Gozo

Despite having just 30,000 inhabitants, the island of Gozo has two opera houses in Ir-Rabat , the Astra Theatre and the Aurora Opera House.

Each puts on at least one fully staged opera a year, often with international soloists. In fact, this opera season is now a regular appointment for opera enthusiasts.

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Online booking and more information on the opera and Festival is available on www.teatruastra.org.mt.