Gozo
11 things you (probably) didn't know about Gozo
Gozo is such a quaint little place! But its little known secrets contain plenty of the wow factor.

Melanie Drury

 I bet you didn’t know that...

1. Gozo is even a “thing”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gozo Photography (@gozo_photography) on

Most people have never even heard about Malta, despite its long and important history, let alone Gozo. Malta is actually an archipelago of five islands with Malta and Gozo being the inhabited ones (Comino’s four inhabitants hardly classify it as ‘inhabited’). The area of Gozo is just 67km² with a population of approximately 35,000 inhabitants.

2. Little-known Gozo is a Hollywood star

Despite being so understated, Hollywood is in love with Gozo. Its now-collapsed Azure Window has appeared in various productions including the epic TV series Game of Thrones. Brad Pitt is particularly enamoured. Parts of Troy and World War Z were shot here, as well as By the Sea, a joint project with his ex-wife Angelina Jolie. Many Gozitans will offhandedly drop in how they bumped into Mr Pitt while going about their daily business, as if it were of not too much importance. Perhaps, that’s why he loves the place.

3. Gozo is one of the oldest inhabited places on earth

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jan Potępa (@janstaf) on

Tiny little Gozo, inconspicuous as it is, is home to the oldest freestanding structures in the world. Ggantija Temples, the 5,500-year-old complex, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Interestingly, the site’s name - Ggantija - refers to the ‘fact’ that it was built by, um, giants. At least, that’s what local lore claims. If that were true, Gozo was one of the first inhabited places on earth AND home to giants. Wow.

4. Gozo’s ENTIRE population was once kidnapped by invaders

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Bellavista Farmhouses Gozo (@bellavista.farmhouses.gozo) on

Don’t worry. Today’s Gozitans would not be related to those giants. Nor to the first inhabitants. In fact, Gozitans or not related to anyone who lived on the island prior to 1551. That’s because its entire population was kidnapped by Corsair pirates that year. When the Ottoman Navy attacked, less than 50 elderly folk were left behind; all the rest were either murdered or sold into slavery. Oh dear. After that, as Gozo slowly repopulated, everyone was required to sleep within the safety of the fortified Citadel's walls at night.

5. Gozo today preserves an authentic Mediterranean culture

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Joanne Mohr (@joanne.mohr) on

Largely unspoilt, Gozo retains an authentic Mediterranean flavour: old men arguing about politics in the village square; old women working handmade lace in the front garden; shepherds grazing their sheep and hot summer nights where the only sound you’ll hear is the cricket. There is no airport on Gozo and its only connection to the rest of the world is via ferry to Malta (thus far). Welcome to the place where time stands still.

6. Gozo is a well-known source of inspiration

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @worldthroughmyeyes28 on

While Gozo is a well-loved retreat, even for contemporary writers, English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, Edward Lear described Gozo’s coastal landscape as ‘pomskizillious and gromphiberous’ - so amazed was he that, failing to find words to describe its beauty, he made them up. On the other hand, Homer, the author of The Odyssey (750–650 BC), described how the Gozitan sea nymph, Calypso, kept Odysseus enslaved in a cave for seven years, until he escaped and returned to his wife. No less than 2,700 years later, you can still visit Calypso’s Cave - the very place which, they say, was featured in the book.

7. Gozo is a holy place

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Paul Falzon (@_pwl_falzon_) on

No kidding. Not only does the place contain Ggantija, the oldest surviving temple known to mankind, it also has no less than 46 Catholic churches - technically one per 1.5km². Not only are there many, but some are also massive. The Xewkija dome is, arguably, the third largest in Europe (battling it out with the Mosta dome in Malta) and the church can fit the entire village of 3,000 people inside it. Places like Ta’ Pinu are further connected with miracles associated with the apparition of the Virgin. And if that were not enough, the Victoria Cathedral museum contains a shoe belonging to Pope Pius VII, as well as Pope John Paul II’s gloves and hat.

8. Gozo has one of the world’s top carnivals

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Mark Downie (@markldownie) on

Believe it or not, the carnival organised by the tiny village of Nadur (population 5,000) ranks up there alongside Venice and Rio in articles listing the top carnivals in the world. One special feature is that this is a spontaneous carnival by the people for the people, and a true revelry of unbound expression. Another peculiarity is the tradition of wearing outlandish costumes - the more macabre, crazy, unusual, original or weird, the better. Group costumes are also a thing, in which the complete costume is made up of more than one person. There is also the tendency for people to act out the roles their costumes represent in spontaneous street theatre which may include many participants, only to suddenly die out. It really must be seen to be believed!

9. Gozo has traditional food that’s found nowhere else (not even in Malta)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Visit Gozo (@insta_visitgozo) on

Yes, there is a food which only Gozo prides itself in and you can’t find it even on the main island of Malta. In fact, the Malta ftira differs greatly from the famous Gozo ftira. While the Malta ftira simply refers to Malta’s favourite tuna sandwich, the Gozo ftira is a delicious affair which resembles a pizza of sorts. A bread base is covered with thinly sliced potatoes and onions and then topped with delicious Mediterranean ingredients, such as fresh tomatoes, capers, olives and tuna (much like the contents of the Maltese sandwich). Baked in a baker’s oven, the result is scrumptious. Traditionally, this is also found sold at bakers in the village of Nadur.

10. Gozo grows a medicinal fungus that’s found nowhere else

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gozo Photography (@gozo_photography) on

The Knights of Malta greatly prized the rare plant – known as General’s Root – which grows on Fungus Rock, just off the coast of Dwejra. During much of their rule between 1530 and 1798, access to Fungus Rock was tightly controlled. The plant was considered an important medicinal cure for ailments including dysentery and impotence.

11. Gozo is one of the top diving destinations in the world

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Alessandro Gabrielli (@alessandro_gabrielli90) on

Perhaps this is not a little known fact - certainly not among divers. But, the average person visiting the Maltese Islands may not know that this might be their golden opportunity to try diving for the first time. There are more than a dozen dive sites, accessible from the coast, including a variety of marvelous caves and wrecks. Some of the most famous sites include the Blue Hole, the Inland Sea and Ghasri Cave.

How’s that for a few Gozo highlights? Did you expect (m)any of them?

16th January 2021


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

You may also like...
Gozo

Rebecca Anastasi
Gozo

Caroline Curmi
Gozo
Gozo
Time to prepare a checklist!

Kristina Cassar Dowling