The Maltese Islands have become a very popular retirement destination for many Europeans who find the charms of a temperate climate and a quiet pace of life irresistible.
After living full-time on Gozo for eight years, retired London Fire Brigade officer Robin Taylor and his wife now split their time between Gozo and the UK. We spoke to Robin, who rents a Baron Group property on long lease in Xaghra, to get some insider tips on the best things to do and see on Gozo.
What brought you to Gozo in the first place?
I had retired quite young and we knew we wanted to live in the sun somewhere but we hadn’t made up our mind exactly where that would be. And then, unexpectedly, we were offered the use of an apartment on Gozo. We enjoyed the experience very much. We then subsequently bought a place in the San Lawrenz/Xaghra area.
In fact, after living in Gozo for two years we brought my elderly mother out to live in a residential care home on the island. She’s now 98 and loves Gozo.
What do you think of Gozitan food and wine?
I’m teetotal but when they visit us on Gozo my sons enjoy the local Cisk lager. And there are two wineries on the island – Ta’ Mena Estate and Tal Massar Winery. The wine tours run by Anthony at Tal Massar are very good and if you’re interested in wine, then I’d recommend taking one of the wine tours and tasting sessions.
Read more in our blog “Get a Taste of Gozo’s delicious wine and beer”
Strawberries galore at the Festa Frawli, Mgarr, Gozo. Photo credit: lolapalmer.com
I find the food on Gozo to be fresher and much more tasty on Gozo than in the UK. Locally-grown produce like strawberries and tomatoes are superb here – probably because they get loads of sunshine. You’ll also find that every village has a local butcher shop and bakery. And you’ll even find a van that goes around the island selling fresh fruit and vegetables.
We tend to shop for groceries in the Arcadia supermarket in Rabat (Victoria), which has a great deli counter. You’ll also find stalls right in the heart of the city selling fruit and vegetables.
Where do you like to eat out on Gozo?
Xaghra, like all other villages in Gozo, has several cafes in the main village square that serve really good coffee and snacks.
In terms of restaurants, in my opinion there are around 40-50 good restaurants on Gozo – which is amazing considering its size. My favourite is probably Ta Karolina in Xlendi Bay, which serves really good food, especially seafood. If you want a great view as you eat then I’d suggest Country Terrace, which overlooks Mgarr harbour. And the restaurant at Ta’ Cenc Hotel offers truly spectacular views of the cliffs.
Read more in our blog “Our guide to a Gozo taste experience”.
Waterside dining at Ta Karolina, Xlendi Bay, Gozo. Photo credit: karoliarestaurant.com
What about Gozo’s cultural life?
For a small island there seems to be loads of things going on throughout the year. During the summer there are concerts every week and of course you have the village festas.
I’d say the two festas in Victoria are the best. There’s St George [in July] and St Mary [in August]. Both have horse racing in the main street of the city and a big fireworks display, plus food and music.
Read more about the festi and festivals on Gozo
Then every year in October, Gozo’s two opera houses [The Astra and The Aurora] compete to put on two different operas, with international stars and full orchestras.
Gozo is a very religious place, there are magnificent churches all over the island. The church in Xewkija [The Rotunda] has a massive dome – one of the biggest in the world, and people come from all over the world to make a pilgrimage to Ta’ Pinu [in Gharb].
Read more in our blog about the story of Ta’ Pinu
Easter and Christmas here is totally different from what we are used to in the UK. They are not commercial and everyone takes part in processions and nativity plays. Christmas in Gozo is how Christmas should be, not about expensive gifts, but more about families getting together.
Do you have a favourite thing to do on Gozo?
Beautiful Ramla Bay, Gozo. Photo credit: ©Peter Mohr Photography
Every morning I like to walk down to Ramla Bay from Xaghra, which takes about 45 minutes. It’s a lovely walk and often there’s no-one around and you can enjoy the peace and quiet.
Read more in our blog about the walks around Gozo
What’s your favourite time of the year on Gozo?
I love being on Gozo in June but the sea can sometimes still be a bit cold until mid-June. I also love Gozo at the end of the year – October, November, December, when the weather is still good, and the sea is still warm enough to swim in.
What’s the most surprising thing about Gozo?
For me, the most surprising thing about life on Gozo is how safe it is. In London, you’re always aware that someone could rob you at any moment. On Gozo, you can walk around at any time of the day or night and feel totally safe. Many people here will leave their keys in their front doors and even leave their car keys in the ignition!
What’s your top tip for someone visiting Gozo?
If you’re looking for a great ice-cream, then head to Gelateria Granola in Xlendi – not far from St Patrick’s Hotel.
Best ice-cream on Gozo? Photo credit: Gelateria Granola
If someone only had 24 hours to spend on Gozo what are your must-do suggestions?
That’s a tough one because everyone is different – some people like to relax on a beach and others might want to get out and about. But from the reactions we get from our friends and family who come to the island for the first time, it’s really Gozo’s history that seems to be of most interest.
So, I would suggest visiting the Citadella in Rabat. There are museums, and you can walk around the old walls to get brilliant views of the island. And then visit the amazing church in Gharb – Ta’ Pinu. It has a fascinating history, with a miracle. People make pilgrimages to it, and you can see votive offerings inside that people have left inside the church.
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