ITTN’s Jack Goddard shares his experience reporting on Magnificent Malta as part of a travel trade fam courtesy of the Malta Tourism Authority. On the trip to the stunning island of Malta was Leanne Mulcahy of Limerick Travel, Michael Kelly of Keller Travel, Ceara Dhingra of Barters Travelnet, Criona Buggie of Travel Counsellors, Stuart Barber from Best4Travel, Laoise FitzPatrick of Fahy Travel and Macarena Munoz of Cassidy Travel.
The group flew direct from Shannon Airport with Ryanair on 19 May 2022. On arrival, Jack and the group were greeted by Isabel Harrison, B2B Manager at Shannon Airport, where they were walked through the new security screening section (which enables travellers to keep liquids in their luggage, a very handy feature). The process was fast and efficient and once through, the group were treated to Shannon’s lounge.
Arriving in Malta
On arrival at Valletta Airport in Malta, Nick, an amazing and extremely knowledgeable tour guide, who shared highlights from the rich history of Malta which spans 7,000 years and includes British and French rulers, Knights of St. John as well as Moors, Romans and Phoenicians.
Nick escorted the group to their hotel, the five-star Marriott Hotel & Spa, located in the seaside town of St. Julian’s just 20 minutes from the airport. This is a great base to explore the island or just sit back in the sunshine on the stunning roof terrace bar and pool area.
At the hotel, the Group was introduced to Peter Green, Trade Trainer at MTA and Kristian Hauge, Leisure, Sales & E-Commerce Manager at the Marriott. You may recall, Peter gave an informative webinar with ITTN recently – to watch the footage, click here.
After offloading luggage in the stunning sea view rooms overlooking the bustling promenade, the party were treated to a pre-meal drink at the reception, a welcome refreshment given the temperatures in one of the sunniest destinations in Europe. Malta boasts an incredible 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and temperatures peak at 30+ at the height of the summer. However, this sunshine makes Malta an ideal year-round destination.
For the evening, the group was treated to a fabulous tour and wine tasting at Ta’Betta Wine Estates. Located inland, in the heart of the island, the winery has an elevated terrace providing spectacular views of the rows of vines, and rolling hills of the countryside. It even has the medieval town of Mdina as a backdrop. This is premium wine and supplies all of the Michelin star restaurants in Malta, of which there are five. A bottle will set you back €60 so this is a special treat.
A colourful display of egg-shaped concrete fermentation tanks imported from California stand tall as the group enters the main fermentation hall. The tanks have proven to be extremely practical and in line with the estate’s preferred fermentation of their reds. At the back of the winery, there are three barrel vaults built in limestone in the traditional style, typical of the architecture found in the guts of the bastions built by the Knights of Malta in Valletta. The barrel-vaults house barrique stacks where the reds are matured, and the whites fermented.
The group then concluded their first evening with a beautiful sunset dinner at the winery and were served some classic Maltese food and wines joined by Peter, Kristian and Rosanna Sciberras, Marketing Executive at MTA.
Exploring the Three Cities of Malta in Style
Jack Goddard started out his second day in Malta visiting the Upper Barrakka Gardens which are public gardens based in Valletta and offer incredible views of the Grand Harbour. The gardens are located on the upper tier of St. Peter and Paul Bastion, which was built in the 1560s.
Jack and his group then moved to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Despite the modest exterior, the interior is home to some of the finest Baroque frescos, statues, vaulted ceilings and no less than nine elaborately decorated chapels. Furthermore, the cathedral displays some of the greatest paintings by Caravaggio.
St John’s Co-Cathedral opens its doors after visiting hours for Private guided tours, led by private guides requested for groups by Official Travel Agents. Tours can be conducted on weekdays between 4.30 pm and 6.00 pm (last admission). The exclusive one-hour tour of the Co-Cathedral and the oratory after closing shall be led by any official guide of your choice.
The next stage of the day was a visit to Casa Rocca Piccola which is a 16th-century old palace that still belongs to its original Maltese family – the de Piro family. The home offers an extensive background history of Malta and some very interesting links to the English Royal Family!
The group enjoyed lunch at the beautiful Rubino restaurant for lunch which offers Maltese cuisine, seafood and some fabulous homemade pasta. Rubino opened its doors back in 1906, as a Sicilian confectionery in the midst of the city of Valletta. The original store was established and run by Vincenzo Rubino, a sweet maker from Palermo.
The group experienced a stunning taxi-like gondola ride, called a Dgħajsa, through the waters by the historic, yellow-sandstone harbour. These boats date back centuries and are an easy way to take in the historic scenery which includes the watchtowers, fortifications and architecture of the surrounding harbour.
A tour with Rolling Geeks followed. This company offers a self-drive electric buggy service that allows you to explore the three cities, made up of Vittoriosa, Cospicua, and Senglea, at your own pace. The golf buggies have a GPS with voice assist to give directions as well as details on the sights as you drive along an 18km tour of the island. The buggies fit four making it ideal not just for couples but also for families and small groups! It also gives you the freedom to pause at points of interest at your leisure!
The group then concluded their evening day at Briju. Briju is a Maltese and Mediterranean restaurant that serves incredible dishes made from the finest Maltese produce and just this past March was selected for the 2022 edition of the Michelin Guide Malta for its third year running.
Malta Continues to Impress on the Last Evening
Jack Goddard and the group of Irish agents had an early start Saturday morning as they made their way to the Island of Gozo. Jack and the gang gathered on the boat that takes visitors across to Gozo from Malta. The journey is less than half an hour and the ferry goes every 30 minutes, seven days a week from 4am until 2am. A return ticket costs less than €5 and you pay your fare when you return from Gozo.
When the group arrived in Gozo they docked up at Mġarr – a harbour town in south-eastern Gozo. The group was collected by ‘Yippee‘, a tuk-tuk sightseeing company based in Malta. With Yippee guests can really explore Gozo as the little Tuk-Tuks bring visitors to see local hidden landmarks.
After a quick tour of Gozo, visiting famous monuments like St John The Baptist – Xewkija, Rabat (Victoria) and the Citadel the group was treated to a tasty Maltese lunch at Il Kartell.
After lunch in Il Kartell, the group moved on to the highlight of the weekend, a surprise treat of a trip on their very own private boat supplied by Galaxy Charters where they went on to explore the Blue Lagoon and Comino.
The group returned to Malta after a glorious day on Gozo, where they were wined and dined back at the hotel restaurant. The Atrio Bar & Restaurant offers Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and has a sizeable terrace overlooking Balluta Bay. It is a chance to sit back and savour the food, the view and the Maltese way of life passing you by.
Jack Goddard visited Malta as part of a travel trade trip courtesy of the Malta Tourism Authority.