“Her lady Calypso clung to him in her sea-hollowed caves, a nymph immortal and most beautiful, craved him for her own.”
Think back to high school English class, pimpled faced at your desk rolling your eyes over having to read Homer’s The Odyssey, an epically long poem about an epic journey. You can thank Zeus himself for the tome because if it wasn’t for his persuasiveness, Odysseus would have probably hung out with Calypso for another seven years and the book would have never been written. Gozo the second smallest of the three Maltese islands is fabled to be Ogygia, the beautiful island Homer describes in the Odyssey, and like Calypso herself, it has a way of capturing you, luring you in and making it ever so hard to leave.
When I set out to work on my novel, I picked Malta because it was a small island where I knew I could relax and get creative, then when I arrived I realized I could go even smaller and quieter. I set out on the short ferry ride to Gozo, a laid back island with old world feel, rural life and warmhearted locals. The highlight of the trip for me was the sea. You have heart stopping views everywhere you look and the coastline view is always unobstructed. I found a spot on one of my favorite beaches of the year, with red sands and soft waves, Ramla Bay. San Blas Bay is another tiny gem, it’s small and unspoiled but that could also be because of the steep hill that makes the sand and surf only accessible by foot.
The best way to see the water is to get right in – the diving and snorkeling here is wonderful and Gozo has some of the best dive spots in the Mediterranean. Despite the size of the island, there are dozens of centres to get certified or take day trips. The villages that skirt the island are the quaint fishing towns providing the perfect vacation backdrop, a road that leads to the waterfront, shops and cafes line the street full of wonderful local characters you only get to know by succumbing to the slow pace rhythm of the island. I stayed north in Marsalforn, which has some of the best restaurants on the island and it’s conveniently located in proximity to several small beaches and bays.
Rolling hills with rural farm lands cascading into rocky seashores and leaving you in the lap of small fishing villages, Gozo has landscape that rivals any good vacation destination. Agriculture is as important as fishing and many generations have worked on the land as much as in the sea. It was such an experience touring an organic farm, getting to see all of the adorable animals, learn about the labor of love it was to have a vineyard and how hard the families work to produce products they believe in and continue as a business.
Mythology, temples, churches and one of the world’s oldest structures make Gozo a treasure trove of historical finds. There are a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the island, Ggantija, the ancient temples older than Stonehenge and the Cittadella, the fortified town in Victoria. Take a walk to the salt pans and see how sea salt has been collected for centuries. Spot the historic watch towers built by the Knights of Malta overlooking the ocean while you’re sunbathing so you can be both a history buff AND a beach bum.
Gozo may be small and rural but that doesn’t prevent them from being smart. They realize the issues that face Malta, the larger island and are putting a program in place to keep their identity while keeping their carbon footprint small. There is a projection in implementing projects that will foster agriculture while simultaneously caring for the beautiful environment that surrounds Gozo in a sustainable way. Eco Gozo is a project that is committed to making changes to better the island while keeping in line with the traditions that make it the stunning place that it has become.