Malta or Sicily? Which Island Should You Visit Next?
- Aug 21, 2021
... two Mediterranean isles
Unquestionably, Malta and Sicily’s histories and cultures are interconnected. Back in 5900 BC, a group of settlers from Sicily inhabited Malta, and the exchange between the two hasn’t stopped ever since.
Interested in learning more about these two Mediterranean isles? Keep reading.
Despite covering an area of 316 km2 and being the tenth smallest country in the world, Malta packs all that you can possibly think of. It’s a Mediterranean cocktail that incorporates tens of stunning beaches, diving spots, prehistoric temples, nightlife districts, fortified cities, urban areas and tranquil countryside.
Valletta – Malta’s capital city – is a Baroque masterpiece that’s full of landmarks, restaurants, shops, museums and activities. Take the ferry to the Three Cities – Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa – and immerse yourself in a real-life medieval movie.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll be pleased to learn that traditional Maltese cuisine mixes Italian and Middle Eastern, with hints of Spanish, French, Provençal and British influences. Look out for lampuki pie (fish pie), bragioli (beef olives), rabbit stew, kapunata (Maltese version of ratatouille) and gbejniet (sheep or goat’s cheese).
Malta’s sister island – Gozo – is distinctly different. It’s more rural and traditional, with traditional farmhouses, churches and country trails dotting the tiny island. Only 31,592 people live in Gozo, so it’s a quiet place where you can kick back, relax and enjoy a glass of wine at the glorious Cittadella (Gozo’s fortified city) overlooking the Gozitan hills.
Malta and Gozo’s prehistoric sites are some of the oldest in the world. The Hal Safi Hypogeum is a 5000-year-old necropolis that’s still in pristine condition. Moreover, the UNESCO world heritage sites of Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Ggantija also marvel visitors by offering a glimpse into the distant past.
The islands’ national language is Maltese – a unique Semitic language that’s written in the Latin script. You don’t need to worry about speaking Maltese though, as 88% of the population speaks English due to Malta’s colonial past. 66% of islanders also speak fluent Italian and a smaller percentage have some degree of proficiency in French, Spanish or German.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Technically, it’s an Italian region, but it offers a distinct flavour that you can’t find anywhere else in Italy.
Its varied landscape ranges from pristine beaches to mountains to the domineering Mount Etna – the active volcano between the cities of Catania and Messina. This juxtaposition of terrains makes it the perfect spot for all kinds of outdoor sports.
Speaking of Catania and Messina – Sicily’s cities and villages are bursting to the seams with architectural and natural splendours, mouth-watering street food and bubbly personalities. Palermo is the capital, but other cities, particularly Catania, Taormina, Syracuse and Messina, are worth a visit as they’re all distinctly different from each other and unique in their own ways.
Last but definitely not least – we must speak about Sicilian cuisine. The island’s ancient cuisine relies on a few key ingredients, namely, almonds, ricotta, fish, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Traditional dishes include gatò di patate (a potato/cheese pie), pasta con le sarde (with sardines), pasta alla Norma (with eggplant), cannoli (fried pastry filled with ricotta), granita (semi-frozen dessert) and cassata siciliana (a round sponge cake with liquor, ricotta cheese and candied fruits).
Today, Sicilians are mostly bilingual, since they speak both Italian and Sicilian. Sicilian is a minority language that’s distinctly different from standard Italian. English is not widely spoken, but the younger generations and people working in tourist hubs have a conversational level of fluency in English – meaning that you don’t need to worry about learning Italian before your visit. However, learning basic phrases like grazie (thank you), si (yes) and please (per favore) is always a plus!
So, Malta or Sicily?
Both! The two Mediterranean islands have a lot to offer. Fly over to Malta, spend 3-4 days exploring the archipelago, then take the ferry to Catania or Pozzallo and spend a couple of days in Sicily before flying back home.
Casa Ellul is the perfect hotel for an unforgettable stay in Malta. The 19th-century palazzo turned luxury boutique hotel gives you a taste of what Malta is all about. Check-in, take in the serene central courtyard and prep yourself for the relaxing holiday that you truly deserve.