Zebbug is situated about 3.5 km away from Rabat, the Capital of Gozo and is situated in the northern part of the island. Built on two major plateaus of “Ta’ Abram” and “iz-Zebbug” is considered to be the highest village in Gozo above sea level. Zebbug derives its name from a Maltese word olive tree or else from food products or tools which were used to produce olive oil.
Zebbug is Maltese for 'olives' or 'olive trees', olea europeaea, in Arabic Zejtun. It is a very long-living tree that grows up to five metres high. In Arabic, Zebbug means 'wild olives', olea silvestris, that differs from the cultivated variety mainly in the spiny lower branches and small leaves and drupes. Some wild olive trees must have been growing beneath the south-east ridge of the village and not on its top, where the north-westerly winds are strong enough to uproot them. It was from these zebbug that eventually the hill got its name. The name of the village is first recorded as zebugi in a document related to the foundation of a religious chantry on 1 September 1492.
The motto of the village is Terra Sublimis meaning Land giving the best meaning of the village situated so high that can be easily seen from all parts of Gozo. Its coat of arms consists of a silver shield with an olive tree on a slope and on it a red band with three six pointed yellow stars.
The emblem of Zebbug are argent, an olive tree upon a mount proper, upon a chief gules three estoiles of six points; that is a silver shield with an olive tree in its soil and at the top of the shield three gold stars.
The history of iz-Zebbug goes back to very early times. So much so that next to the village on the flat-topped hill of Ta' Kuljat there was a Bronze Age settlement (1500-700 BC). This is proved from several Bronze Age silo pits that are still visible on top of the hill, as well as a wide scatter of pottery shreds datable to that period.
The area leading from the hill to Qbajjar, and inlet beyond the fishing village of Marsalforn, contained several punic tombs (700-218 BC). Then for a millennium and a half, the place was probably inhabited only by a handful of farmers. From the time of the Aragonese onwards (AD 1282), a community began to take shape. This community could even raise a chapel for its spiritual needs. The community was recognised as an autonomous entity in 1688 when the area of iz-Zebbug and its vicinities was raised into a separate parish.
Iz-Zebbugin are known for the high quality of their bizzilla, lace; nsig, weaving; and kutri tas-suf, woollen blankets. The villagers are very proud of their religious heritage, as judged for example, from the priority given to the maintenance of street niches. The best known is that of il-Madonna Omm tal-Hniena, better known as tac-Cicri. The love of the villagers for the church is visibly and almost physically felt within the parish church.
Within a Stone's throw of Munxar's parish church there is Xlendi, a small fishing village. Wedged between majestic cliffs to the south-west of Gozo, it is definitely one of the most picturesque and romantic spots of the island. Xlendi is first recorded as xilendi in a notarial contract of April 19, 1550. The emblem of Xlendi consists of a promontory with a tower upon it rising from a blue sea on an orange field with a M in the middle of a silver chief standing for Mary in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Xlendi Church The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Its foundation stone was laid on August 17, 1969 and the church was consecrated on August 10, 1974. So intimately connected with the sea-faring environment it is only natural to expect Xlendi's motto to be Navium Tutela -Protection for vessels.
Xlendi Bay is a popular tourist resort encompassed within a sprawling countryside. The lapping blue ripples which caress the golden sands in Summer change to surging foam and heaving waves in mid-Winter. Otherwise, foreigners and locals gaze spellbound as the copper red sunsets of late Spring and early Autumn adorn the clear waters with gilded streaks on a garnished phosphorescence. The shimmering silhouette of a majestic 17th century tower adds to the enchantment of the spot.
The meandering countryside roads which lead to the heart of xlendi are a must for every tourist and visitor. A walk in the crisp and nimble air and the welcoming smile or acknowledging nod of the local farmer and shepherd are the right appetizer for a mouth watering tuck in at one of the friendly restaurants which surround the bay. Late in the evening, even by nightfall a moonlight excursion has all the ingredients of romance and fascination. Not to be missed - Xlendi's popular feast in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the later half of August. It combines a variety of entertainment, attractions and traditions set within an age old religious devotion to Our Lady who watches over the place with a loving protective look.
Xewkija, which lies in the middle between Mgarr Harbour and Victoria, is the oldest village in Gozo. It became the first parish outside Victoria on the 27th November 1678 by Bishop Molina and became the first district 'contrada' to be known as 'casale' or village. The village feast of St. John the Baptist falls on 24th June, and the external festivities are celebrated on the closest Sunday. The word Xewkija is derived from Arabic meaning an area of thorny wastelands, common at some point in time.
A remnant of Arab culture in the whereabouts of Xewkija is the renowned marble slab of Majmuna (pron. Maimoona) with an inscription in Arabic dating back to 1173. It throws valuable light on life during Arab cultural domination. It also proves that Malta was by that time still under strong Arab influence, even though Arab political domination was ended with the arrival of Count Roger the Norman in 1090.
The awesome Rotunda, naturally dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is Xewkija's distinctive landmark and parish church. Tourists and visitors flock year round to visit the church and its attractions. It offers an unforgettable panoramic view of Gozo from its enormous dome. The monumental church is an enormous circular structure in white local limestone. It is called a Rotunda because of its form. Eight concrete columns covered with stone support its elegant dome, 75 metres high, with a 28-metre diameter, and a circumference of 85 metres.This boasts the third largest unsupported dome in the world. Its weight is calculated to around 45,000 tonnes.
Xewkija has a heritage of worthy craftsmen and busy workers. The village produces the best Gozitan stone masons who are also the finest decorators of Maltese stone. The Xewkija folk are traditionally also able fishermen, most of whom still pursue the art of making traditional cane fish traps of all sizes during their free time. The Xewkija fishermen have kept alive this precious fish trap tradition over Gozo.
When one enters the village from Mgarr Road one sees the remaining structure of a windmill erected in the times of Grand Master Perellos. This is a unique mill in Gozo because it has points, which show the eight principal wind directions.
On the perimeter of the village one finds nearly what's most important to Gozo, namely the University of Malta (Gozo Section), the Gozo Football Stadium and also the island's Industrial Estate that houses Gozo's small and medium-sized enterprises.
Xagħra lies on a hill in the central north east of Gozo. The name means wilderness in Maltese, which tells something of the area before it was inhabited. Xagħra has a beautiful parish church which is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. It is known locally as 'Il-Vitorija', the Blessed Virgin Mary of Victories. The parish of Xagħra was established by Bishop Cocco-Palmeri on 28th April 1688. The parish was originally sited in the chapel of Saint Anthony Abbot in the same village. The present church grew around the original building recorded first in the late seventeenth century. The foundation stone was laid on 2nd October 1815 and it was consecrated on 26th May 1878. The title of Basilica was conferred on the parish on 26th August 1967. The church is covered throughout with marble, and a main attraction is a beautiful statue of the young Virgin Mary, il-Bambina, brought over from Marseilles in 1878.
Xagħra is famous for its prehistoric sites; the temples of Ggantija and the nearby Neolithic site of Santa Verna. Calypso's cave also lies within Xagħra. The village also has two grottos which have stalactites and stalagmites, namely Ta'Xerri and Ta'Ninu, both of which are open to the public. There is also a museum of toys and an old wheat grinding windmill which has been fully restored and houses a collection of agricultural and domestic items from years long past.
Victoria is the capital town of the island of Gozo. The name Victoria, locally known as 'Rabat', was given to the town in 1887 in honour of the famous British Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations. At the same instance, the town was also raised to the status of a city; then officially known as Citta' Victoria.
The town of Victoria embraces both the Citadel - the ancient city of the Island, as well as Rabat - the old suburb of the Citadel. Rabat in Arabic and Archaic Maltese stands for suburb and this name was first documented as Rabbatum in a notorial deed drawn by Andrea de Beniamin on 22nd February 1455.
There are many places of historical and cultural interest in Victoria and a visit to the Citadel is considered a must. From these fortifications one can enjoy a superb view of the whole Island. Also within the Citadel there is the Gozo Cathedral and the Law Courts, as well as the Cathedral Museum, the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, the Citadel Armoury, the Folklore Museum, the Old Prison, and the Natural Science Museum.
The centre of the capital city of Gozo is Pjazza Indipendenza, known as it-Tokk. The square is dominated by the Banca Giuratale, built between 1733 and 1738, formerly the seat of the municipal government of Gozo and presently of the Victoria Local Council. In the mornings, there is an open market that shares the square with several open air cafes. The magnificent St.George's Basilica is located in the centre of the old town, just off the open air market in Pjazza Indipendenza. The cobwebs of narrow streets around St. George’s Basilica are the oldest in town and are worth a walkaround.
In Triq ir-Repubblika (Republic Street), Victoria's main street, one can find all kinds of shops, a couple of shopping arcades, pharmacies, banks, the Police Headquarters, the Bishop's Chancery, as well as La Stella and Leone Band Clubs who own the Astra and Aurora opera theatres respectively. In lower Republic Street, one also finds Villa Rundle Public Gardens which were laid out by the British in 1910.
Close to the crossroads is Victoria's main parking area and the Bus Terminus. Other smaller parking areas are in St George's Square, Savina Square, St Francis Square and St Augustine Square.
Santa Lucija lies to the west of Victoria, the capital city of Gozo. It is positioned between three hills naimly Ghar Ilma, Il- Mixta and Santa Lucija, each of which bear a natural water spring, making the surroundings one of the most fertile areas of Gozo.
It is generally agreed that the first people to inhabit the Maltese islands were farmers and came over from Sicily more than 5000 BC. The first Neolithic Sicilians might have been encouraged to explore and finally settle down on the little island across the sea visible to the south on very clear cloudless mornings. With them they brought stone tools, domesticated animals, seeds and characteristic pottery. It was this pottery, found at Il-Mixta in Santa Lucija Gozo that in recent research was claimed to be of a purer Sentinello type than that of any Ghar Dalam pottery. This makes the Il-Mixta area the oldest inhabited place in the Maltese Islands.
Very little is known about the early medieval history of the Maltese islands. The next encounter in our village is a settelment of late medieval house around the Ghar Ilma plateau, many of which face the south overlooking the village itself.
In 1551 the island of Gozo was overrun by Baxa’ Sinan and nearly all the population carried in slavery. Hence in a pastoral visit in 1575 the village church was closed down being in a state of disrepair. But by 1598 it was reopened meaning the some, probably farmers have escaped slavery or returned.
By the middle of the seventeenth century this area known as il-Qabbieza continued to develop In a census carried in 1667, our village, in those days known as Santa Caterina , is documented as a major district under which there were the smaller principalities of Dwejra, Ghajn Abdun, Ghar Ilma, ta’ Kercem and San Lawrenz.
After the French occupation and the arrival of the British, Santa Lucija saw in 1840 the building of the enormous underground tunnels and reservoirs under its streets and Main Square. Those at Qasam San Gorg are connected to what today remains of the aquadot. Thus Victoria, by 1843 was supplied with water taken from the natural springs of Ghajn Abdun and Ghar Ilma. This aquadot was extended also to Kercem to a fountain in lower St Gregory Street.
During the twentieth century Santa Lucija developed like all other parts of the Maltese islands. But her sons fought in both the first and second world wars. Later many emigrated to the USA, Australia, and Canada causing a drop in population.
By 1959 Santa Lucija was supplied for the first time with electricity and the modern realities of this small village began to develop.
Presently, Santa Lucija is again experiencing a growth in population, brought about by a number of people taking up residence in the village. Moreover, it has become a popular preference with regards to foreigners taking up permanent residence. In fact a substantial amount of farmhouses have been converted in luxorious residences for both Maltese and foreign residents.
Sannat or more precisely Ta' Sannat, lies to the south of the island of Gozo. The name is probably derived from that of an Arabic-Greek family that moved to Gozo from Sicily. At Ta' Cenc, within the limits of ta' Sannat, there is L-Imramma Temple, a primitive type prehistoric temple made up of a sort of an oval court with a series of more or less oval rooms to the north. Other interesting remains are three dolmens, a horizontal, roughly shaped, slab of limestone supported on three sides by blocks of stone standing on end. Ta' Cenc is also famous for its spectacular precipices or cliffs, that are the natural home of several wildlife species, both flora and fauna. Lying low by Ta' Cenc, one could admire the natural beauty of Hanzira valley, a natural gorge separating Sannat from the village of Xewkija. The valley, due to its steep rocky sides, has little signs of human interference and leads down to Mgarr ix-Xini Bay to the South of Gozo. The pebbly beach of this bay is not as popular with swimmers as it is with divers. In fact Mgarr ix-Xini is one of Gozo's best places for diving and the wreck of the once Malta-Gozo ferryboat Xlendi rests on the seabed, a few hundred metres away from the bay's outer stretches.
Sannat was one of the first places in Gozo to become a separate parish. Bishop Davide Cocco-Palmieri established the parish of Sannat on 28 April 1688. The present church dedicated to St. Margaret Martyr was initiated on the site of a smaller one in 1718 and was consecrated on 16 October 1755. However, after the significant structural changes, it was consecrated again on 22 November 1868. It was raised to the Archipresbyteral status on 27 December 1893. The church has a very good altarpiece by Stefano Erardi, a famed local painter. The village feast of St. Margaret is celebrated each year around the third week of July.
Archaeological remains to be found in Ta' Sannat village and/or within its limits.
The archaeological remains one finds at Ta' Sannat are mostly, and almost uniquely, remains of the prehistoric period and these are all concentrated at Ta' Ċenċ in the limits of the same village.
The oldest among these remains are those of that which is known as Tal-Imramma Temples. These remains, which towards the beginning of the 20th century have been investigated and studied by the Jesuit scholar Fr. Manwel Magri S.J. and also by the German scholar Albrecht Mayr, date back to the prehistoric phase known as Mġarr phase (3800-3600 B.C.). These remains, which include also a menhir (a monument-like vertical stone), belong to a structure which may have been a temple as its name does indicate. The plan of this structure is very irregular and is uncommon.
Two other archaeological monuments which are also very important at Ta' Ċenċ are the two dolmens, one known as Id-Dura tax-Xaghra l-Kbira and the other known as Id-Dura tal-Mara. These are very likely to be two funerary structures, i.e. they were probably used for burial purposes. They consist of three vertical stones on which rests a horizontal slab. The archaeologist Dr David Trump also discovered remains of what he identified as a gallery grave which looks like an elongated dolmen.
These dolmens, of which there were previously more at Ta' Ċenċ but which, unfortunately, did not survive, are not as old as the remains of Tal-Imramma Temple. They belong, in fact, to the Bronze Age (2500-700 B.C.) and date back to the prehistoric phase known as Tarxien Cemetery phase (2500-1500 B.C.).
In various locations at Ta' Ċenċ, one also encounters various pairs of cart-ruts, sometimes even intersecting each other. Their nature is difficult to determine but, normally, both at Ta' Ċenċ and even in other places in Malta and Gozo where they are to be found, they are always associated with stone / rock quarrying.
Their dating is also very difficult. They can possibly date back to the Bronze Age, although the possibility of having remained in use even during the Classical (i.e. Punic and/or Roman) period is not excluded.
San Lawrenz is a village situated in the west of the island of Gozo. The village is built upon a flat surface surrounded by three hills - Ta' Ghammar, Ta' Gelmus and Ta' Dbiegi. The latter is 195 metres above sea level and boasts the highest point in Gozo. San Lawrenz also has within its territory the beautiful Dwejra Bay which is renowned for its unique ecological aspects, not only recognised by all Gozitans and locals but also internationally.
The 1995 census established the population of the village to around 552 people. Up to the Second World War the majority of the locals were farmers. Today many of the locals are either employed by the government or are self employed.
The San Lawrenz coat-of-arms consists of a golden shield on which there is the symbol of an iron grid with two palm leaves on each side. The historian Bezzina described the palm leaves as symbolic of martyrdom while the iron grid represented the manner in which the Patron Saint of the village was put to death. The motto of the village is "Dominus protectio Mea" which means "The Lord is my Shield".
The parish of San Lawrenz was founded on March 15, 1893. Before this date the village was known as Ta' Ciangura. Probably the name reflected that of a family or a nickname of someone with close relationship with the locality. It is not known when the village was established, however some documents mention Ta' Ciangura before the Great Siege of Gozo which occurred before July 1551.
San Lawrenz is one of two villages named after a saint in Gozo. The other one is that of Santa Lucija. By the 4th century AD the devotion towards Saint Lawrence had spread worldwide and also reached our shores. By the end of the middle ages there were three churches dedicated to Saint Lawrence, one inside the Citadel, one near Ta' Ghodlien and another at Ta' Ciangura. The village assumed the name from the church.
Lawrence was born in a holy and noble family in 226 in Huesca of Aragon in Spain. Sixtus II, the archdeacon of Rome invited Lawrence to accompany him to Rome to continue his studies for the priesthood. In 257 Sixtus became Pope and appointed Lawrence as archdieacon and as his vicar.
Lawrence became responsible for all the treasures owned by the church. When Valerian learnt that Lawrence was the custodian of all church treasures, he sent Cornelius, the Prefect of Rome to arrest him. The Prefect ordered Lawrence to hand over all the treasures of the church. Lawrence therefore assembled all the sick and poor of Rome and told the prefect "these are the authentic treasures of the church". Lawrence was beaten up and suffered further torture. He refused to pay homage to the pagan gods and he remained strong in the faith.
Nadur is situated on the easternmost hill of the small island of Gozo, Malta's sister-island. Nadur, a lofty, lookout plateau, has a population of around 4,000 people which makes Nadur one of the largest localities in Gozo.
Nadur's emblem shows the sun merging from blue seas with the motto "Vigilant", which means "watchful against danger".
While most of the population lives in the center of the village, numerous residential areas are found in all sides of Nadur. Housing areas look over beautiful valleys. Others have marvelous views of the island of Comino and Malta.
However, wherever you are in Nadur, you can notice foreign flags flying on top of private houses. The US, Canadian, Australian and British flags clearly highlight Western ties and show signs of returning immigrants. Nadur is indeed one of the most localities in Malta with a long tradition of immigration.
One can still find a lot of farmers and seafarers. Quantities of fresh fruit like apples, peaches, pears, plums, oranges, lemon and melons from the fields of Nadur are distributed around all Malta and Gozo. Along Nadur's coastline one can see the peaceful bays of San Blas, Dahlet Qorrot and Ramla.
Were a bridge to be constructed between Malta and Gozo, as is proposed from time to time, the likely end point on the Gozitan side would be Qala.
Though Qala is the farthest village from Gozo’s capital, Victoria, it is the closest to the rest of the Maltese archipelago, and the rocky hillsides of Qala enjoy an unobstructed view of the islands of Malta and Comino. Breathtaking scenes can be enjoyed, among other places, from the Qala Belvedere and from the small courtyard in front of the church known as II-Madonna tal-Blat (Saint Mary of the Rocks). This church faces Comino and legend has it that it was built so that the people of that island could follow Holy Mass from across the straits when rough weather precluded a priest from going there.
Except for a few sheltered inlets, like the popular Hondoq ir- Rummien. Qala’s coastline is a rocky trek to which nature and history both have contributed a great deal. Natural gifts include several caves, the prettiest of which is Ghar Minka, which is accessible only by boat. Historical works are mainly defensive structures designed to deter enemy landings. Foremost among these is St. Anthony’s Battery (1732), known locally as it-Trunciera. This is one of the works of the Knights that transformed Malta from a pirate haven into an island fortress.
Qala’s name means ’bay’ or ’harbor’ probably for the nearby harbor of Mgarr. Although other versions of the name have been proposed, the harbor theme is well reflected in the village’s coat of arms. A Gozo boat sailing on rough waters, and on its motto, In Tempestate Perfugium (Haven from Storms). Qala is well known for its hard coralline type of stone. When the breakwater of Mgarr Harbor was constructed reliance was placed on the high quality limestone quarries near Hondoq Bay. Other examples of construction with Qala’s stone also include the War Memorials in Floriana and in Victoria, the Grand Harbor’s breakwater in Malta, the base of Christ the King Cathedral in Liverpool and recently also the main altar in the Qala Parish church.
Munxar, another of the smaller villages of Gozo, lies to the south of the island between Xlendi valley and the village of Ta' Sannat. Its name is derived from a distinguished feature of the area. Munxar is Maltese for "bucksaw", a saw set in an adjustable H-shaped frame, used for sawing firewood on a buck. The imagery is suggested by the promontory that runs from behind the village church sawing into two the surrounding area creating the Wied tal-Ghancija, "Ghancija valley", on the Munxar side and Wied ix-Xlendi, "Xlendi Valley", on the Fontana side. This place-name is not restricted to Gozo: a similar headland in the east of Malta is also known as Munxar. The name is first recorded as ll Monxar in a notarial deed of July 2, 1584.
It grew up from a few residing families to a present population nearing 700 people, making Munxar a closely-knit village community. Throughout the years, Munxar has always retained exclusive features and village traditions.
The first impression one gets of the Mgarr Harbour today is one of bustling activity. The increase in the number of vessels using its facilities may be partly the reason for this increasing activity. Most of all, however, it is the great development of the port facilities, presently taking place, which conveys the impression.
The harbour area remains one of great scenic beauty. Approaching Gozo from the sea, one is impressed by the beautiful verdant cliffs and valleys overlooking the harbour. Fort Chambray is conspicuous on the wooded hill overlooking the two quays. Between this hill and the cliffs on which Ghajnsielem stands, nestling on top an olive-lined hill, one's attention is captivated by the beautiful church of our Lady of Lourdes. This church built in a Gothic style is at the center of attraction.
The port is studded with stores, warehouses, garages and fisherman's shed. a broad square-like wharf has been built at the foot of 'Ras it-Tafal' on which Fort Chambray stands. A road extending from old wharf takes one to the small fisherman's jetty where all fishing boats unload their catches. The road finds it way around the bottom of the cliffs on which the Tower Garzes once stood, to Zewwieqa bay.
Marsalforn is one of the best known fishing villages of the Maltese islands. Situated to the north west of Gozo, the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago, it is also the most popular resort with both locals and tourists and between June and September its population easily surpasses that of the largest village of Gozo.
Marsalforn is a composite word. Marsa, derived from an obsolete Arabic verb rasa'a, means "to be at anchor", hence marsa means "a harbour where ships come to anchor". Forn means "a bakery", but it is highly improbable that this has anything to do with Marsalforn, for a bakery would not be built in an uninhabited area and close to a bay where marauding corsairs made frequent landings. It is quite likely that this name, like that of other Gozitan ports, might refer to a type of ship. In that case it would derive from Liburna. An Illyrian type of a ship, which became livurna in Greek, and lifurna in Arabic, thence Marsalforn means "the vessels' harbour". The name might also have been derived from forna, a word used by Gozitan fishermen to refer to “a cave hollowed out by the sea". There were more than one of these at Marsalforn, the best known being Ghar Qawqla, "the cave at the steep hill".
With the development of Mgarr harbour, and the building of towers to guard the Gozo-Malta channel from enemy vessels, Marsalforn lost its former importance and for several centuries it remained a quiet fishing village inhabited by a score of fishermen and their families. Its motto rightly states that it is, or better was, Tranquillitatis plenissimus - abounding in serenity.
The emblem of Marsalforn consists of a blue shield representing Marsalforn harbour, encircled by a golden border. Saint Paul, according to tradition, left for Rome, after his shipwreck, from Marsalforn; hence the emblem of Saint Paul: a viper encircling the sword. The viper refers to the episode involving Saint Paul just after his shipwreck on Malta as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The inhabitants had lit a huge fire and Paul collected a bundle of sticks and was putting them on the fire when a viper brought out by the heat attached itself to his hand. However he shook it off into the fire and came to no harm.
The port is surrounded by hills from all sides. The most prominent are Xaghra, one of the largest villages, and Zebbug, one of the highest. Closer by there are the hills of id-Dabrani, with terraced work to the top; ta' Kuljat, once a Bronze Age settlement, and the cone-shaped il-Merzuq. The last is dominated by a huge statue of Christ the Savior. Three hillocks that in the past led many to refer to the place as the haven of hillocks have almost disappeared behind and under the forest of apartments that have savagely disfigured beautiful Marsalforn. These hillocks or knolls are known from their shape as il-Qolla, a word that literally means an earthenware round large-bellied jar used for carrying and storing water.
The village of Kercem lies close by to the south-east of Victoria, spread between the picturesque Lunzjata Valley, the green hills of "tal-Mixta, Ghar Ilma" and "ta' Dbiegi", and stretching up to the Pond of San Rafflu and Xlendi cliffs. These sites are indicative that this village has the most beautiful landscapes in the Island of Gozo, rendering them an artist's pleasuredome. The area is one of Gozo's best for country walks and cycling and could connect to the village of San Lawrenz or directly to Dwejra Bay.
Kercem evolved into a village community in the late Middle Ages, around an ancient chapel dedicated to Pope St. Gregory the Great built around 1581. Kercem became a distinct parish on 10th March 1885 by Bishop Pietru Pace. The Kercem parish church is the only Gozitan church, which is jointly dedicated to two saints. As referred earlier, it was traditionally dedicated to Pope St. Gregory, but since 17th August 1885, the church was additionally co-dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. As a matter of fact, although the village celebrates the two feasts without distinction, the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help could now be considered in terms of popularity as the main religious celebration of the village. It is celebrated yearly on the second Sunday of July.
The village of Kercem has a population of around 1700 people, but although this does not make it one of the largest in Gozo, its population is renowned as highly energetic, successfully venturing in all types of cultural activities making them popular all around Gozo. Such example is the annual Ghadira Fair, which is a popular traditional family fair in the beautiful countryside area of San Rafflu. Both young and old take their chances to win a variety of prizes ranging from home goods to traditional prizes like goats, sheep, rabbits and poultry. Traditional music, food, drinks, pony rides and other amusements also entertain people especially children.
L-Ghasri is the smallest village of Gozo. The village lies cuddled between the hills of Iz-Zebbug and Ghammar. The name has obvious Arab origins, possibly being an area where olives were crushed for oil. L-Ghasri is reached by forking right on the Victoria-L-Gharb road just after the Aqueduct.
A lighthouse on Gurdan hill, better known as the Gurdan Lighthouse dominates L-Ghasri. The famous lighthouse rises 180 metres above sea level and was inaugurated in 1853. Its beam can be seen up to 50 kilometres away. Upon the hill around the lighthouse there are some marvellous 360 degree views of Gozo and this lures quite a lot of hikers, who challenge the rather steep path up to the hilltop.
From the Village Square, a road leads to the fabulous valley of Wied L-Ghasri. On the way, there are a number of typical farmhouses, most of them available for short or long lets, as well as an old charming chapel dedicated to the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.The Wied L-Ghasri area is a marvellous country walk or cycling site especially in Winter and Spring. The valley ends in the sea, wedged between high cliffs where a secluded little inlet makes it ideal for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Indeed, the sea around Wied L-Ghasri is very popular among divers.
The village church, designed by a local priest, Dun Guzepp Diacono, was build early in the twentieth century. Its foundation stone was laid on 6 September 1903 and it was dedicated to the Corpus Christi on 9 January 1916 and later on to Christ the Saviour. The village was established a parish by Bishop Giovanni Maria Camilleri on 16 December 1921.
The word "l-Għarb" is derived from an Arabic word which means sunset. This symbolises the position of l-Għarb which is at the west of the island of Gozo. In Arabic the word "l-Għarb" is written as "herb".
The motto of the village is "In extremo vigilat" which means "Sentinel at the borderline".
L-Għarb means West and this typical old Gozitan village unsurprisingly lies in the West of the Island. It started life as a small hamlet centuries ago. You can see its ancient roots in the centre of the village where some houses have fine examples of decorated stone balconies.
The population of l-Għarb is of about 1266 people with a total of 400 families. The area of l-Għarb is about 14.3sq kms. L-Għarb is surrounded by two villages, that of St Lawrence and Għasri, and the sea.
L-Għarb was made a parish in 1679. This triggered the need of building a new, baroque parish church. It was built between 1699 and 1729. The church has an elegant facade which has been compared with Borromini's S. Agnese in Piazza Navona, Rome. This version is naturally a simpler interpretation of the style.
The village square, so quintessentially Gozitan, has become the view on many postcards. In the square, there is a fascinating folklore museum housing all sorts of memorabilia retelling the Islands' rural history.
L-Għarb lays in some of Gozo's most delightful countryside, particularly at Dbiegi, the highest hill on the Island. Also at Dbiegi, there is a centre for Gozitan crafts.
Within the limits of l-Għarb one can find the quaint Chapel of San Dimitri. According to legend, the first chapel was built on the cliff-side by a woman whose son was freed from captivity by St. Demetrius.
Also nearby there is the Basilica of ta' Pinu, Malta's pre-eminent shrine to the Virgin Mary. It was on this spot in 1883 that a local woman heard the voice of the Virgin.
The village of Għajnsielem is situated in the small island of Gozo, Malta's sister-island. Malta is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean - 93 km south of Italy and 290 km north of North Africa. Gozo lies about 5 km in the North West of Malta and the distance between Ċirkewwa in Malta and l-Imġarr Harbour in Gozo, involves a 25 minute ferry crossing. Għajnsielem has a population of around 3,000 and is the first Gozitan village that will greet you as soon as you leave l-Imġarr Harbour towards the Gozitan heartland. As soon as you enter l-Imġarr Harbour, while still aboard the ferry, you cannot help but notice the welcoming landmarks of the harbour village of Għajnsielem. Lourdes Chapel with its sharp steeple and underlying niche of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fort Chambray on the left-hand side dominating the high grounds and, in the distant background, the towering belfry of Għajnsielem's Parish Church. The people of Għajnsielem are referred to as il-Għajnselmiżi.
Għajnsielem simply means Salem's spring. Salem is a very popular Arab name, extinct in Maltese. It is possible that the name goes back to the Arab rule. The spring referred to in the toponym was situated at the end of Wied Simirat - the valley that ends in the present Pjazza tad-Dehra in the very centre of the village. In 1710, Grand Master Raymond Perellos ordered the construction of an arcade around the spring after getting the approval of his Council General. Beneath the arcade, six stone washing basins were constructed, into which water from the spring was channelled. These facilities proved to be a boom to the increasing population of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Women found them especially suitable for washing their laundry. For over two centuries, from dawn onwards the area around the spring was filled with throngs of chattering woman. The woman-folk congregated there in the mornings washing the laundry in the troughs while the men lazing off their afternoon under the canopy of the mulberry trees. Rare were the occasions where the spring remained idle. According to old people, even at night one could hear the sound of splashing water and constant vigorous scrubbing.
But to maintain hygiene in such a place was a problem. Less and less care was taken to the washing area and in the latter years of its existence, the arcade was left in a state of reckless abandon, the whole place stinking with filth until its removal in the early fifties to make way for a new square.
The present Pjazza tad-Dehra began to take shape in 1865 when a bridge was built over the end of Wied Simirat. In 1911, Triq Simirat was joined to Triq fuq il-Għajn by the building of a new street. Before long, this became known as the Apparition Square. In 1954, so as to further enlarge the piazza, it was decided, unbelievably but true, to demolish the historic wash-house and entomb the spring that gave its name to the village.
Fontana, a suburb of the city of Rabat, which is itself a suburb of the Citadel, has developed into a village in its own right. It lies on the Rabat–Xlendi road strained between the historic capital of the island and the spectacular bay of ix-Xlendi. People began inhabiting the place attracted by the several fresh water springs in the area.
Fontana, simply known to the people of Gozo as It-Triq tal-Għajn, the way to the spring, took its name from a bountiful spring at the bottom of the main road of the village known as Il-Għajn il-Kbira, the principal spring. The spring flows close to the spot where three valleys, Wied il-Lunzjata, Wied Siekel, and Wied tas-Saqwi, converge into Wied ix-Xlendi. Wied is Maltese for valley. The village is thus very aptly called the village of valleys and springs. The name Fontana is Italian for spring.
The people of Fontana can be referred to as il-Fontanin but the word is hardly ever used.
The coat-of-arms of Fontana are: or a fountain, represented in heraldry by a disc of white and blue alternating horizontal wavy lines, on gold shield. Up to 1993, the emblem consisted of three arches — the arches that once stood above another spring known as il-Għajn tal-Loġoġ — with water gushing from under the middle arch, on a sky-blue field. A red heart in the middle of a gold chief referred to the dedication of the parish.
The Latin motto of the village is Inundatione Ferax, that is Fertile through inundation — Għammiela għax bl-ilma ġieri. This motto suits the village perfectly. The fields on the outskirts of the village are very fertile, due to their proximity to the springs.
The first houses of Fontana were built on and around il-Għajn il-Kbira, the principal spring. This early settlement is now known as ta’ Wied Siekel on one side, and as ta’ Għajn Tuta. Wied Siekel is very probably derived from that of the town of Scicli in Sicily. A family from Scicli, possibly Gozitan emigrants who returned home, took residence near the fountain; the family became known as “ta’ Scicli” and the valley where they lived as Wied Siekel. Għajn Tuta literally means the mulberry spring and the name is derived from a spring with mulberry trees in the vicinity.
The next inhabited were the adjacent fields going uphill known as ta’ Mulejja. The name is derived from the mimmated form of the Arab word walijun, protector, and hence mula, the lord or landlord, and eventually the area became known as ta’ Mulejja, a name now reserved to God.
The section between ta’ Mulejja and Santa Dminka in Rabat, is known as ta’ l-Isptar San Ġiljan. The Saint Julian hospital for women was opened on 3 May 1783 and in 1866 it was transformed into the Gozo Seminary. Before this time, this section of Fontana was also referred to as ta’ Santa Dminka. After this area was exhausted, buildings began to be built uphill on it-triq tal-Għajn, the name by which the village is commonly known.
The village did not develop further until the middle of the twentieth century when a triq il-Ġdida was opened to join it-triq tal-Għajn with triq Santa Dminka. In the 1950s this became Triq il-Kappillan Ġużepp Hili, the first parish priest. In the 1960s, triq Santa Dminka, was eventually also built up and included within the confines of the village. Santa Dminka was the dedication of a chapel referred to further on. In the 1970s, another development from it-triq tal-Għajn, now known as triq il-Qalb ta’ Ġes, joined the principal street of the village to an area adjacent Fuq it-Tomba known as ta’ Wara Santu Wistin. Its name is after the dedication of the parish church. In the 1980s, a large area off triq Santa Dminka was built up and four new streets were joined to the village: triq San Martin, after the dedication of a chapel also referred to further on, triq il-Kardinal Alessandro Franchi, triq il-Gvernatur Sir Gaspard Le Marchant, and triq l-Isqof Mikiel Franġisk Buttigieg. These three gentlemen played an important role in the establishment of the diocese of Gozo. Two new streets were opened in the same decade: the first, between triq l-Isptar San Ġiljan and it-triq tal-Għajn and aptly named triq is-Sajjieda, after the fishermen of Fontana; and the second, triq ta’ Mulejja, in the area of the same name.
Gozo is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago and is approximately 14km by 7km in area. Greener and more rural than its sister island Malta, the pace of life on Gozo moves at a more tranquil pace.
The sea is only ten minutes away from anywhere on the island. Constant, gentle currents keep it clear and clean making Gozo a centre for diving, fishing and all manner of water sports. Temperatures can rise as high as 35 degrees Celsius during the summer months whereas enjoying warm temperatures in winter at around 17 degrees Celsius making the island an ideal location for holidays all year round.
Dining out in Gozo is a real treat. Various delicacies can be found from pasta to exquisite seafood dishes. A particular local dish is rabbit stewed in wine. Complementing the meal you can choose from Gozitan homemade wine to the locally brewed beer that is highly rated throughout the world.
The island is steeped in history including prehistoric temples that rival Stonehenge and churches to compare with the finest in Europe. The Gozitan culture during the last 7000 years was influenced by its dominators including the Phoenicians, the Arabs, the Romans, the Knights of St. John and the British.
Visitors to Gozo will be impressed by many things; but above all, it is the friendliness of the people that lingers and draws them back time and time again.