The tiny island of Gozo, just a 25-minute ferry ride from Malta, is a glittering cultural jewel in the Mediterranean protected by its rugged coastline and adorned with stretches of golden sandy beaches.
Its capital city, Victoria – also known locally as ‘Rabat’ – boasts some of Europe’s most spectacular architecture, much of it built from the honey-coloured limestone hewn from the island itself. Rising from Victoria’s heart is its fortified old city dominated by a glorious 17th-century citadel with a rich history dating back to the Stone Age.
Back down the hill, Victoria’s narrow, winding streets are lined with craft shops, markets and cafés. Take time, too, to visit its historic churches as much for their art as for their architecture. Outside Victoria, Gozo is dotted with some of the world’s most important prehistoric sites, some dating to over 5,000 years ago – the most famous of them, the two Ġgantija temples, can be found just outside the town of Xagħra, a mere seven-minute drive from the capital.
To complement its incredible culture, Gozo possesses a fantastic food and wine tradition, enriched by its complex Roman, Arab, Italian, French and British history – and in particular Gozitan wines, beers, cheeses, pastries and desserts, all found in the hundreds of restaurants found right around the island.
All of this makes the perfect backdrop to the thrilling music festivals taking place all over Gozo throughout the year. Unsurprisingly, given Gozo’s proximity to Italy, Victoria has two opera houses in the same street alone – the Astra Theatre and the Aurora Theatre, both of which are used in October for the festival Opera is Gozo. Opera is Gozo features two full opera productions, activities, concerts and talks, as well as events for children, and is perfect for the whole family.
Coinciding with Opera is Gozo is the Festival Mediterranea which takes place in October and November and which brings the island to colourful life with guided tours, concerts, talks and much more, all held in spectacular settings, including the magnificent 17th-century St George’s Basilica in the heart of Victoria.
Away from opera, the world-renowned Gaulitana Festival is held each spring right across the island, including world heritage sites, churches, hotels, the cittadella itself and even in the intimacy of Gozo’s wonderful bars. Founded by Gozo’s Gaulitana Choir, the festival features a whole range of chamber, choral and solo concerts.
But Gozo’s crowning glory is its Victoria International Arts Festival, which takes place hot on the heels of the Gaulitana Festival. In June and July each year, the festival brings renowned artists in from across the world for five weeks of choral, orchestral and chamber music. What’s more, all events are completely free of charge – a incredible feat given the standard of performance on offer.
Please note – due to COVID, Gozo’s 2021 festivals are not yet confirmed, so do visit their websites regularly for up-to-date information.