Malta: Historic sites, classic cars and old airplanes

MALTA AVIATION MUSEUM

I am interested in history. On Malta there are quite a few historic sites to see and visit. Beautiful churches and cathedrals, small and amazing museums, ancient temples,  catacombs, towers and monuments. The oldest are 7000 years old.

Some of my favourite ones are the Citadella and its cathedral on Gozo, the huge private classic car collection (museum) in Qawra and the small Malta Aviation Museum in Ta’Qali.

aviation museum_airplane

Malta Aviation Museum is fabulous, especially if you like old airplanes and military cars. I finally saw a Spitfire and a Hurricane – they have been my favourites for some time now. It was great to see them, touch them and take a lot of pictures. My husband went nuts, in a positive way.

The museum is situated in Ta’Qali. It is easy to find by car or by bus. A nice gentleman, Anthony Spiteri, takes care of the museum and is your guide if you wish.

Aviation museum Ile

A few models of the airplanes and cars at the museum are: Wright Flyer, de Havilland Tiger Moth, Fairey Swordfish, Douglas C-47 (DC-3), Beech 18 (Expeditor) plus Willies Jeep, Fiat 500A Topolino and Standard Van 14. People inspired and interested in technology will for sure enjoy to see old airplane engines, engine parts, electronic devices as well as scale models. My husband could have stayed here for the whole day.

Malta aviation museum Johanna
CLASSIC CARS

We found some small brochures at our hotel and found something amazing – Malta Classic Car Collection. We drove right away to Il-Qawra, not far from Mellieha Bay, where we stayed this time. The owner of this one of a kind museum is Carol Galea. His passion is to save classic sports cars built 1940 – 1970. The cars are rarities and have been restored to a pristine condition. I love this museum.

Malta car collection_1
car museum_old bike
There is a range from T-Birds to Spitfires, Fiats to Fords as well as Jaguars to Alfa Romeo and Austin Healey. Read about the amazing story of Carol Galea and his one of a kind museum here.

Malta car collection_2


OTHER INTERESTING SITES

I recommend to visit The National Museum of Archeology in Valletta , The National War Museum Fort St Elmo, also in Valletta, and the Roman Villa in Rabat.

Malta’s silent city Mdina is a fortified medieval town enclosed in bastions, located on a large hill in the centre of Malta. The town was the old capital of Malta. Mdina is referred to as the “Silent City” – no cars (except those of a limited number of residents) have permission to enter Mdina.

The Mellieha Air Raid Shelters (Kenn Ghall-Attakki Mill-Ajru) offer quite an experience to see how the people lived during WW II, when the Island of Malta was heavily attacked with bombs.

Mellieha shelters
Malta offers so much. You can enjoy the sunny weather on the beach or walking around in the small towns, you can drive around in the countryside and take pictures of the scenery, and after visiting a few interesting museums, cathedrals or shops it is time to enjoy a cold drink and some great traditional Maltese food. It is rustic and based on the seasons. Try Rabbit Stew, Braġioli (beef olives), Kapunata, (Maltese version of ratatouille), Ġbejniet (sheep or goat’s cheese) and Bigilla (broad beans with garlic).

Malta hills

History of Malta and modern Ramla Bay

SHORT HISTORY OF MALTA

If you are even a little bit interested in historical sites, sunny days and friendly people, Malta is the perfect choice for you. Beautiful churches, astonishing cathedrals, amazing museums and people, ancient temples, catacombs with underground galleries and tombs, over a thousand years old forts and various kind of monuments, all this you find on the small sunny island named Malta.

They say the first people to settle on the Maltese Islands (in Maltese: Repubblika ta’ Malta) came from Sicily about 5000 BC.

map of sicily
The Romans conquered  Malta in 218 B.C. A thousand years later the Arabs came and brought with them citrus fruits, spices, a new religion (Islam) and cotton. They left their mark on the Maltese language and in the names of many towns and villages in Malta and Gozo, such as Marsa, Mdina, Mġarr, Mqabba, Għajnsielem and Rabat.

Later on the Normans conquered Malta, and the Islands were to be part of the Kingdom of Sicily. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte took over Malta from the Knights on his way to Egypt.

Malta blog eng pic 6 napoleon
Quite soon the English blockaded the islands and the British rule in Malta lasted until 1964, when  Malta became finally independent.

Modern Malta became a Republic in 1974 and joined the European Union in May 2004.

Malta covers just over 316 km² (122 sq mi), making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The population is estimated to 421 000.

RAMLA BAY

We have visited the fabulous Malta twice. I wish to go there a third time. Instead of staying where most people go, Valletta, we have stayed at the northern-most coast of the island.  I can warmly recommend Ramla Bay.

There are not many sandy beaches in Malta but at Ramla Bay you find some really nice ones. Same goes for Mellieha Bay, just 5 minutes south of Ramla Bay. Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, at the northwest coast of Malta, is a red beach and just a short distance of Golden Bay. It is quieter than Golden Bay and often visited by the Maltese themselves.

If you stay at Gozo, be sure to visit the most beautiful beach, Ramla il-Ħamra, located at the bottom of a valley in the north of Gozo, close to the village of Nadur. The large beach has unusual red sand.

Malta blog eng pic ramla il H

Last time we stayed at the Ramla Bay Resort, a four star hotel with a small private beach.  The bay around it offers a variety of water sports. Spa du Soleil again offers a range of treatments, a sauna, a steam room as well as a fitness room.

Malta blog eng pic2

The water in the bay (Ramla tal-Bir) by the hotel was clear and refreshing. As it is quite warm in June one appreciates the cool, but not cold, sea water. It was fantastic to lay in the hot sun, enjoying the view of the Mediterranean and the tourists on skijets, canoes and sailing boats. Some also tried windsurfing. All the memories of the Finnish cold winter disappeared in a second.

Ramla Bay

In the evening it was nice to sit on the balcony, feeling a cool breeze from the sea. The view on the sunset over Gozo Island was relaxing.

 

Gozo Island 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy: Etna, Catania and Syracuse

HELSINKI – ROME – CATANIA

In 2004 my husband and I decided to enjoy an adventure. We wanted to see something interesting in Europe, not too far from Finland and where it would be around 20 C (68 F) during the day. We chose to make a trip to Sicily, Italy.

We decided to visit the area around Syracuse and the small towns further south. Most people visit Palermo and the beaches north of Catania (Taormina and Naxos) – later in the summer time.

Unfortunately there were no direct flights to Sicily, so we had to fly to Rome, then take a connecting flight to Catania.

What an experience it is to see the Rome International Airport for the first time!

We had only 1 hour between our flights. I give you a hint – reserve at least 2 hours between connecting flights. Your day will be less stressful.

fiumicino airport

MOUNT ETNA

The flight from Rome to Catania, an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, was short. The view from the plane was awesome. The Mediterranean Sea is for sure one of the most beautiful seas, especially when the sun makes the water glitter.

When I saw Mount Etna, the active stratovolcano of Sicily, I found my disposable camera (back then that was normal…) and took some pictures. It was an amazing moment.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.

Etna lentokoneesta katsottuna

CATANIA

We did not visit Catania this time. It is the second largest city in Sicily. If you like a hectic lifestyle and chaotic traffic, visit Catania. The nightlife is well known and you will find plenty of bars to choose from.

The city is known for its seismic history, having been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1169, another in 1693, and several volcanic eruptions from the neighbouring Mount Etna volcano.

Catania city and Etna
SYRACUSE

It is about 70 kilometers from Catania to Syracuse. We had chosen Hotel Helios. Helios was OK but not as great as advertised. Back in 2004 our budget was small, otherwise I would have chosen another hotel.

Hotel H and me

If you visit Syracuse you might want to stay at Mercure Siracusa Prometeo or at Jolly Hotel Aretusa. These are in the center of the city. Best choice might though be to book a room at Grand Hotel Ortigia, which is in the old town (called Isola Ortigia). Also Hotel Roma is a great choice.

In Syracuse, population 125.000, the cultural history is mixed with Italian city life. But just a short drive away you can enjoy the small and beautiful beaches, rocky shores and the fabulous countryside.

Pachino Sicily_2

PIAZZA ARCHIMEDE

An evening in the old town of Syracuse (called Ortigia) will fill you with great memories. Just before sunset we took a taxi to the old town and searched for Trattoria Archimede, which our hotel clerk had recommended. We had asked where do the Italians eat dinner. Sicilia in Tavola is another great restaurant offering great traditional food.

We arrived a bit early. Italians eat later, after 8 pm. We are hungry before 7 pm. We decided to hang out at Piazza Archimede for an hour. Great decision. The piazza is beautiful. And quite old. It was opened in 1878.

Piazza Archimede Syracuse

While sipping a cold drink at the terrace of a nice bar,  Banco di Sicilia and the other old buidings around you whisper stories of ancient Sicilian times and lifestyle.

I can warmly recommend to visit Sicily. There is so much to see as well as to taste!

Travel stories by Johanna Hurmerinta

%d bloggers like this: