Drawing back the curtains we were dismayed to find it was raining heavily and a strong wind was blowing. Not to be deterred, we kept with our original plans and caught a bus (No.221) to the Gozo ferry terminal at Cirkewwa, taking approximately 30 minutes.
During the winter months ferries depart for Gozo at 45 minute intervals and we only had a short time to wait until the 10.30 a.m. departure. No tickets for the outbound journey are required but passengers need to purchase a ticket to return to Malta, costing €4.65 each.
The car ferry took 20 minutes to reach Mgarr and from the cafeteria we bought cups of tea which were very cheap at only 50 cents each. Bus 301 is timed to meet the ferry at Mgarr and takes just 15 minutes to arrive in Gozo’s small capital city, Victoria. From here, we were able to use our 7 day Explorer Card on the bus as it is also valid on Gozo. Locals still refer to its capital as Lr Rabat although it was officially renamed Victoria to celebrate the British Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Our first stop in Victoria was to St. George’s Basilica standing proudly at the head of a charming sandstone square. Here we explored the sumptuous church interior and its Baroque edifice before climbing the narrow, winding streets up to the very centre of the island to reach an ornate archway entrance into The Citadel.
This miniature walled city sits on a rocky cliff commanding views of most of the island (or at least it would have done, had the visibility not been so poor). A Citadel has existed here since Roman times but the current structure was built in the 17th century. The Citadel has been included on Malta’s list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1998.
Within the walls of The Citadel we were able to visit the Baroque Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption built in 1697 and the Archaeological Museum which offers free admission and focuses on the history of Gozo from pre-historic to medieval periods.
It was then time for a walk along the perimeter walls where it was so windy that it was difficult to keep the camera still to take photographs. By chance, as we were walking round at mid-day we had timed it perfectly to watch the 17th century bronze cannon being fired at noon, its sound resonating across the valley.
It was then back down the steps into Victoria and a stroll through the maze of narrow lanes admiring homes with grand wrought iron balconies on their sandstone facades and small shopfronts with quaint old English style signs above their doors. As the rain became heavier we decided to return by bus to the ferry terminal and make our way back to our hotel in Bugibba. The bus connection in Cirkewwa was again reasonably good and this took us back to our hotel just in time to enjoy afternoon tea with scones, jam and cream in Cafe Mazoc and an opportunity to dry out.