Come roam with me.
Rabat is a city name that pops up in a few places, but today’s ramble is around the smallest Rabat I’ve come across so far, measuring just 2.9 km2 (1.1 sq mile) with a population of 6,900 (2014 figure).
Its official name now is Victoria, given to it in 1897 as part of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, but it is still known under its original name by most of the locals. Capital of Gozo, the second largest island in Malta, it sits in a prominent position just 6 km from the ferry terminal of Mgarr (the link to its big sister island) – but then nowhere is far from anywhere on Gozo.
Let’s set the scene with a gaze around from a good viewpoint, the rooftop terrace at the Duke Boutique Hotel. This is a great hotel if you fancy a night or two on Gozo – excellent, friendly service; central position with top views; fantastic breakfast; comfortable, clean and spacious rooms.
Time to roam – turning left out of the hotel, we walk along Triq ir-Repubblika (Republic Street) to a pleasant square, Pjazza Indipendenza, also known as It-Tokk (Meeting Place). St Jacob’s Church sits on one side, City Hall on the other, and you’ll find a selection of bars, cafes and a daily morning market.
Turning right here takes us uphill to the Cittadella, that calls to us every time we gaze upwards in this town.
There to greet us we enter this compact citadel, is the elegant facade of the Cathedral of the Assumption. It was completed in 1711 to replace a previous church that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. It is the work of architect Lorenzo Gafa (whose work can also be seen in Mdina in Malta) but lack of funds meant that its dome was never completed. That lack of exterior grandeur did not diminish its status, however, and it was granted the title of Cathedral in 1864.
The citadel is pretty small – smaller than I expected having admired its solid exterior from outside. Those hefty walls date back to the 15th century, developing in the days of the Phoenicians, becoming a Roman town and then becoming the overnight safe haven for all Gozo families during the raids by the Turks.
Now, it is hard for visitors to imagine those times, wandering around freely and enjoying the tremendous views across Gozo in all directions.
The immediate terrain is worth a close inspection too. The Citadel has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of International Importance forming part of the EU Natura 2000 network. Being situated centrally and in a prominent position on a small island, the walls are blasted with sea spray on windy days providing excellent conditions for certain species of both flora and fauna. Keep your eyes open for such things as Maltese wall lizards, Mouse-eared bats, Lesser horseshoe bats, Golden chamomile and Maltese toadflax.
Once you’ve taken in the sights, admired the views and met the wildlife, be sure to pop into Ta’Rikardu, where they sell local platters of tasty food and Gozitan wine. And if you’re up to clambering some stairs, head up to the roof (normal flight of stairs, then a spiral staircase) where there are tables inside and out, and more views to accompany your refreshment.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 1 April 2019
Posted as part of Monday Walks