Malta and Sicily – the perfect travel combination
Malta and Sicily are islands strategically situated in the Mediterranean. Sicily lies about 80kms north of Malta. Malta lies about halfway between Sicily and the northern coast of Africa.
The proximity of the two islands has meant that there have been connections between the two. Since prehistoric times up to the modern day! The earliest human settlements in Malta are believed to have been populated by peoples from southeastern Sicily.
Yet these two places have their own distinct identities and culture. Malta as a sovereign nation made up of three islands, while Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean.
Why combine Malta with Sicily?
The geographic significance of Sicily’s and Malta ‘s position within the Mediterranean seaways made it a prime target for conquerors from diverse civilisations such as the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, French, Spanish and British. The distinctive cultural mix make both islands intriguing to visit.
Including a stunning variety of historical and cultural attractions, and a common culinary, linguistic, and religious heritage. Their proximity to one another makes a combination trip a very real and convenient opportunity to see the lands of the proud Maltese and Sicilian peoples firsthand.
What are their historical connections?
After Rome’s defeat of Carthage, the Maltese archipelago became part of the province of Sicily in the Roman Empire. Roman antiquities still exist in Malta, such as the Roman House in Mdina. Roman religion was introduced along with Latin as the official language.
The Normans seized Malta from the Muslims around 1091 and the archipelago remained a feudal dependency of the Kingdom of Sicily. Even after 1530, when it was given to the Knights of Malta to protect southern Europe from Muslim invasion. Italian became the official language, and cross-cultural influences occurred in the town’s architecture and artworks. This includes the artist Caravaggio having two major paintings hanging in Valetta’s beautiful St John’s Co-Cathedral. Malta’s political dependency on Sicily only ended in 1798 when Napoleon’s army conquered the island.
The Sicilian influence on Malta’s culture also impacted the Maltese culinary realm, with its emphasis on olive oil, pasta, seafood, appetisers such as rice balls (arancini), and sweets such as kannoli.
The cross-cultural pollination continued recently with the work of Italian architect Renzo Piano in his 2014 Valletta City Gate project, with reconstruction of the city’s entry gate to its original 17th century dimensions, the building of a new parliament and open-air theater that replaced an opera house destroyed in World War II and resizing of the important city gate bridge leading over the landscaped original moat area below.
A week in Malta would provide time to see the highlights of the small island nation. These include each of the three islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino. See our 7-day Malta itinerary for a good starting point.
Start in Malta’s capital Valletta, with its beautiful setting overlooking the Grand Harbor, and impressive architecture from its days under the rule of the Knights of Malta, who also built the defensive fortifications. The Baroque St. Johns Co-Cathedral has a stunning interior with key works by Caravaggio, and the Grandmaster’s Palace and the Auberges or residences of the Knights are architectural highlights of the age.
Other don’t miss sights around the island of Malta include the medieval former capital city of Mdina with its cathedral and vestiges of Roman rule in the Roman House with its well-preserved mosaics. The temples of Hqar Qim and Mnajdra and the underground burial chambers of Hal Saflieni are some of the world’s oldest and most impressive archaeological ruins. Malta has an amazing number of churches underscoring its Roman Catholic heritage, and two other churches of note are the Ta Pinu church on Gozo and the Mosta Dome. Natural highlights include the Blue Pool and Inland Sea of Dwerja Bay. See these and more on our Malta itinerary, fully customisable.
Be sure to schedule at least a day trip to Gozo, to check out the Ciutadella fortress with its cathedral in the main town of Victoria, and the Gganitja Temples, older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge. Natural beauty sights include the Blue Grotto on Gozo, and the Blue Lagoon on the smallest island of Comino.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and it would take at least a full two weeks to begin to do it justice. Discover its beautiful coastline, Mt. Etna, the stirring ancient Greek and Roman ruins, and mediaeval villages. We can take you in comfort and style to see the beauties of Sicily on our 10-day Sicily Bella Tour.
Sitting as it does between Europe and Africa, Sicily saw a host of conquerors. From the Phoenicians to the Romans, Arabs and Normans, French, and Spanish. It’s cuisine, religion, art, and architecture show the impact of this rich mix of cultures over the ages.
Start your island explorations in Palermo, Sicily’s capital. Its beautiful setting and rich architectural heritage make it an exciting destination. Visit the Norman Palace and Royal Chapel, the Teatro Massimo Opera house, and the Baroque Quattro Canti piazza. Outside the city center is the spectacular church of Monreale with its superb mosaics.
Traveling around the island, some of the best-known attractions include the Greek temples of Segesta, Selinunte and Agrigento, the city of Syracuse with its old town of Ortigia, the baroque cities of Noto and Ragusa, the roman mosaics of Villa Romana del Casale, the medieval village of Erice and the seaside towns of Cefalu and Trapani. Taormina has a stunning hilltop position near Mt. Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.
Both islands have played a significant role over the centuries given their strategic position in the Mediterranean. The various conquerors left their own cultural, architectural, culinary, and linguistic impacts. This has created the unique mix that is today’s modern Malta and Sicily. We can help you put together your customised program combining visits to these two intriguing Mediterranean islands. Please write us at [email protected] or fill in our contact form to begin discussing your ideal Malta/Sicily trip!Tags: Palermo, Valletta, Gozo, Mdina, Mount Etna, Ggantija Temples, Tarxien Temples