Malta, A Destination For The Autumn Season

For most of us living in European countries, Autumn means shorter days and longer nights; the warmth and happy feeling of summer has started to fade.  Sometime if we are lucky we get a prolong warm that comes around in the day, but when the nights draw in and we feel an autumn chill, many of us will be yearning for some warmth and sun.

Fortunately for us we don't have to travel long-haul to find it. Malta – which is far destination for us European makes the perfect Autumn or Winter getaway.  With temperatures around 70oF in October and over 300 days of sunshine throughout the year, this Mediterranean island is the hotspot for those of us wanting to enjoy the summer feeling a little bit longer.

Perched above the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, this historic, walked city is a treasure trove of beautiful squares, cobbled streets, medieval cathedrals and surprising striking and cutting-edge architecture, thanks to the involvement of architect Renzo Piano, who has designed an open air theatre, Parliament building and a stunning city gate.

Soak up the buzzing cafe culture, dine al fresco, eat at some of the finest restaurants in the world, enjoy the fantastic shopping and come the evening, there will inevitably be something going on.

The capital of Malta is Valletta, and at its heart is Republic Street – Triq ir-Repubblika – from where the city’s grille of streets can be explored. Designed to keep the city cool throughout the hotter months, these narrow walkways sheltered by tall townhouses have a sense of grandeur – see the array of colourful, ornate balconies and you will get a feel for life in centuries past. Other must-sees are the majestic castle, the Auberge de Castille, and the interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral.

However, while Valletta is a historical and architectural gem, in effect a living, breathing museum, it offers much more than heritage. This cultural hub has a seemingly endless itinerary of festivals, from jazz and arts to film and theatre, as well as attracting the clubbing scene to festivals such as Annie Mac’s Lost & Found and Isle of MTV.

The month of October is a great time to visit with the annual Notte Bianca seeing thousands of people enjoying the numerous museums and cultural spaces that, for one evening, are open to the public free of charge. The streets are brought alive with activities, performances and music. The Rolex Middle Sea Race, a 606-nautical mile race, kicks off from Valletta’s Grand Harbour in October, attracting and international crowd. For those looking to escape over the festive period, the International Christmas Festival, held in Valletta during December, is a great way to celebrate, with bands, majorettes and street parades.

And when the January blues strike, pop away for a long weekend to the Valletta International Baroque Festival, which sees top international musicians and ensembles performing in nine different venues.

Malta may be the least populated member state of the European Union, with a population of 450,000, but it can certainly compete on the world stage when it comes to hospitality. Boutique hotels include Palazzo Consiglia in a restored townhouse close to the Valletta waterfront. It has a roof terrace, mini pool and winter sundeck, plus 13 luxury rooms. The marble-floored SU29 hotel, minutes from Fort St Elmo and the Grand Harbour, is the epitome of modern luxury while Ursulino Valletta, a townhouse elegantly restored to five-star hotel standards, has a roof terrace with 360-degree views of the Valletta skyline.

It is not just Valletta that is being recognised as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, but all of the Maltese islands. These include the tranquil Gozo and the car-free Comino that is virtually uninhabited apart from one hotel and is famous for the aquamarine water of the Blue Lagoon, with its white sandy beach.

Year round, all three islands attract scuba divers, sailors, snorkelers, walkers and hikers. In fact, when it comes to sports, you will be spoilt for choice whether it is on land or sea. However, if that sounds too active, Malta is also a wonderful place to unwind in luxury retreats such as the Locanda La Gelsomina, a boutique hotel in one of Birgu’s oldest buildings dating from the early 1500’s. This town – also known as Vitoriosa and one of the islands’ Three Cities – is easy to reach from Valletta. Just hail a local water taxi from Grand Harbour and, as you breathe in the sea air, you will feel a world away from the grey days and dark nights of Autumn.