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Friday, September 22, 2023

Mediterranean Tales: Navigating Between Malta and Sicily’s Rich Histories

CultureMediterranean Tales: Navigating Between Malta and Sicily's Rich Histories

The waters between Malta and Sicily have borne witness to myriad tales, with small merchant boats, known as speronara, traversing the waves since the 16th century. These boats didn’t just transport passengers and merchandise; they were trusted vessels for vital letters before the establishment of the postal service. However, their versatile nature also made them a favorite for pirates, leading to tales of high seas plunder and coastal chaos.

Setting sail from Marsamxett Harbour in Valletta, the capital of Malta, one is immediately struck by the tangible echoes of Malta’s tumultuous past. The towering fortification walls speak of an island that, due to its prime location bridging Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, had to perpetually defend its shores. As our boat, the ‘Esta Bien,’ eases past these walls, it feels akin to traveling through a portal into another epoch. The blend of ancient architecture and fantasy makes it easy to understand why these shores have been chosen as the backdrop for epic series like Game of Thrones.

Malta, which declared independence from Britain in 1964, may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but it’s saturated with history. Iconic landmarks like the Hagar Qim, a megalithic temple complex that whispers tales dating back to 3600-3200 BC, coexist with remnants of British colonialism, highlighting Malta’s rich tapestry of cultural influences.

As we sail towards Sicily, with the shimmering Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel gradually diminishing behind us, the jovial ambiance on board is palpable. We mark the journey with a pirate-themed toast using rum, allowing us to momentarily embrace the legends of piracy that once defined these waters.

Arriving in Sicily, we find ourselves in Marina di Ragusa, where historic towns like Ragusa Ibla beckon with their Baroque architectural wonders and culinary delights. Here, culinary maestros like Chef Ciccio Sultano blend Sicily’s ancient gastronomic tales with modern flairs, showcasing the island’s diverse cultural tapestry on a plate. Cycling paths reveal serene beaches, with coastal villages like Punta Secca offering quintessential Sicilian experiences.

Apart from its gastronomic offerings, Sicily’s ancient history cannot be missed. The Greek ruins at Agrigento, a testament to the magnificence of Ancient Greece, stand as sentinels of time, allowing visitors to relive a glorious past.

Our return journey to Malta is smooth, the waters calm, carrying our vessel laden with Sicilian treasures—olives, wine, and cannoli. Yet, while our travel might evoke the expeditions of old, our purpose is distinctly modern. In these waters, where history mingles with the present, our voyage is less about conquest and more about cherishing the rich cultural legacies of the Mediterranean.


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