On many an occasion I have referred to the idyllic island of Gozo as ‘the Mediterranean’s best kept secret’.
This small island steeped in history dating back to the beginning of time boasts of a character which is truly unique. The island’s pleasing contrasting styles are bound to leave their mark on the visitor. Starting from its rugged terrain and spectacular coastline, bordering the transparent azure sea of the Mediterranean, only to give way to the beautifully decorated churches, Baroque palaces, museums and other historic buildings culminating in Victoria’s extravagant citadel, which has played such a courageous role in Malta’s chequered history.
The many products littering the shelves of its modern supermarkets vie to compete with the natural goodness of the island’s bountiful farm produce. Where the sense of timelessness and apparent isolation, ideal for those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern-day living, suddenly merges into the joyful festivities, replete with band marches and the colourful fireworks celebrating the village’s Patron Saint, or the more profane traditional celebrations of Carnival, the Good Friday processions, the sporting celebrations or the Yuletide festivities.
Besides speaking good English, the islanders are so friendly and eager to please, that one immediately feels at ease with the place and its inhabitants. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that everybody ,who has been a somebody in the Mediterranean region, has at some time or other, occupied Malta. And the natives have learnt to live and assimilate with the conquerors, making the Maltese Islands one of the earliest Cosmopolitan centres. For example, after the demise of the Neolithic culture, the islands were in turn inhabited by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs respectively. These were followed by the Normans, the Knights of St John (also known as the Knights of Malta), the French and the British.
This might explain why unlike other countries there are no enclaves for a particular nationality in Malta. On the contrary, on an island like Gozo everybody makes it a point to mix with one another and that includes the local population.
Regarding Culture suffice it to say that this island of circa 27,000 people boasts of not ‘one’ opera house – and that would be a significant feat in itself – but ‘two’ lyrical houses which thrive on volunteer assistance making the island a truly cultural hub.
This readily explains why over the past decade there has been a steady stream of people who have chosen to relocate to Gozo either to enjoy their retirement in a place where ‘the living is easy’ or else buy a second home in which they and their friends may enjoy ‘the best kept secret of the Mediterranean’.
The choice of property in Gozo may be as varied, and as contrasting, as the nature of the island itself. Among those who want to relocate to Gozo, chances are that they would go for the luxury type of dwelling, which would consist mainly of an old house of character or a converted farmhouse with swimming pool. In this respect, it’s worth mentioning that there is an abundance of technical skills available, and that labour charges are probably a quarter of what one pays for the same job anywhere else in Gozo.
Buyers of second homes may be more interested in purchasing a modern apartment, a terraced house or a two- or three-bedroom hilltop flat overlooking some rural valley or the magnificent Mediterranean. And on this 14.5 km long and 8 km wide island you may rest assured that the sea is never far away from where you live!
And whether it’s a ‘standalone’ or an apartment that takes one’s fancy, the pricing is deemed quite reasonable. Having just scoured the local papers in preparation of this feature I can see that the pricing range is approximately €80,000 for an apartment, €200,000 for houses of character while the luxury villas and state of the art bungalows range between €450,000 to €600,000.
This to me seems a fair price for living the lazy life in a such a vibrant yet charming environment, where the old traditions seem to have adapted so splendidly to the demands of contemporary society and where everything you need is just minutes away from where you are.
Incidentally I have also learned that the good natured neighbours have no problems with looking after vacant properties when the owners are away.
Written by Tony Cassar Darien