A Haven in the Mediterranean

Iyna Bort Caruso

Malta is one of the world’s smallest countries, but it is densely packed--not just in population but in history and heritage.

The name is said to be derived from the word meaning refuge or haven by the ancient Phoenicians who inhabited this area thousands of years ago. The name is still fitting.

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean consisting of three inhabited islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino. The republic boasts a warm subtropical climate, a stunning coastline of cliffs and coves and nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. A time tunnel revered by amateur historians, its seven megalithic temples are among the oldest freestanding structures in the world.

This is a country of long-standing traditions. Houses are often noted by names rather than formal addresses, and locals put an emphasis on owning, not renting.

Modern villas, maisonettes and apartments dot the landscape. Contemporary seafront complexes are rising in prime areas, some built on historic sites. Restored older town homes known as “houses of character” are sought by those who value homes with stories to tell.

Luxury lifestyle developments have attracted international interest, especially buyers from Northern Europe and South Africa. Malta has also been cited as a top destination for retirees. It’s especially popular with British retirees who share a historical link. Malta was part of the British Empire from 1800-1964.

Foreign nationals are permitted to buy one property in Malta, usually designed for owner-occupancy. However, they can own more than one property in specially designated areas.

The Sliema area on Malta’s East Coast started off as a 19th century summer resort for the wealthy. These days fashionable penthouses with staff quarters and private pools fringe the shoreline. Just south is the fortress city of Valletta, the Malta capital and the recently named European Capital of Culture for 2018. The cluster of towns known as the Three Villages--Lija, Balzan and Attard--are exclusive neighborhoods. Attard is the official residence of the president of Malta. By contrast, the north of Malta is marked by dramatic landscapes, while the south retains its quiet, fishing village roots.

Malta has long been a crossroads between Europe and Africa, one that has attracted the attention of world powers due to its strategic position. Since prehistoric times, a succession of powers has come and left a mark. The result is a country that bares and blends international styles, influences, architecture and culture.