By the end of our week, we were recognising people we had met earlier in the week and stopping for chats in the street or waving as we passed each other on the road or bumping into familiar faces in restaurants – we felt very much at home. Gozo is indeed a very special destination.
I suspect a lot of Gozitans have remained on the island their whole lives (indeed you only pay for the ferry when you leave the island – not when you cross from Malta to Gozo) and I could see why this may be a good lifestyle choice!
During our week we were fortunate enough to try sea kayaking, cycle 13 km along the north coast of Gozo, go rock climbing & abseiling in the Mgarr Ix Xini Valley, Scuba Dive in Xlendi Bay and snorkel in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, but when asked by the office to choose an overall favourite day – for me - it would have to be the Eco Day in the wonderful company of Steve and Federico:
The Eco Day is kept a bit of a secret and other than the pick-up time we knew very little about what lay ahead. Having read reviews from last year’s clients I knew the Eco Day was a highlight of the holiday. So, with very high expectations we met our guides, Steve & Federico outside the hotel and set off on our adventure.
We were promised some local culture, history, traditions, cuisine and characters and they met all their promises.
We visited the famous Gozo Salt Pans; had a tour of Victoria where we met the local lacemaker and a family of bakers, but the highlight would have to be meeting Ricardo – Gozo’s quiet entrepreneur who runs both a farm and a restaurant on the island. We visited the farm first and Ricardo showed us around his small farmstead and let us milk the goats (some of the group were more successful than others!), wandered around the vineyard (the promise of a taster session later in his restaurant perked the whole group up) and bottle-fed the baby goats (with milk, not wine).
After the farm, we headed into Victoria and before lunch at Ta’Rikardu’s took a stroll to The Citadel which stands over the whole town offering fantastic panoramic views. Federico pointed out the rooftops where he had played football as a child.
Ricardo’s restaurant ‘Ta’Rikardu’s’ was a traditional building with a rustic style matched by its traditional menu of homemade produce. We were greeted like old friends by a ‘scrubbed-up’ Ricardo who led us to the top of the building where he made the cheese that he sold and used in his restaurant. We were treated to a display of cheese making and admired the little jars of cheeses lining the shelves – cheese with peppers, olives, tomatoes, spices, etc.
Back in the restaurant we were served a platter of local delicacies –olives, fresh homemade bread, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, capers and a selection of the Gozo cheese we had just seen made in the kitchen next door - washed down with a bottle of Ricardo’s wine from the vineyard we had just left – magical.
Our final stop with Steve and Federico was for a traditional game of Bocci with the locals. We played a game with the constant reassurance by the all-male local audience (average age 80yrs) that I was doing ‘quite well’. We then split into two and challenged the locals to a game (as long as one of them joined each of our teams!) and we were treated to a display by the true experts.
We parted company with Steve and Federico after a drink back in Xaghra square. I had laughed my way through the day – it was a real treat!
Tonight’s meal was in Marsalform with Rachel and Cornil, our partners in Gozo. They were surprised how different this little town looked out of the busy summer months when all the restaurants would be full and the promenades busy with Gozitans enjoying an ice cream in the evenings with their families. Once again our meal was a pre-booked three-course delight!
We headed home very content - quite simply a perfect day,