At just 27kms long and 14kms wide; Malta may be small but those 316sq kms- spread over 3 quaint islands- are littered with evidence of centuries of occupation. Early Roman and Christian Catacombs are open for visitors in Rabat, traces of Malta's Arabic conquerors are evident in the Silent City- Mdina, and the period of the Knights of St John can be witnessed in the architecture in Valletta.
On the 21st September 1964- following 160 years of rule by the British- Malta finally gained Independence and, another decade on, became a Republic in its own right. Since that date Malta has gone from strength to strength- with the Financial, iGaming and Pharmaceutical industries seeing exponential growth. Tourism has grown too, with holiday visitors flocking to enjoy the beautiful beaches and relaxed atmosphere. In stark contrast to most other countries within the EU, Malta weathered the recent economic crisis incredibly well also- escaping almost entirely unscathed. It is for these reasons and so many more besides that this iconic date in the Maltese calendar is marked, every year, with a public holiday and celebrations take place across Malta and Gozo.
A few short weeks before- on the 8th September- another national holiday: 'Feast of Our Lady of Victories' commemorates the victories of two of the greatest sieges in Malta's history.
In 1565, Mdina- just a few minutes walk from No. 2 Labini- played its part in the protection, by the Knights of St John, of Malta from the invading Turkish Armada. Roll on several centuries and that very same date saw Italy surrender in its war against the allies.
Malta played a pivotal role in the Mediterranean theatre during World War 2- acting as supply station and a base for the recovery of injured allied servicemen- earning it the title of 'Nurse of the Mediterranean'- and had been battered relentlessly as a result. The 8th of September saw the end of this bombardment.
The 8th September feasts are multi-faceted; most of the 365 churches on the island throw open their doors for the religious celebrations but it is the streets and village squares that really come alive. Flags adorn rooftops, there are magnificent firework displays and villagers and visitors alike come together to celebrate the occasion.
With two of the five National Holidays falling within the month, September is the perfect time to visit Malta and- after everything the country has weathered over the years- no-one could blame the Maltese people for celebrating. Come and join the party- all are welcome.