Malta is mainly famous as a tourist destination for entertainment, but in recent years the interest for local products and Maltese rural life experiences has increased.
The olive oil history in Malta
The link between Malta and the olive trees cultivation dates back to over two thousand years ago. The Phoenicians started it, and the Romans carried it on, as the names of some cities evidence: there is Birzebbuga, which means “the good olive,” Ghajn Zejtuna, that is “spring oil,” and Żejtun, which means “the fruit of the olive tree.” Then, the olive oil production suffered an arrest during the English domination, which influenced the Maltese agriculture, but during the 1990s this cultivation was rediscovered. Between Malta and Gozo there are nine oil mills and the varieties of cultivars, which are usually imported from Italy, are Frantoio, Leccino, Carolea, Coratina, Pendolino, and Cipressino. However, there still is a “native” quality: the Bidni, which is strong and resistant in spite of its small fruit, which is very rich in oil.
The olive tree, the oil, and the tourism
Nowadays, the olive oil industry also adds value to the Maltese tourism sector: olive trees remain green even during Summer and grow up along the entire territory creating an incredible landscape that makes the Maltese country a unique place to see and to visit. Moreover, local olive oil bottles are very popular souvenirs.
Żejtun, the olives Maltese town
The Żejtun origins date, obviously, back to the Phoenicians and Romans times. Until 1680, its inhabitants formed two separate communities, which unified during the 18th century, with the construction of the new church.
Once a year, Żejt iż-Żejtun is celebrated in Żejtun. It’s a festival that starts with a procession and the blessing of the harvested olives. During it, the historic sites are open to the public, there are flag-wavers with medieval costumes, and singers and dancers perform in the streets. You can admire the ancient tools used for working the land, and it is also possible to buy the local agricultural tradition products. Last but not least, you can taste Ftira (a typical Maltese bread) topped with new oil.
Places you absolutely have to see in Malta
So, Malta is not just fun, but tradition and culture too, and those who decide to visit it cannot lose, in particular, Valletta and Marsaxlokk.
Valletta is the capital of the island, as well as the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Among the most important buildings of historical relevance, the best known is the Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, in whose oratory there are two paintings by Caravaggio: the Saint Jerome Writing and The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, which is the most important one because it’s the only signed by the artist.
The Fort Saint Elmo is a fort built in the second half of the 16th century, which was remodeled and now houses a museum and the police school.