This sponsored post will put you in festive mood as we visit a Maltese festa with Cery Houlbrook, where she finds the village of Sannat on Gozo decked out for it’s annual festival and enjoys the Maltese food specialities and a spectacular firework finale.
Covering a mere 316 square km, it’s difficult to believe that Malta – one of the world’s smallest countries – can accommodate so many tourists. Nevertheless, each year countless holiday-makers flock to Malta, hoping for some sun, sea and sand, but while Malta does cater well for the average holidaying family – budget accommodation, beautiful scenery, reliably glorious weather – it can sometimes be a tough nut to crack for those who are eager to stray a little from the beaten track.
With so much of Malta’s coastlines taken over by bars, nightclubs, high-rise hotels and strings of villa complexes, it can sometimes feel as if the country is one big resort. Luckily, this is far from true, and if you want a chance to escape the hordes of tourists, rub shoulders with the locals, and experience some authentic local culture, then Malta certainly still has something to offer you, especially if you’re lucky enough – as I was – to stumble into a Maltese festa.
The festa of St Margaret on Gozo
Each year, every single town in Malta celebrates the patron saint of their parish by throwing a festa – or village feast. But wanting to check out the festa of one of the smaller villages, where the festivities would be more personal,I bid the shores of Malta’s main island farewell and headed for the smaller sister island of Gozo, which seems generally less tourist-oriented, less developed and far more peaceful. Once there, I made Sannat my destination.
This quiet village, perched on Gozo’s southern coast,throw their festa in honour of St. Margaret on the fourth Sunday in July every year, and as a destination in itself, it certainly is beautiful. With the limestone crags of the Ta’Cenc plateau providing spectacular views across a turquoise ocean, this is one of the best hiking destinations in Malta; dozens of trails, abounding in flora and fauna, wind their way along the sea-cliff edges and down the rugged gorge of Hanzira Valley. Simply stunning.
Festa preparations at Sannat
However, while there’s certainly more than enough to see and do in Sannat at anytime of the year, to arrive there on their festa-day really was the icing on the cake. Like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a vibrant butterfly, the village completely transforms itself over this three day festival. The villagers, proud of Sannat’s festa and hoping to rival neighbouring villages, adorn their streets with religious statues and colourful banners and bunting, before lavishly decorating their church with enough fairy-lights to rival the Las Vegas strip. And then, as night falls, a group of locals carry their statue of St. Margaret on a procession through the streets, with the jovial church-bells ringing in the background and the parishioners following close behind. This is when the party really begins.
Maltese food for the Festa
Sannat’s village brass band, Banda Santa Margerita, gets the music underway and the locals set up their street-side food stalls, offering the perfect opportunity to sample some authentic Maltese food. Most of their cuisine, typically Mediterranean, is based on local produce and seafood, light and fresh for the warm summer evening. I wolfed down a ftira, flatbread stuffed with tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies, and a slice of tortatal-lampuki, which is fish baked in a pie with olives, sultanas and walnuts, before hitting the sweet stalls. The most typical dessert for the village festa is qubbajt, Maltese nougat flavoured with almonds or hazelnuts, but it was the Torta tat-Tamal that really got me hooked: date tart with cocoa, walnuts, and orange zest. Worth every calorie.
Festival fireworks on the Piazza Santa Margarita
With a full stomach, I headed over to Piazza Santa Margarita to watch the evening’s final set of entertainment: a fireworks display. Catherine Wheels the size of houses whirled and whizzed; rockets shot this way and that, pounding our eardrums; hundreds of fireworks erupting all at once, emblazoning the night sky with a rainbow of colour. And back at the opulently adorned church, the ringing bells reach their crescendo as the statue of St. Margaret is returned home for another year, until the next festa. All this, accompanied by the sounds of local children shrieking with delight as the final firework explodes overhead, illuminating the village below, makes my trip completely worthwhile. The festa may not be your typical example of nightlife in Malta, but it certainly was one party I’ll never forget.
Thanks for this article written by Ceri Houlbrook, who is from Manchester, England, although she doesn’t support United! Her passions include reading, writing, hiking and travelling the globe in search of some adventure.
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