Italy to Malta: Slow Travel Tips and Things to Do
Traveling from Italy to Malta is like passing from one paradise to the next. After all, both countries boast an abundance of intoxicating sunshine, ancient history, natural beauty and azure warm waters, not to mention passionate and welcoming inhabitants!
However, there are tantalizing differences to be enjoyed as well…
Having recently spent a couple of months in Italy before moving onto Malta, I can say without a doubt that the Maltese Archipelago is, quite simply, unique.
Thanks to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, it’s been besieged by power-hungry rulers since the dawn of time.
And evidence of this tumultuous past can be found everywhere, from its inimitable fortified cities to the smorgasbord of cultural influences seen in the Maltese language, food dishes, and general way of life. It’s exotic, captivating, and, ultimately, well worth exploring after your time in Italy.
Do you want some help planning your trip from Italy to Malta? Would you like to learn how to get there while embracing slow travel ideals? And, after all that, are you up for finding out a selection of the best things to see and do in your new destination?
Well, you’re in the right place! Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to slow traveling from Italy to Malta with confidence, followed by 10 ideas on what to do upon arrival.
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Slow Travel from Italy to Malta
Travelers looking for the quickest and easiest way to get from Italy to Malta should, as you’d expect, take the plane! You can fly direct to Valletta (Malta’s capital city) in just over an hour from across the country, and for budget-friendly prices no less.
Slow travelers seeking a more sedate, leisurely passage will be pleased to hear flying isn’t the only way to reach the Maltese Archipelago! That said, the options are somewhat limited…
If you’re taking one of our Italian road trips through southeastern Sicily in the Val di Noto, the town of Pozzolo is just a short drive from Modica, where you catch the ferry to Malta.
Here are the two available vessels and some details on how to get to Malta from Italy and the respective journeys:
1. Italy to Malta Ferry
The Italy to Malta ferry is by far the simpler of the two slow travel alternatives to get between the two countries, or the Malta to Italy ferry depending on whether you’re coming or going.
Various routes are available, which leave from different parts of Bel Paese (the poetic nickname for Italy, meaning “beautiful country”) and provide regular trips between these two Mediterranean destinations.
If you’re in Sicily, you can take the Virtu Ferry service from either Pozzallo or Catania, both of which berth in Valletta. For mainland travelers, Grimaldi Ferries can take you to Malta’s capital from Genoa, Livorno, or Salerno.
Be careful though — COVID-19 seems to have had its wicked way with the ferry services here. Some lines are operational (on a reduced schedule), whereas others don’t seem to be traveling at all!
Likewise, things are changing on a regular basis, so it’ll be worth checking before departure exactly what’s available to you.
2. Travel by Sailboat
Now, I’ve never sailed anything other than a toy boat across a tiny pond. So, much to my detriment, I know nothing about sailing from Italy to Malta other than that it’s possible!
COVID-19 travel restrictions may put a spanner in the works right now, yet people can and do sail from one place to the other (and back again).
Actionable information on the internet is somewhat limited, but the typical route seems to leave from Sicily (the “ball” to Italy’s “boot”) and end in Valletta.
For slow travelers without their own boat, there appears to be at least one operator that could take you across (called Naleia Yachting). However, once again, I definitely recommend doing some further research to assess the options!
Traveling to Malta from Italy: Visa Details
Assuming the borders are open, the boat services are running, and it’s safe to travel, Malta should be nice and easy to get into for most people!
If you’re from the US, for instance, all you need at the time of writing is a passport that’s valid for at least 3 months after your date of departure.
Thanks to Malta’s status as a Schengen country, you don’t have to get a visa (unless you plan on staying longer than 90 days).
Take note, though: this will change slightly in 2022, at which point anyone from countries that currently don’t require a visa to enter the Schengen Zone (including the US and UK) must organize a Europe/ETIAS visa waiver to enter.
Of course, because Italy is another Schengen country, you should already have an ETIAS before traveling to Malta!
Top 10 Things to Do In Malta
Okay, so let’s skip ahead. Imagine that you’ve travelled by boat from Italy to Malta, basked in the slow journey and seafaring spirit, and breathed your fill of the fresh ocean air.
Now, having set foot on this historic sun-kissed land, you’re ready to see everything it has to offer! To help you plan your next steps, here’s a comprehensive selection of the top 10 things to do in Malta:
1. Explore Historic Valletta
Valletta is the sort of place where you soon run out of superlatives. Riddled with history, this ancient fortified city is impressive on both real and figurative levels! It’s like something taken straight out of Game of Thrones, with imposing stone ramparts rising tall and thick from the ground on which you stand.
Ultimately, Valletta’s a jaw-dropping place that’s sure to hold endless intrigue for someone with an interest in history. I recommend spending at least a day here (and preferably more), exploring all that it has to offer.
Aside from simply strolling the enchanting streets, head to the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens for views over the Grand Canal, the armory at the Grand Master’s Palace, and to St. John’s Co-Cathedral in the centre of town — three of the top Malta attractions in the capital.
>>> See all the Game of Thrones film locations around Malta on this full day tour! <<<
>>> Where to Stay in Valletta? <<<
With so many great places to stay in the capital city of Valletta, you could go 5-star or find a quaint airbnb in a residential neighborhood. But the 3-star Valletta Kursara Port View is a perfect happy medium, with a feel more like a charming historic hotel than apartments.
The prime location is close to everything yet quiet and homey. And the rooftop terrace and pools are the perfect spot to relax at the end of the day and enjoy views that go on forever.
2. Be Amazed by Magical Mdina
Mdina (sometimes called “The Silent City”) is another of my favorite places in the country and a dreamland for history buffs. Reminiscent of a landlocked Valletta, it was once the capital of Malta and boasts spectacular panoramic views from the huge ramparts that it’s built upon.
Now, this place is a joy to explore on foot, but anyone who fancies a novel experience in Mdina can pay to go the traditional Maltese way: by horse-drawn carriage (known as a Karozzin)!
However you choose to see it, you’ll go down quiet stone streets and past age-old buildings that transport you to another place in time. It’s a beautiful and unmissable place.
3. Go to St. Paul’s Catacombs
Talking of unmissable places, make sure you take the 20-minute walk from Mdina to Rabat to see the St. Paul’s Catacombs situated there.
A fascinating tourist activity that, once again, is saturated with tales of bygone times, this series of underground burial chambers offers visitors a unique, if eerie, way to spend a few hours in Malta.
Unsuitable for anyone with claustrophobia, you can expect low-ceilings, low-lighting, and a “deathly” silence. Tickets to the Catacombs are budget-friendly and you can take as much or little time as you need to get a sense of them.
4. Visit the Pre-Historic Ħaġar Qim Temple
Anyone hungry for even more history on their trip to Malta should take the first opportunity they get to visit the Pre-Historic Ħaġar Qim Temple complex.
You know the famed pyramids of Egypt thought to be thousands of years old? Well, the megalithic site at Ħaġar Qim is said to precede it by more than 1,000 years!
This is truly one of the best places in Malta for history hounds.
Plan your trip carefully! The site’s only open between 10.00 and 16.30 from Thursday through Sunday.
5. Hike along the Coast
If you ever grow tired of exploring Malta’s myriad historic sites, then why not mix things up a bit by going on a hike? A tiny island in the middle of the Med, you’ll find countless coastal walks here that are suitable for all abilities.
For one of my favorites, head to the aptly-named (and stunning) “Golden Bay” on the northwest coast and walk south along the footpath. Expect windswept sands, striking cliffs, and a delightful taste of Maltese natural beauty.
A word of caution, though: Malta can be incredibly hot and sunny (especially in summer)! Furthermore, a surprising lack of trees means shady spots are often few and far between. So, if you do decide to go on a hike, I strongly recommend taking sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.
6. Visit Marsaxlokk and St. Peter’s Pool
St. Paul’s Bay is awesome. Yet it definitely lacks some of the charm you find in other parts of the country. Case in point? The tiny, traditional fishing village in the southeast, called Marsaxlokk! With a colorful harbor, great views, and a pleasant local vibe, this place definitely deserves a spot on your Malta itinerary (even if it’s just for an afternoon).
One of the primary attractions here is St. Peter’s Pool. A short walk from Marsaxlokk village centre, it’s a stunning natural swimming hole that comes with more of Malta’s crystal clear turquoise waters. While you’re there, take the time to walk around the headland for awesome coastal views of the area.
>>> Where to Stay in Marsaxlokk <<<
Located right on the waterfront in a restored 19th-century building, the romantic Quayside has views of the Mediterranean to die for, free on-site parking and free WiFi access. Best of all, the cost is amazing too.
7. Check out Popeye’s Village
Anyone who’s seen the 1980 musical “Popeye” will be familiar with this particular Malta attraction already. Why? Because the so-called “Popeye Village” was built along a spectacular stretch of Maltese coastline specifically for the film!
Then, when the filming was over, whoever was in charge decided against tearing it down. They converted it into a tourist destination instead; a Popeye-themed attraction park complete with boat rides, food outlets, and showings of a documentary film.
Throw in the outstanding coastal location and, although it’s undoubtedly a little bit tacky, Popeye Village warrants a visit (especially if you’re looking for things to do in Malta with kids).
8. Enjoy St. Paul’s Bay (and its Secret Ruins)
St. Paul’s Bay was my base in Malta for the couple of months I spent there, and I loved it!
Expect a lively expat scene, a nice beach to chill out at with the locals, a fantastic waterfront to stroll down, a large, well-known, aquarium, and countless bars, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants thrown in for good measure.
However, my favorite place in St. Paul’s Bay sits a few kilometres outside town…
Google “Xemxija Hill Heritage Walk”, hit “directions”, and take the road heading north (keeping the sea on your right). You’ll eventually reach a steep hill, at which point you’ll see signs for the Punico-Roman Apiary.
Follow them and you’ll soon come to an ancient dwelling place, complete with a crazy stone apiary (which, as I discovered, is somewhere you keep bees).
True to Maltese form, this historic site is simply there for you to enjoy and explore — no entrance fee or hullabaloo in sight.
9. Go Scuba Diving
Malta is famous for many things including its reputation as a world-class scuba-diving destination. The bucket list dive destination has the perfect combo of crystal clear warm waters and dozens of shipwrecks (and plane wrecks) to explore!
These factors combine to create a pristine playground for diving enthusiasts.
Not a PADI-certified diver yet? You can still go diving in Malta for the day with this resort course and dive!
Whether you’re in Malta, Gozo, or Comino (the three islands of the Maltese Archipelago), you’ll find a mass of opportunities to strap on an oxygen tank and explore the ocean floor. However, from what I gather, the infamous Inland Sea and Blue Hole at Gozo hold particular diving appeal.
10. Take a Trip to Gozo, Comino, and the Blue Grotto
No trip to Malta is complete without hopping on a boat to the other two islands in the archipelago: Gozo and Comino. Trust me, Gozo is so jam-packed with sights and attractions that I could easily write a whole article on things to do in Gozo.
And teeny-tiny Comino holds its own charm (not to mention the Blue Lagoon, an outlandishly beautiful strip of water that’s so clear it defies belief).
I recommend combining a visit to the two islands into a single trip, with the vast majority of your time spent exploring Gozo.
With the Citadel, the Azure Window (a popular natural rock arch that’s now collapsed), the Inland Sea, and the jaw-dropping Ramla Bay as a mere handful of its myriad attractions, you won’t regret it.
>>> Where to Stay in Gozo <<<
There are lots of great places to stay in Gozo, but if you’re slow traveling, how about this charming and somewhat secluded B&B? Ta' Maria is a 19th century farmhouse in the open countryside of Ghasri, the smallest village in Gozo.
There are 2 lovely terraces, a year round outdoor swimming pool, and the bus stop is a 7 minute walk away — perfect for easy exploring.
Make the Most of Your Malta Itinerary
There you have it, then: how to travel from Italy to Malta (slowly!), followed by 10 top things to see and do when you get there. As you can tell, although bidding farewell to Italy is sure to be difficult, there’s solace to be found in the fact you’re swapping one stunning destination for another.
With any luck, the insights and ideas in this article have shed some useful light on both the journey between Italy and Malta as well as the best things to do when you arrive! Do you have any questions or thoughts on anything I’ve covered?
Drop a comment below and we’ll do our best to help.