Gozo

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Gozo
Native name: Għawdex
Nickname: Isle of Calypso
Location Gozo Malta.svg
Map of Maltese islands highlighting Gozo
Gozo is located in Italy
Gozo

Gozo (off the coast of Italy)
Geography
Location south of Sicily, Mediterranean Sea
Coordinates 36°03′N 14°15′E / 36.050°N 14.250°E / 36.050; 14.250
Archipelago Maltese islands
Area 67 km2 (26 sq mi)
Length 14 km (8.7 mi)
Width 7.25 km (4.505 mi)
Country
Malta
Largest city Victoria (pop. 6,414)
Demographics
Population 31,053
Density 463.48 /km2 (1,200.41 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Gozitan people
Gozo
Coat of arms of Gozo
Coat of arms
Government
 • Minister for Gozo Anton Refalo
Flag of Gozo

Gozo (/ˈɡ.z/; Maltese: Għawdex, [ˈaˤːw.dɛʃ]) is an island of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is part of the Southern European country of Malta; after the island of Malta itself, it is the second-largest island in the archipelago. Compared to its southeastern neighbour, Gozo is more rural and known for its scenic hills, which are featured on its coat of arms.[1]

The island of Gozo has long been associated with Ogygia, the island home of the nymph Calypso in Homer's Odyssey. In that story, Calypso, possessed of great supernatural powers, and in love with Odysseus, holds him captive for a number of years, until finally releasing him to continue his journey home.[2]

The island has a population of around 31,000 people (all of Malta combined has 402,000), and its inhabitants are known as Gozitans (Maltese: Għawdxin). It is rich in historic locations such as the Ġgantija temples, which, along with the Megalithic Temples of Malta, are the world's oldest free-standing structures and are also among the world's oldest religious structures.[3]

The island is rural in character and, compared to the main island Malta, less developed. Azure Window is a remarkable geologic feature of the island; it is a natural stone arch that was formed millions of years ago when a limestone cave collapsed. There are many beaches on the island, as well as seaside resorts that are popular with tourists and locals alike. The most popular are Marsalforn and Xlendi Bay. Gozo is considered one of the top diving destinations in the Mediterranean and a centre for water sports.[4]

For such a small island, Gozo has a high concentration of churches (46 in all). The Xewkija church has a capacity of 3000, enough for the entire population of Xewkija village, its dome is larger than that of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The church bells are rung daily for the canonical hours Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None and vespers. The most famous church on the island is the National Shrine and Basilica of Santwarju tal-Madonna ta' Pinu.

History[edit]

Gozo has been inhabited since 5000 BC, when farmers from nearby Sicily crossed the sea to the island.[5] Due to the discovery of similar pottery found in both places from the Għar Dalam phase, it has been suggested that the first colonists were specifically from the area of Agrigento; however, it is currently indeterminate exactly which part of Sicily the farmers came from. They are thought to have first lived in caves on the outskirts of what is now known as Saint Lawrence.[5]

Gozo was an important place for cultural evolution, and during the neolithic period the Ġgantija temples were built; they are the world's oldest free-standing structures, as well as the world's oldest religious structures. The temple's name is Maltese for "belonging to the giants", because legend in Maltese and Gozitan folklore says the temples were built by giants. Another important Maltese archaeological site in Gozo, which dates back to the neolithic period, is the Xagħra Stone Circle. Also, native tradition and certain ancient Greek historians (notably Euhemerus and Callimachus) maintain that Gozo is in fact the island Homer described as Ogygia, home of the nymph Calypso.

In July 1551 Ottomans under Turgut Reis and Sinan Pasha invaded and ravaged Gozo and enslaved most of its inhabitants, about 5,000, bringing them to Tarhuna Wa Msalata in Libya, their departure port in Gozo was Mġarr ix-Xini. The island of Gozo was repopulated between 1565 and 1580 by people from mainland Malta, undertaken by the Knights of Malta.[6]

The history of Gozo is strongly coupled with the history of Malta, since Gozo has been governed by Malta throughout history, with the brief exception of a short period of autonomy following the uprising against the French forces after Napoleon's conquest of Malta, between 28 October 1798 and 5 September 1800.

The Gozo Civic Council was set up as a statutory local Government in the island of Gozo on 14 April 1961,[7] the first experiment in civil local government in Malta since the French occupation of 1798-1800. The law authorised the Council to raise taxes, although it never actually made use of this power. In 1971 the Labour Party was voted into office. As its support in Gozo was weak and it favoured a more centralised administration it proposed a referendum on the abolishment of the Council putting emphasis on the unpopular possibility of it raising taxes. In the Gozo Civic Council referendum, 1973, the overwhelming majority of voters (76.97%) voting for the abolition of the Gozo Civic Council.

In the mid-1980s attempts were made to set up a Gozo committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and with the Gozitan Members of Parliament as members. However, it was only in 1987 that the Ministry of Gozo was set up (demoted to a Parliamentary Secretariat between 1996 and 1998). Local government in the Gozitan localities was restored with the introduction of Local councils in 1993 with Gozo having 14 councils.

Connection between Malta & Gozo[edit]

Getting to Gozo[edit]

In the past, there were various options for reaching the island. A sea plane service once operated from Valletta to Mgarr harbour, but its operations are currently "suspended until further notice".[8] Similarly, a helicopter service which connected the two ceased operations in 2006.[9]

By Ferry[edit]

Visitors can currently reach the island by ferry. There are regular crossings between the port of Mġarr on Gozo and Ċirkewwa on the north-west coast of Malta. The Gozo Channel Ferry makes the trip every 45 minutes during the summer and almost as often in the winter. A round trip costs €4.65 and takes around 25 minutes each way. The service is used by tourists and commuters (including Gozitan students, who are studying at the University of Malta) and is also used to transport goods between the islands. Each year, the route is used by around 1.1 million cars, and many more foot passengers.[10] On arrival at Mġarr, visitors can take one of the 'Hop On Hop Off' buses [11] which depart outside the ferry terminal and operate on a timetable which is synchronized with the ferry timetables. Public buses, taxis and hire cars are also available.[12][13]

Gozo Channel Ferry (Malta)

Proposed[edit]

Permanent link (bridge/tunnel)[edit]

Several proposals have been made to construct a road link between Malta and Gozo. In 1972[10] the newly elected Labour Party administration carried out a feasibility study which concluded that the building of a bridge between the two islands was possible but would have negative environmental effects. A tunnel was also considered but found to be too expensive at the time.[14] An online poll by The Times of Malta in 2006 found that 55% of respondents supported a road link.[15]

In June 2013 a "mega Chinese state-owned company [China Communications Construction Corporation Limited] will finance a €4 million study to assess the feasibility of a bridge between Malta and Gozo." ....."Depending on the feasibility of the tunnel and bridge projects, popular consultation will take place giving particular weight to what Gozitans have to say." [16] "Gozo Minister Anton Refalo [...] alluded to the possibility of calling a referendum to determine whether Gozitans prefer a tunnel or a bridge to connect Malta and Gozo [17]

Catamaran[edit]

"Expressions of interest have been issued for a fast catamaran service between Gozo and Valletta as well as between Gozo and Sicily." In June 2013. The services would be aimed for use by both tourists and Maltese and would involve public service obligations.[17]

Air[edit]

An airstrip on Gozo was proposed in the 1990s, but rejected for environmental reasons.[14] In June 2013: "The government intends to issue a call for expressions of interest for the operation of a scheduled air service between Malta and Gozo" [18]

Getting around[edit]

Hop-on Hop-off Bus[edit]

City Sightseeing Gozo Hop-On Hop-Off open top bus FPY 004 at Mġarr.
Gozo Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off open top bus COY 001 at Marsalforn.

A hop-on hop-off bus service operates in Gozo. The open top bus tour of Gozo starts from the harbour of Mġarr. One can 'Hop on and Hop off' at stops located along the route. In Gozo, there are 2 hop-on hop-off providers which offer a tour service linking the most popular places of interest on the island. Each tour includes an audio commentary in 16 languages and each tour takes 45 minutes.

The tour bus can be caught from Gozo Channel Ferry at Mġarr or from any of the stops en route.[19][20] The two hop-on hop-off providers are City Sightseeing Gozo and Gozo Sightseeing.

City Sightseeing Gozo[edit]

City Sightseeing Gozo is the franchisee with City Sightseeing, which is now the world's largest open top Hop On Hop Off tour operator with sightseeing tours in 100 locations.

The commentary is in Maltese, English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Hungarian, Danish, Bulgarian, Dutch, Russian, Polish and Hebrew.

Gozo Sightseeing[edit]

The commentary is in Maltese, English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Hungarian, Danish, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Swedish and Greek.

Public Bus[edit]

Arriva buses are used in Gozo

Like the bus system in Malta, the one in Gozo was recently owned and operated by Arriva. The bus tickets that are bought in Malta are not valid in Gozo and vice versa. Tickets can be purchased directly on the bus where a 2-hour ticket costs €2.20, a 1-day ticket costs €2.60 and a 7-day ticket costs €12.00.

Arriva ceased to operate in Gozo and Malta in January 2014. The service is now being run by Transport Malta on a temporary basis whilst a new operator is sought. The "Arriva" vehicles are still being utilised and most routes remain the same, although there have been some amendments and additions. The most noticeable change at the moment is that the discrepancy between resident and non-resident fares has been abolished with all passengers now paying €1.00 for a 2 hour ticket and €1.50 for the "all day" ticket.

On foot[edit]

If travelling on foot, many of the distances within villages are negligible and most of the roads are fairly quiet and pleasant to walk along. There is also a footpath network, though the paths require good shoes and a good map (they are not always clearly marked on the ground). However, be prepared to walk for longer distances if travelling between different villages, with distances ranging from 1 to 5 km (1 to 3 mi) from one village to the next.

By car[edit]

You need to be over 21 years old and hold a valid driving license. It's fine to travel to the mainland Malta with a hired car and the only extra charge incurred for doing so will be a pricier ferry ticket at €15.70.[21]

By taxi[edit]

White taxis are also found in Gozo, (as soon as one exits the ferry terminal in Mgarr) with their competitive price rates they are the most comfortable means of public transport on the island. Also the ideal for one to visit the hidden charms this Island offers. All taxis are modern, meter priced, air-conditioned and luxurious cars with all of them offering a vast range of pre-determined price tours going to all touristic attractions around the island. All drivers-owners are local, very helpful and full of experience, always ready to answer to any questions tourists might have about the island of Gozo.

Demography[edit]

In 2005, the island had a population of 31,053, of whom 6,414 live in its capital Victoria, also known as Rabat. The crude birth rate was 7.93, considerably lower than that of 9.59 for Malta. The town with the highest birth rate is San Lawrenz (15.93) and that with the lowest is Xewkija (4.89).

Geography[edit]

Gozo covers 67 square kilometres (26 sq mi), approximately the same area as Manhattan. It lies approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) northwest of the nearest point of Malta, is of oval form, and is 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long and 7.25 kilometres (4.50 mi) wide.

Gozo is famed for its character and places of interest. Some of these include the Calypso cave and the Ġgantija Neolithic temples which are among the oldest surviving man-made structures.

Gozo's finest beaches are San Blas and the stunning Ramla Bay, with brilliant orange-red sand and clear turquoise waters.

Mġarr Ix-Xini, a view towards Comino and mainland Malta.

Culture and traditions[edit]

Gozo is also much known for carnival and during that weekend many Maltese people come all over from Malta to experience Gozo’s unique carnival especially in the village of Nadur. Many locals dress up in colourful and also outrageous costumes with the intention of not being recognised.[22]

Feasts are also a very important tradition on the island with celebrations including fireworks and bands every weekend in the summer season.

A number of Maltese dishes or variants of these dishes are associated with Gozo. Gozo is particularly known for its local cheeselet.[23]

Sport[edit]

The island of Gozo also has its own national football team. Because it is a part of Malta and not a state on it own this team isn't official and thereby is on the N.F.-Board. Gozo F.C. play in the Maltese League, while a Gozo Football League is also maintained. Football on the island is managed by the Gozo Football Association.

In film[edit]

Id-Dwejra is one of several filming locations in the Maltese Islands used for the 2011 HBO TV series Game of Thrones.

Gozo was the location for Calypso's Island in the 1997 Hallmark Mini-Series "The Odyssey" based on Homer's epic poem.

In 1981, parts of Episode 7 from Brideshead Revisited were recorded on the island, particularly in the village of Kercem, to depict Fez in Morocco.

Two days of shooting in Gozo's strong Mediterranean light provided shots used to represent the desolate surface of the alien planet in the 1981 British horror film Inseminoid (known in the U.S. as Horror Planet).

In 1978, Kevin Connor's film Warlords of Atlantis starring Doug McClure (The Virginian) was shot in Marsalforn Bay.

Gozo was used to depict "Resolution Island" in Single-Handed (1953 film), based on CS Forester's book Brown on Resolution. For much of the film, the German raider "Essen" (depicted by HMS Manxman) is holed up in the semi-circular Dwejra bay, behind Fungus Rock on the west coast of Gozo, and there are several scenes set among the desolate limestone cliffs above the bay as Able Seaman Brown single-handedly detains the German ship until her pursuers can catch up with her.

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

The Gozo Cathedral

The Island of Gozo, (in Latin Goulos-Gaudisiensis), is considered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gozo. It is in the Mediterranean Sea (seventeen miles (27 km) west of the harbour of Vaite where the earliest evidence of Christianity was discovered.

Up to the year 1864, Gozo formed part of the Diocese of Malta, but Pius IX, acceding to the repeated prayer of the clergy and the people, erected it into a separate exempt diocese, i.e. immediately subject to the Holy See. On 16 March 1863, Monsignor Francesco Michele Butigieg, a native of Gozo, was appointed titular Bishop of Lita and deputy auxiliary of the Archbishop-Bishop of Malta, for the Island of Gozo. He was consecrated at Rome on 3 May of the same year, on 22 September 1864, was created first bishop of the new Diocese of Gozo, and on the 23rd day of the following month made his solemn entry into the new cathedral. Through the efforts of Mgr. Pietro Pace, who was then vicar-general of the diocese, a diocesan seminary was established on the site formerly occupied by the San Giuliano Hospital, the revenues of which were appropriated to the new institution. This seminary was inaugurated 3 November 1866, and by the express desire of Pope Pius IX placed under the direction of the Jesuits.

On the death of Mgr. Butigieg, Father Micallef, Superior General of the Augustinian Order, was made Bishop of Città di Castello and appointed administrator of the Diocese of Gozo. He left Gozo in May, 1867, and in 1871 became Archbishop of Pisa. His successor to the administration of the diocese was Mgr. Antonio Grech Delicata, titular Bishop of Chalcedon, a native of Malta, who in 1868 was appointed Bishop of Gozo, and as such assisted at the First Vatican Council. Mgr. Grech Delicata's charity towards the poor went so far that he divested himself of his own patrimony. This worthy prelate died on the last day of the year 1876.

On 12 March 1877, Mgr. Canon Professor Pietro Pace, native of Gozo, was appointed to succeed Mgr. Grech Delicata, and was consecrated at Rome by Cardinal Howard. Under his administration the seminary was augmented by the installation of a meteorological observatory, which was inaugurated by the celebrated Padre Denza, Director of the Vatican Observatory. During this administration an episcopal educational institute for girls was also established, under the care of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, to whom was also entrusted the direction of the annexed orphan asylum. The same bishop provided the diocese with a new episcopal palace and new monasteries, besides laying out large sums of money on the cathedral.

In 1889, Mgr. Pace was promoted Archbishop of Rhodes and Bishop of Malta. His successor in the See of Gozo was the Reverend G. M. Camilleri, O.S.A., a native of Valletta (b. 15 March 1842). Under Mgr. Camilleri's administration the first diocesan synod was celebrated, in October, 1903. This synod was of absolute necessity, as the diocese was still governed under the rules of the Synod of Malta of 1703, and consequently lacked a safe guide adapted to the times. Constitutions and decrees were also promulgated and published which gave new life to the working of the diocese.

The cathedral church of Gozo was built in 1697-1703, by Lorenzo Gafa. Its ground plan is in the form of a Latin cross. The Cathedral is also the annual pilgrimage site of the Grand Priory of the Mediterranean of the Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. Its interior is adorned with fine paintings. The "Massagiere di Maria", an Italian periodical, is recognized in the Diocese of Gozo as the official organ of the sanctuary of the Bl. Virgin ta Pinu.

Currently the Bishop of Gozo is Mgr. Mario Grech.

Villages in Gozo[edit]

Notable features[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°03′N 14°15′E / 36.050°N 14.250°E / 36.050; 14.250