Engaging Malta Because we love Malta

June 14, 2012

The Charms of Malta

Filed under: — falcon @ 6:41 am

Vittoriosa, Three Cities, Malta

There certainly is a lot to see and be captivated by in Malta. The photograph to the right is of a restaurant in Vittoriosa, one of the Three Cities that line the Grand Harbour in Malta. On the other side of the harbour (the Mediterranean’s deepest natural harbour) stands Valletta – an ancient city full of history, religion and intrigue.

Locations like that restaurant – that look like they could have come from a movie set – are almost everywhere in Malta. In the older parts of the country, there are literally historic locations and fabulous settings down almost every alleyway. Locations such as Valletta, Mdina, the Three Cities and Mosta have features that can capture the imagination of anyone.

Since Malta is such a religious country, the major churches play a huge role in providing this charm and character. The giant domed church in Mosta – for example – needs to be seen to be believed. In terms of size and scale, it is easily on a par with the Pantheon in Rome. Whether you are religious or not, it is impossible to doubt the power of faith when you see such an amazing building. In case you are not aware, Malta is a Catholic country.

Much of the island’s history is tied into the great powers of Europe and their wars. The Knights of Malta were drawn from the wealthiest and most powerful families in Europe to build and defend Malta. It’s strategic location meant that defending the island was a good first step to defending the rest of the continent. For this reason, parts of Malta have unusual European names (such as Manoel Island, named after a Portugese Grandmaster) and much of Valletta was originally built with the money of these foreign benefactors. Thus, the walls of Valletta have appropriate names – such as the French Curtain and the English Curtain. Similarly, parts of St John’s Co-Cathedral have national names and funding. In fact, there are parts of the Cathedral, currently being restored, with funding provided by modern day governments from around Europe. The German and Italian governments have such projects, for example.

Stairway in Vittoriosa, Malta

All this history means that there are little hideaways and wonderfully photogenic areas in all sorts of places. Valletta certainly has many wonderful locations for a camera enthusiast (like this fellow) and when combined with good weather and – typically – strong sunshine, the light can be excellent for taking some shots.

It isn’t just churches and defensive walls that provide the buildings in Malta. There are many, many lovely homes on the island. Of course, as with everywhere in the world, there are many that aren’t quite so charming as well… Again, the older cities such as Valletta and Mdina play host to many incredible buildings in their narrow streets that have now been turned into residential property or commercial offices (the offices are mostly in Valletta).

Some of the properties in Malta are termed as a ‘house of character’ and can offer a lot to the buyer. These are typically found in the more open spaces and smaller towns to the west west and south west of the island where land is more available.

Unfortunately, almost every street in the country seems to be blighted by unfinished and empty properties. This is especially true of many apartment buildings where it seems as though two or three of every ten properties built lays empty. Some parts of the island resemble unfinished building sites. This, it has to be said, is not Malta’s finest point.

Yet, there is a lot of property that is very well finished with lovely sea views. Some of the best apartments have amazing sea views – such as the Tigne Point complex (click here for details) which overlooks both the sea and Valletta. These types of upper market properties can be found – along with everything else – by speaking to real estate agents such as this one in Malta. If you happen to already own one of these lovely apartments, or something similar, and find the management a pain, then speak to an expert like Lisa Inglis.

One of the charms of Malta to tourists is the location. It is so far south – by European standards – that the weather is pretty much guaranteed to be good throughout summer – and summer is very long! Typically, the weather is very acceptable from late April until at least early November – if not longer. For example, your author took his last swim in the sea in 2011 on December 12th. It was not particularly warm, but no worse than the coast of southern England in July!

This means that tourism is a vital part of the local economy and there are many businesses in the service sector that generate most of their revenues by helping visitors to have a good time. One such firm (here) runs an independent chain in Sliema and St Julian’s for the many budget visitors.

The fact that good weather is guaranteed makes the country a popular choice for destination type events. A large (and growing) category of these events is weddings. If you get married in Malta in May to November you can pretty much guarantee that the sun will be out for the photographer! This combination, combined with low(ish) costs and the amazing heritage and scenery mentioned above is making the country more popular every year with engaged couples. This means that there is a growing wedding planning industry with some experienced and talented people leading the way (such as this company).

One factor that makes the country so appealing to many is it’s combination of English speaking population, it’s British heritage – at times it feels like 1950s Britain – and membership of the European Union. The ease that the EU provides to people wishing to travel (Malta is part of the Schengen zone) is a real plus point for the tourism sector. Malta doesn’t really have much clout in the EU yet – it is very small and joined relatively recently after all. It needs to find some more elected Maltese politicians in positions of authority before that happens.

This “Englishness” has many more benefits than just for tourism though. There are many areas of Maltese business that benefit from having a legal system that is in English, based on English Common Law and within the EU. For financial transactions (investment management, banking, trusts, etc) there is a great deal of trust worldwide. While it might be a fluke of history, it is a valuable fluke.

For businesses, this offers a number of interesting opportunities. There are many thousands of businesses that call Malta “home”. Many gaming and financial firms have moved to the country because of the EU access and low corporate taxes. There are many thousands of individuals and families that have moved here for similar reasons, coming to a warmer and sunnier life in a lower tax jurisdiction. Needless to say, there are many firms whose business model revolves around helping these individuals and organisations move to Malta in as smooth and efficient a manner as possible.

For another example, Malta has one of the largest shipping registries in the world. Vessels from across the globe are registered in the country for purposes of beneficial taxation rates and insurance rules. Likewise, there is a growing reputation in the country for aviation. Having made the shipping registry a success, the government has passed laws in the hope that other areas will grow into something similar. These areas include residency, citizenship, yachts and aircraft. This is, of course, good news for law firms, accountants, auditors and company directors.

Needless to say, transport is a vital area of the Maltese economy. Essentially, the country could not continue without importing much (most) of the food and goods required. This has offered a long-term business opportunity for many firms run by Maltese businessmen. Clearly there is less to export than to import into Malta, but still, providing those connections are a wide array of Malta shipping agents that keep the show on the road. Most of these goods come into the freeport in the very south of the country and are then distributed around the island.

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