It’s been a short-lived, but passionate dream of mine to visit the island nation of Malta. I didn’t know what to expect, but somehow it wasn’t what I expected. The capital of Valletta would make an interesting place to live, though not necessarily in a good way.
Malta was a British colony until 1964, so it feels like the south of Italy, if the south of Italy was part of the UK. There are lively pubs everywhere, and a ton of Brits that still treat Malta like King George’s summer home. As its capital, Valletta is a stunning port town made up of tiny neighborhoods that extend out into the Mediterranean. One of the most notable things about it is that it’s so monochromatic. Much of the city and the country was built with beige stone that makes it look like a living ruin.
Having stayed in a quiet residential neighborhood, I found it extremely peaceful and homey. The tourism, even in the center of Valletta is not so excruciating that it makes enjoying those beautiful parts of the city daunting. I appreciate a place that locals can still take advantage of without being run over by tour buses.
As a former British colony, driving is on the left hand side, which means I could never drive there. The good news is that the public transportation system is vast and ubiquitous. You can get around anywhere in Valletta and even all of Malta by bus or ferry. And the best part is that the ferry for getting to and from Valletta is just 1.50 Euro. If I had to take a nice boat ride on the Grand Harbour to get groceries every week, I wouldn’t mind it one bit.
One of the only downsides of the public transportation is the traffic. As much as I love being able to hop on to any bus and get where I’m going, I find sitting in deadlocked traffic for extended periods kind of intolerable, even if I’m not the one driving. I would hate never having an accurate perception of how long it will take me to get somewhere.
Maltese food is excellent, but I found it lacking in variety. It suffers from the Italian pitfall of heavily leaning toward pasta and pizza. And aside from rabbit, which they make a thousand different ways, that’s what you can expect featured in the majority of restaurants. The strong British influence means that English breakfast is also served everywhere, sometimes as the only option. I didn’t come across as many different kinds of foods as I hoped. I tried to have raw tuna three times, including once in sushi, only to have it served cooked. So I get the feeling that the local varieties of non-Maltese food are generally not what you’d expect.
Valletta is probably the most expensive city in Malta, and though it’s fairly cheap to visit from many other places in Europe, you’d still be looking at a rental cost of over 700-800 euros. Some cute little place overlooking the water might be worth it though. Food and drink is about mid-range for Europe, where a meal might be anywhere from 10-18 euro, and a cocktail would cost about 5-8 euro. Transportation is probably cheapest. A one-way ticket anywhere in Malta (good for 2 hours with unlimited connections) is 2 euro (1.50 during off-season). So you could theoretically get all the way from Gozo to the airport near Valletta for less than the cost of a coffee.
Health & Safety
Valletta is generally safe, even the parts of it that are very quiet and residential. Though there’s a lot of diversity around, everyone co-exists peacefully. Even taking a taxi first thing late at night didn’t feel dodgy. From a human rights perspective, Malta is also a beautiful haven where members of the LGBT community have some of the most comprehensive equal rights in the EU.
One thing I don’t love is that the water isn’t considered safe to drink. I always dislike the hassle and waste of constantly having to buy bottled water.
Total Livability Score: 5/10
Though there are some things about it that are inconvenient, Valletta is one of those places whose beauty I would never tire of. Especially that bright blue Mediterranean sea that surrounds it on all sides.