My wife and I plan a one-week visit to Malta in June, 2022. We would greatly appreciate any advice on the best place to stay to act as a base for our visit. We prefer a modestly priced location, located within walking distance to restaurants, culture, public transportation, etc. We will have finished walking the the Portuguese Camino just prior to arriving in Malta. Suggestions of sites to visit and restaurants to try also appreciated. Travel suggestions from Barcelona to Malta, and from Malta to southern Italy also needed.
I believe flying will be best for all legs. Any other mode of transportation from Barcelona to Valletta would take a huge chunk of your available time. For southern Italy, you can check flight options on skyscanner.com by setting Valletta as your origin and Italy as your destination. There are more non-stop flights than I expected, but they may not all operate every day. Aside from Sicilian destinations, it appears Lamezia Terme is the southern-most destination available via non-stop flights.
At least pre-COVID, there were ferries from Malta to Sicily, but the Sicilian port was an obscure place on the southern coast, not particularly near a tourist destination, so additional time was required to get to one's actual destination. And when I checked prices in 2015, they were quite high.
We have some folks on the forum who've been to Malta (I haven't); I'm sure you'll get some good suggestions based on their experience. I just know there's lots to see in Valletta, but Mdina is the old (medieval) capital.
Malta had a thriving Neolithic temple building culture. There are a few sites you can tour, including the underground Hypogeum and the nearby Tarxien temples. Both are accessible by bus from Valletta. I recommend visiting the archeological museum in Valletta BEFORE the temples; this will allow you to better understand the culture and rituals surrounding the megalithic structures.
If you are a fan of the painter Caravaggio, there are two painting you can view in-situ at St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta. The Beheading of Saint John is one of his most influential works. After murdering a man in Rome, the painter fled to Malta, seeking asylum with the Knights of St. John. He ended up being inducted into the order but was later stripped of his knighthood after assaulting a senior ranking knight. He had quite the life!
We stayed part of the time in an amazing AirBnB in Valletta. It was a beautiful old building and walking distance to everything. Then we stayed on the Cutty Jean, a boat. Our host took us snorkelling and to swim through an actual smugglers cave. They offered great service and food recommendations. Sliema isn't old, but it is full of tourist hotels and subsequent food options and transport. It doesn't have the charm of our other options, but it is easy.
Book the Hypogeum far in advance. It is highly restricted and books up VERY early.
Malta's two big historical timeframes re: sites are the ancient temples such as the Hypogeum and Hagar Qim, and the medieval/ renaissance Knights of St. John era. You can easily spend a week doing daily tours and not get bored. There is SO MUCH to see in basically every place on both islands.
On 2019 we spent 10 nights in Valletta in a midestly priced (at that time) spacious studio apartment one block from the main street. It was quiet, walking distance to shops and restaurants, and about 10 to 15 minute walk to the bus station (actually it's a parking lot with slots for the busses). We enjoyed our stay there.
We took several day trips on our own and spent some days seeing the sights of Valletta.
We're currently away but will be happy to give you more information about the historic and prehistoric sights we visited as well as the towns, etc. after we return. Let me know if you would like more information. I think you will enjoy Malta.
We flew from Bologna I think on Ryan Air (never again) to Valletta, and on Malta Airlines (I have to check on the exact name) from Valletta to Rome.
Thank you everyone for all the great tips. We can't wait to get started!
A good start is to read The Great Siege, Malta 1565. It will give you an appreciation of a lot of the island's more recent history. It was also pivotal in WWII. There are underground war rooms and a WWII museum, both excellent. Visit a fishing village. I was there 10 years ago. At that time, private guides were not expensive. While English is an official language, a lot of people were not at all fluent. And while it has a lot of connections to Italy and a huge number of Italian loan words, Maltese is in fact a Semitic language akin to Arabic.
There are ruins of the very first free-standing buildings in the world. If memory serves, they go back to the time before the pyramids. They are on the island of Gozo, which is a pretty ferry ride from the main island. The harbor cruise is also very good.
I spent a week and based in Valletta. I flew non stop to and from Italy. All the details are in this report I wrote. https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/malta-in-july-1072392/
If you're a Game of Thrones fan, you can visit Rabat, which is where they filmed some of the show.
Make time for a day trip to Gozo. There are operated tours which will pick you up from Valletta and drive you up north to the ferry port.
They will drop you off in Gozo and include a bus which will drive you to a few places. Then some will drop you off in Comino near the coast for a short time, beautiful swimming place between the two islands.
Doesn't give you enough time in Victoria though, especially the Citadel. They probably can't take you to as many places in a day tour which includes ground transportation and the water transport.
So for a longer visit, probably would have to make your own arrangements. But as part of a shorter stay on Malta, day trip is probably going to have to be good enough.