It was not easy to prepare this trip. I usually try to read as much as I can from the Internet, and also buy at least one good tourist guide (green Michelin if possible) if not more than one. No way to find any book on Malta in Israel, not even in the ‘Memsi’ (the Israeli Automobile Club, peer of the AAA) stores. I was not more successful in the first few bookstores I entered in the US. It’s only by ordering on Amazon that I could eventually buy the two books (one coming with a good map as well) that I used during the trip.

This actually tells part of the story of the Maltese tourism and economy. Also Malta welcomes more than one million tourists a year for a population of 400,000 inhabitants, and although tourism is the #1 source of income for the Maltese economy the archipelago is still not only minuscule on the map but also unknown or at best little publicized on the boards of the holiday agents in Europe and world-wide. The level of services is somehow lower than for example in the Greek islands, but then the concentration of landscape and history is at least equal, and there is vicious circle that waits to be broken. More tourists would mean more money which would mean more and new services and infrastructure.  Also bigger crows, too big maybe? It is a small island and there is a limit in the capacity of the incoming flow. Yet, my feeling is that the breakthrough in the Maltese tourism is yet to come. Most of the tourists, by the way, are coming from the UK attracted by the English-speaking tradition and the driving on the correct side of the road – but I could see many Italian, German, Spaniards. And yes, Valletta was quite crowded even in the out-of-season first days of April.

What about the rest of the economy? With limited resources of water Malta cannot ensure more than 20% of its food. Vegetable gardens and cereal fields are visible, but the agricultural surface is limited. Local limestone is used for construction works and it’s yellow surfaces provide the appearance and ‘local color’ of the buildings. The strategic position at the crossroad of the Mediterranean naval roads and two hospitable harbor areas in the North and in the South of the island made of Malta a good place for naval workshops. However this industry decreased since the British naval basis left the area, and the tentative of turning them into aircrat repairs shops seems to have only partially succeeded.

Malta Story

So what’s left? of course, the factories of dreams – the film industry. Natural and historical landscape, English speaking teams, lots of extras with little work to do and plenty of time to spend on the set, the sea around – all these make of Malta the ideal place to make historical, or adventure, or aquatic films. ‘Malta Story’ with Alec Guiness and ‘Spartacus’ with Kirk Douglas are just two of the classical films made in Malta. MFS (the Meditarenean Film Studios) are well known in the industry. I did not get to visit them, but I heard that the sea film studios are unique. For a compensation in the coffee-shop in Mosta where we stopped in the first day and from where we watched part of the Easter parade the walls were decorated with the posters of many of the classical films ‘Made in Malta’.

Spartacus