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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Native name: Għawdex
Sobriquet: Isle of Calypso
Gozo and Comino-map.svg
Map of Maltese islands highlighting Gozo and Comino
Gozo is located in Italy
Gozo (off the coast of Italy)
Location south of Sicily, Mediterranean Sea
Coordinates 36°03′N 14°15′E / 36.05°N 14.25°E / 36.05; 14.25
Archipelago Maltese islands
Area 67 km2 (26 sq mi)
Length 14 km (8.7 mi)
Width 7.25 km (4.50 mi)
Largest city Victoria (pop. 6,414)
Population 31,053
Density 463.48 /km2 (1,200.4 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Maltese people


Coat of arms
 - Minister Giovanna Debono

Gozo (Maltese: Għawdex) is a small island off 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]

A popular nickname of Gozo is the Isle of Calypso, derived from the location of Ogygia in Greek mythological poem Homer's Odyssey.[2] In the myth, the island was controlled by nymph Calypso who detained the hero of the story Odysseus there as prisoner of love for seven years; Gozo is thought to be modern day Ogygia.[3]

The island itself 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 historical locations such as the Ġgantija temples which, along with the Megalithic Temples of Malta, are the world's oldest free-standing structures and also the world's oldest religious structures.[4]

For such a small island, Gozo has a high concentration of Churches (22 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.



Gozo has been inhabited since 5000 BC, when farmers from nearby Sicily crossed the sea to the island.[5] Due to 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 temples' 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 5000, 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.[1]

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 period of autonomy granted to Gozo by Napoleon after his conquest of Malta, between 28 October 1798 and 5 September 1800.


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).


Gozo is 67 km² in size, which is approximately the same size as Manhattan. It lies approximately 6 km northwest of the nearest point of Malta, is of oval form, and is 14 km in length and 7.25 km in width.

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.

Connection to Malta Island

Gozitans have a very strong identity within Malta as a whole country and Gozo is the only region in Malta which has a Minister responsible for it. Generally speaking, Gozo is more socially conservative than the rest of the country. The perceived Maltese attitude towards Gozitans (stereotyping them as uneducated and 'primitive') is also changing, as more Gozitans move to Malta seeking higher education and better economic opportunities.

The construction of a bridge between mainland Malta and Gozo was a subject of controversy for years. In the early 1970s the newly elected Socialist Administration started the building of a bridge between the two islands, but this was stopped after protests from the Gozitan part. There was previously a helicopter service which connected the two, but this ceased recently following privatisation.

Currently the island is reachable by ferry boat and by seaplane. Passenger and car ferries cross on a regular basis between the port of Mġarr on Gozo and Ċirkewwa on Malta. This service is used for goods, tourism and commuting (Gozitan students study at the University of Malta). Due to its frequent use, residents of Gozo are able to use the ferry at a subsidised rate, significantly lower than the standard fare. The sea plane operates from Valletta to Mgarr harbour.

Ecclesiastical history

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gozo (in Latin Goulos-Gaudisiensis), comprises the Island of Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea (seventeen miles west of the harbour of Valletta, Malta) and islet of Comino. On a central plateau the Citadel fortifications contain the cathedral church and several public buildings. To the south of the castle lies the island's main town whose origins go back to prehistoric times. The town contains several public buildings the most important of which is St George's basilica. This magnificent basilica lies on the site 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 Valetta (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.

Notable features


External links

Coordinates: 36°03′N 14°15′E / 36.05°N 14.25°E / 36.05; 14.25

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Malta : Gozo
Landscape of Gozo featuring Xewkija Church
Landscape of Gozo featuring Xewkija Church

Gozo is an island of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Victoria -- Also called Rabat, the island's capital and only real city

There are also a number of small villages on the island

  • Ghajnsielem - where Gozo's main harbor is located. The ferry from Malta arrives here.
  • Xaghra - where Ggantija Temples are located.
  • Qala - where 'Gebla l-wieqfa' (another prehistoric dolmen) is located, other interesting things in Qala are Hondoq Bay, 'Belvedere' offering nice view of the main islands of the Maltese archipelago and a small fortress at present in restoration.
  • Nadur - where Ramla Bay is located.
  • Xewkija - featuring an impressive large rotunda church visible from almost all villages and towns in Gozo.
  • Gharb and Ghasri are 2 small villages in the western part of Gozo among which lies 'Ta`Pinu' basilica, which is a Marian shrine where on 22nd June 1883 the Virgin Mary was heared by Karmela Grima calling her for prayer.
  • St. Lawrence - were 'Dwejra' (Azure Window) is located.

and some settlements that are used primarily as summer residences and mostly deserted during the rest of the year

  • Ramla il-Hamra is arguably Malta's (Gozo's) finest beach. The name means red sands, referring to the beautiful reddish colour of the sand. The bay is completely spared from development, and thus the beach remains relatively uncrowded. This site also claims to be where Calypso's cave is, the cave referred to in Homer's Odyssey.


One sometimes gets the sense that Gozo is how Malta could have been. With the exceptions of Marsalforn and Xlendi, it has been largely spared from short-sighted overdevelopment, the traditional way of life and society has survived better, and the land has been maintained better giving more fertile ground. Buildings and houses on Gozo are mainly done with natural materials, as opposed to many of the concrete and breeze-block constructions on the mainland.


Gozo's history is intimately linked to Malta. It shares its megalithic culture, and with the Ggantija temples, it is officially home of the oldest structure on the planet. Interestingly, Gozo up until the end of medieval times was inhabited in a manner the same as Malta, with Mġarr and Victoria/Rabat being to Gozo what Vittoriosa and Mdina are to Malta: the main port and the main settlement consisting of a citadel and surrounding suburbs. The inhabitants of Gozo were, in medieval times, required by law to return to the Citadella each evening to spend the night there to prevent corsairs from abducting them. These measures were proven to be necessary when, in 1551, the Turks tried their first invasion of Malta. When they failed, they attacked Gozo and took the entire population off in ships to sell them into slavery.


It should also be noted that if you do learn some Maltese, there are different dialects throughout different parts of the country. People on Gozo speak Maltese with a slightly different accent from the main Maltese islanders, and people from the different Gozitan villages each have their own different dialect.

Like the mainland, English is also an official language of Gozo.

Get in

There is the ferry from Ċirkewwa on Malta to Mġarr, Gozo's main harbor. It departs every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter. The trip there is free, but going back to Malta costs €4.65. Bus stop is outside the ferry terminal, and it is synchronized with the ferry arrivals and departures .The bus ride to Victoria takes around 20 minutes. There are plans to build a small airport on the beautiful and unspoilt Ta' Cenc cliffs of this tiny island, but hopefully someone will realize that the main airport, which already stretches across almost a quarter of Malta itself, is more than enough.

  • The bus system is possibly even more antiquated than on Malta proper, with plenty of the same quaint 50's style buses to take you around at a leisurely pace. The schedules are a bit limited though so be sure to check the times. Most buses depart from the bus terminal in Victoria/Rabat, but some only seem to go every hour so you need to make sure you can get back again. It costs 0.48 Euros to go a zone, so from here to the Temples, Mgarr is only 0.48Euros.
  • The taxi drivers are unscrupulous, and will try to charge the unsuspecting tourist as much as they can. There is an approximate price list posted at the taxi stand at the boat dock, don't accept a price that is unreasonably higher than the suggested price. Note that Saint Joseph's Hostel is a ten minute walk (uphill) from the boat, so if they try to charge you 8 euros (or more) it really isn't worth it unless you really have a LOT of baggage.
  • A car is probably the best option if one has a busy schedule. If not, hitchhiking is a nice way to get around.
  • Even on foot, if no one picks you up, many of the distances are negligible.
  • If you happen to be in Gozo during your visit, then the rotunda church in the village of Xewkija is a wonderful spot to visit. The church was built in honor of St. John the Baptist (each village has a saint that they honor) and is the largest in Gozo.
  • The Azure Window, the Inland Sea and the the Blue Hole all make going to the spectacular west coast of Gozo very worthwhile. The Azure Window is a cliff outcropping with a hole in the middle. The Inland Sea is a typically Maltese name in that it slightly exaggerates its size (Mdina is referred to as a city with its 400 inhabitants). It's actually a small lake connected to the sea by a tunnel about 20 meters long through the cliffs. In contrast to Xlendi and Marsalforn this place has been spared from development and makes an unusual and picturesque place to swim. The beach surrounding the lake is unfortunately made of pebbles but there are a few piers and terraces in front of the fishermen's boathouses one can also use. The Blue Hole is not a true blue hole in the geological sense but still makes an amazing spot to dive, having won awards as one of the most beautiful diving spots of Europe.
  • If one only has one day, it is recommended to spend the morning in the Citadella of Rabat, have lunch there, in the cafe next to the cathedral, and spend the afternoon either at Ramla il-Hamra or The Inland Sea.
  • With two days one can spend the second morning visiting the Ggantija temples and having lunch on the beautiful central square of Xaghra, and the afternoon at the swimming spot not chosen the previous day, bearing in mind that Ramla il-Hamra beach is very close to Xaghra and the Inland Sea closer to Rabat.
  • Diving Gozo has some very impressive dive sites, one of the most popular ones being the blue hole. The Gozitan underwater geography is very interesting, and so is the sea life. Dive centres in Gozo vary from garage operations to fully equipped 5 start IDC centres.
  • Out of the busiest areas and outside the high season, hitchhiking is easy here and can lead to unexpected social interactions and changes to one's plans.
  • Gozo boasts one of the most remarkable churches on the archipelago, situated at Ta'Pinu, which was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1990. A record of his visit is situated at the rear of the church.


As Gozo is the breadbasket of Malta, the ground is more fertile, and the place is more rural. Therefore there is more fresh produce to be had. One should definitely try Gozo's own cheese: Gbejniet. This cheese is lovely when had fresh, but also nice when cured with pepper and vinegar.


As on Malta there are vineyards on Gozo, one can often buy unlabeled local wines cheaply but be sure to ask to taste them as quality can vary widely. The shops near the citadel in Victoria/Rabat usually have a good selection.

Stay safe

Gozo is safer than Malta , there is less petty crime.

There is occasionally a strong current on the northern shore, so caution when swimming is advised.


The residents of Gozo are called Gozitans and will be annoyed if you refer to them as Maltese.

Walking, Rambling and Hiking

Gozo is at its best from October to May. The average temperature in this period is around 18C, ideal for rambling around the island. While exploring the island you will see a wide variety of amazing views due to a large number of valleys, hills and small beaches. There is an abundance of abandoned hidden ancient temples and shrines in the countryside. If you are pressed for time and do not have much time to explore, but also want to see the best hidden places, it is best to hire or join a guide that specializes in country walks. Although Gozo is small, once you go to the countryside you will feel that you are alone on the island since you can walk for hours without meeting anybody. During the winter storms, Gozo's seaside is often totally deserted but spectacular with the big waves exploding on big boulders and lofty cliffs.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. The second-largest island of the Republic of Malta.


See also


Proper noun


  1. Gozo

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