Influencer and model Olivia Caputo visited Malta recently and writes in with highlights from her Mediterranean adventure!
Interested in time traveling? Have a preference for the finer things in life? Look no further than Malta for your next luxury trip. I have never experienced a trip like this, and by the end of this travel diary I hope you’ll have added Malta to your bucket list. Malta is a small Mediterranean island nation 60 miles south of Sicily with a fascinating history. You’ll be transported instantly to medieval times as you walk through its fortified cities – but don’t worry – you won’t need to compromise on luxury just because you are visiting sites dating back to the 18th century.
I began my trip by being spoiled on Turkish Airlines. There aren’t any direct flights to Malta from New York, so we connected in Istanbul. After experiencing the true treat that is Turkish Airlines Business Class, I wouldn’t mind an even longer flight with them in future. The service was impeccable, and the food was delicious. Put it this way: I would be a regular at a Turkish Airlines restaurant if they had one!
I spent my first three nights in central Malta at the Corinthia Palace. The Corinthia Palace is exactly what you would expect from a palace. It’s clean, comfortable, and secure, with luxury touches in every corner and the hotel has a rich history. In 1962, it opened as a restaurant in a restored, centuries-old villa. A few years later, the hotel was added as an extension to the villa and more recently, the Athenaeum Spa was added. I spent my first morning in Malta unwinding at the spa after the long flight, and it was everything my body needed. I spent time in the private Vitality Suite before my massage treatment. The Vitality Suite is a true oasis equipped with a sauna, steam room, showers, a heated pool, and more, to prepare you for your treatment. It’s the key to recovering from jet lag, if you ask me.
One of my favorite activities in Malta was taking daily walking tours around the island’s old fortified cities and learning about their history. As soon as I met my guide, Clive Cortis of Malta Private Tour, I knew I was in good hands. Clive’s extensive knowledge painted a perfect picture of Maltese history.
On the main island of Malta, the two must-see cities are Mdina and Valletta. Mdina, the old capital city of Malta and now nicknamed the “Silent City,” sits strategically atop a hill and is hard to miss. I immediately noticed the city when driving through the countryside on my first day. When walking the narrow winding streets of Mdina, the quietness of the “Silent City” helps you to imagine what it was really like to once live there. There is something truly mystical about being in a fortress with panoramic views of the island.
Valletta, the capital city, is quite a bit livelier than Mdina. Valletta was founded in 1566 and sits on a peninsula between two natural harbors and it’s filled with historical landmarks including St. John’s Co-Cathedral, The Saluting Battery, and stunning views of the Grand Harbor. There are also many restaurants, cafes, and bars where you can try some traditional Maltese dishes like pastizzi or lampuki.
After my stay at the Corinthia, I spent a couple of nights in the Malta Marriott Hotel and Spa. The Marriott is in a great location to explore more of Malta. The hotel sits on St. Julian’s Peninsula, which is very close to Valletta.
My first order of business while staying in this area was visiting two of the most esteemed designers in Malta. The Charles & Ron Café is an absolute must-visit for fashion enthusiasts. You can enjoy a decadent breakfast with a view of the latest Charles & Ron runway collection displayed on the wall in front of you. Charles & Ron creates beautiful pieces with bold colors and structures, designed to make you stand out in a crowd. You can expect to see one of their upcoming collections at NYFW soon, COVID restrictions permitting.
Speaking of delicious food, the food and wine scene in Malta is exquisite. Many restaurants source local ingredients and the quality shows. My favorite culinary experience of the trip was at Taste History. It’s an opportunity to quite literally taste history. Curators and chefs come together to analyze artifacts, paintings, and documents, and then recreate recipes from the 18th century in Malta. At Taste History, I indulged in local mussels, charred octopus, a spicy lamb dish with eggplant and local sheep’s milk yogurt, and coffee flavored sorbet. The sorbet the most interesting dish because we’re talking about a recipe from a time when Malta had no refrigeration or ice. How was this possible? They would take a special boat to Sicily and get ice from Mount Etna and add salt to keep the ice frozen on the journey back to Malta. Then they mixed brewed coffee, vanilla, and sugar, with the ice to create a sorbet. It was comparable to what we know now as shaved ice, but fascinating that in the 18th century, the industrious Maltese were able to create this refreshing frozen dessert. Taste History was easily the most interesting culinary experience of my life.
Finally, I traveled to Gozo, a smaller island off Malta’s northwest coast. Gozo is just a short ferry ride away, but it feels like a remote island getaway. It’s much smaller than the main island and has a slower pace. Don’t miss a visit to see the view from the Mixta Cave, located on the eastern side of Ramla Bay. This may have been my favorite view in all of Gozo. After taking a walk down an unassuming path, the cave opens up to breathtaking views of the Ramla Il-Hamra Beach. Gorgeous!
I only spent one night in Gozo and to make the most of it, I stayed at the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz, a tranquil hideaway near the coast. The service at the Kempinski was impeccable—the staff really goes above and beyond to ensure you have a relaxing, comfortable stay. The hotel is located in close proximity to Goza’s must-see landmarks like the iconic Dwejra Bay and Mixta Cave. Needless to say, visiting this little Mediterranean island was an absolute dream. I can’t wait to go back and experience the wonder that is Malta all over again.
Olivia’s Weekend in Istanbul
I flew Turkish Airlines from Malta back to New York City and since there are no direct flights, I made a stop in Istanbul and decided to stay the weekend. I had never been to Turkey before and it sure was a Turkish delight.
With such a short stay, I had to make sure I covered the most important things to see. Once I landed, I went straight out to see the sights. I didn’t even check into my hotel. My first stop was the Galata Tower; a medieval stone tower with panoramic views of Istanbul. I’d highly suggest getting tickets to visit the very top to see the breathtaking views at sunset.
After my visit to the Galata Tower, I checked into my hotel, the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, which ended up being the perfect location. Despite the crazy traffic in Istanbul, I was never a long drive from the places I wanted to visit.
When I got to my room and walked out to see the view from my eight floor balcony, I was surprised to see I was far above the clouds. The clouds were sitting just below my balcony—it was crazy! I didn’t end up seeing the complete view from my balcony until the next morning when the clouds and fog had cleared, but the view of the Bosphorus was just the most beautiful sight to wake up to.
On my second day, which was my only full day, I had a jam-packed itinerary. The first half of the day was my favorite of the whole trip. We started the day at the Topkapi Palace Museum and it was more amazing than I could have anticipated. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Topkapi Palace served as the main residence to all of the Ottoman sultans. Today, it still has all the wonder of an ancient palace, but has been transformed into a museum. You can see what the palace looked like when it was a residence, and you can walk into another room and see ancient religious artifacts, like Moses’ staff or Joseph’s turban.
Our next stop was Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century as a Christian church and has been through many changes since then. In subsequent centuries, Hagia Sophia became a mosque, a museum, and then a mosque once again, which it remains today. I felt so small inside those walls. It’s absolutely enormous and just beautiful inside.
The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting art exhibit after art exhibit. Any time I have ever thought of Istanbul, I had never thought of the art scene but let me tell you… it’s taking over. We visited Istanbul Modern, the Istanbul Cinema Museum, and the Atatürk Cultural Center, better known as AKM.
Each of these art exhibits displayed the work of artists not only local to Istanbul, but across the globe. If you are an art aficionado, you must check out the exhibits Istanbul has to offer.
Two nights in Istanbul simply was not enough time—but I am grateful I got a taste of the culture and can’t wait to go back!