Coming up the steep hill from Xemxija bay it’s easy to miss Mellieħa altogether if one stays on the main road to Gozo. But what treasures await if, instead, one takes the road into the village.
Words by Christine Farrugia | Extract taken from April's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Where to start? At Selmun it is possible to park the car and wander down through the lush greenery to Mġiebah Bay, once popular for skinny dipping, now fun for families looking for quiet bays. Back up to the main road into the village, a stop for a pie or two and delicious coffee at Fred’s on the main road makes a change from the traditional pastizzi that we are used to, which are also available at many places in Mellieħa. On from there through the village and it is a veritable shopper’s delight. Such a selection! Food shops, boutiques, household goods, souvenirs, even a bustling hair salon-cum-spa in the same Schere Complex, as well as a barber shop, nail technicians with a café next door for further nourishment.
All this and we are still at the top of the hill! A walk down to the Sanctuary is a must, although it is only open at certain times. This Sanctuary originated as a natural cave which was consecrated as a Roman Catholic Church later. The Church’s altarpiece depicts the Virgin Mary with Jesus on her right arm and is a Byzantine-style Fresco which is believed to date back to the late 12th century. Well acclaimed eateries are situated close by and are open all year round, with Commando being Bib Gourmand recommended.
It is difficult to say which season is best but, at every time of the year, the views are spectacular and even more so when one walks up to the main Parish Church. This imposing, 19th-century church is just around the corner from the Sanctuary and takes pride of place in the main Village square. The feast day in honour of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is on the 8th of September, although celebrations start earlier and there is usually a magnificent firework display in the evening. The main square is a meeting place for locals but if one really wants to enjoy the fabulous views overlooking the main Mellieħa Bay one must pay a visit to the Sea View Café which is strategically placed on the cliff edge. It is always open for drinks and snacks and is an ideal place for a rest and taking photos.
Onwards, down the main hill towards the sandy beach which is very popular with young and old alike! It is perfect for families with little ones because the sand stretches out for a good distance without getting too deep and is therefore safe for little swimmers. Deck chairs and sunshades are available for rent throughout the bay, and snack bars/restaurants and ice-cream stalls beckon.
But we are not done with the sights – St Agatha’s Tower, familiarly known as The Red Tower, is clearly visible on the crest of the Marfa Ridge and overlooks Mellieħa Bay. The bird sanctuary and the nature reserve has commanding views of the strait between Malta, Comino and Gozo. It is said that it contained a chapel and altar dedicated to Saint Agatha who was a Christian Martyr, who was venerated as a symbol of strength against invasion and the plague in both Sicily and Malta. Later it became known as the Red Tower because it was painted red, possibly to help sentinels in Naxxar and Mdina to recognise it easily.
However, it is also possible that it earned its name from the colour of the stone from which it was constructed, which is reddish. This tower, together with the White Tower at l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa, which was built out of very white stone, are both heritage sites managed by Din l-Art Ħelwa and are open to visitors.
There is so much to see and enjoy in Mellieħa – a place for all seasons.