Dingli, Malta

Photo: Dingli Local Council
Photo: Dingli Local Council

It’s the middle of the afternoon. You’re sitting by the large windows of a nearly empty restaurant. A platter of smoked sausage, marinated butter beans, ġbejna, olives, and bigilla dip sits barely touched in front of you. Only a few sips are gone from your glass of Ghirgentina white wine. Your mind is clearly not focused on the food, despite the fact that everything was sourced within a kilometer of the restaurant. Usually a tidbit like that would make you reach for your cell phone and post photos to make all your foodie friends jealous. But not today. Not with the view in front of you.

You’re sitting atop the Dingli Cliffs. At 250 meters above sea level, this is the highest point in Malta. In front of you, wildflowers and scattered stones give way to sedimentary rock and a sheer cliff. Except for a few puffy white clouds and Filfla, a small, uninhabited island that the British military used to use for target practice, all you see is the endless, sparkling blue water of the Mediterranean Sea.

You spent the morning walking along the top of the cliff, following the little red arrows marked on wooden signposts. When the strong winds blew, you’d nervously take a few steps backward. Just in case. You visited St. Mary Magdalene Chapel, a 17th century stone church that marks the highest point along the cliffs. To the east, you could see Buskett Gardens–one of Malta’s only remaining forests–and Verdala Palace–the presidential summer residence on the edge of the gardens. Rabat, the original capital of Malta, is in the distance.

Photo: Cruccone (Image: Magdalene Chapel, Dingli cliffs, Malta.) CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Cruccone (Image: Magdalene Chapel, Dingli cliffs, Malta.) CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

But it’s the western view that holds your attention. The cliffs historically acted as a natural fortress, making it virtually impossible for pirates or a foreign navy to invade Malta from the western coast. And the high cliffs also made it impossible for villagers, despite their proximity to the sea, to fish. They turned to rough, hillside farming instead.

You didn’t intend to spend the day in a quaint, remote village. You had never even heard of the Dingli Cliffs. You arrived in Valletta, Malta’s capital, in search of sunshine. Malta, which is located south of Sicily and east of Tunisia, still has temperatures in the 70s this time of year. You found your sunshine, but the busy city made you want to explore quieter areas. Since the island has been used as a naval base by everyone from the Phoenicians and the Romans to the French and the British, you set out along the coast. Your favorite site ended up being a place that none of those navies could reach, though.

So now you sit at The Cliffs, finally digging into the platter in front of you. Eventually, you’ll return to Valletta. But for now, you have no plans beyond lunch. Sounds like the perfect Friday afternoon.

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