The town of Żejtun, also known as Ċitta Beland Żejtun, is situated in the south-eastern part of Malta. It covers the top of a hill that dominates the bays of Marsaxlokk, St. Thomas Bay and Marsaskala, today important sites and in the past popular ports of call for all Mediterranean sailors since Phoenician times. They also provided convenient landing beaches for invaders.
The origins of Żejtun go back to Phoenician and Roman times. Originally Żejtun, known as Terra Santa Catarina, covered the whole south eastern part of the island extending to the outskirts of the walls protecting Cottonera and included Żabbar, Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk and St. George’s Bay. The inhabitants of Żejtun proper till 1680 formed two separate communities huddled in residences protected by narrow streets (which of themselves provided protection) known as Bisqallin referred to till today as the Lower Village (Ir-Raħal t’Isfel) and Ħal Ġwann and Ħal Bisbut, known today as the Upper Village (Ir-Raħal ta’ Fuq). Development during the eighteenth century and the construction of the new parish church in between the two communities formed the present centre and linked the two to form one community.
Today, Żejtun is a vibrant community with authentic village life surrounding an active community proud of its roots and rich tangible and intangible heritage. Żejtun has revived its olive production tradition, and is also a leader in matters that promote the south eastern region of the Maltese Islands. Spending time in Żejtun will take you back in time, give you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the heritage, explore the unspoiled countryside and experience life in an authentic Maltese village. Żejtun is also an ideal location to explore the surrounding localities.
DAY 1: VISIT VALLETTA, EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE 2018
Waking up in Żejtun or for that matters, in any of the surrounding villages in the South East of Malta is an experience in itself. The church bells calling their patrons to mass are an innovative wake-up call. A unique breakfast follows, it can consist of a fresh baked warm ftira (flat bread) from one of the local bakers, with local tomatoes, hams and cheeses or Roger’s famous pastizzi – a pure delicacy of flakey pastry savoury pockets filled with cheese or peas. Alternatively, if you have a sweet tooth, you can enjoy treats prepared by two renowned local bakers of Żejtun, Barbetta or Ermenia – whose apple pie, and sinizza are worth waking up for.
Valletta is Malta’s capital city, a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2018 will be the European Capital of Culture together with Leeuwarden, in Netherlands. Our capital city is a pure example of Maltese Baroque architecture and offers the visitor a glimpse of the richness of high art and culture – with monuments designed by the Knights of St. John and Maltese architects and subsequently embellished by the British.
The most recent addition to this melting pot of architecture is the Maltese Parliament at Valletta Gate – a tribute to Maltese creativity built by Renzo Piano. Valletta is a vibrant city, where the old mixes with the new, where open spaces give the visitor a glimpse of the rich intangible heritage of the Maltese culture; it is a city that is alive with activities mostly during the day. At night you are most welcome to wander around the cool streets, appreciate the local life and feast your senses at the many eateries specialized in Maltese cuisine.
In Valletta, don’t miss the The Archaeological Museum. Situated in Republic Street will give you insight into Malta’s Neolithic roots and megalithic heritage. Check also the St. John’s Co-Cathedral – the seat of the Knights of St. John. A pure treasure of Maltese baroque architecture and an art museum in itself.
From Valletta, if you are still willing to explore more of the richness of our islands, you can opt to take a traditional water taxi – go down towards the old customs house, using either the lift from the Upper Barrakka Gardens or take the scenic route and ride one of the water taxis that will give you a unique interpretation of Malta’s life during the British era by the water taxi driver. Or, take the bus towards Żejtun but stop first at Tarxien to visit one of the World Heritage Sites – the Tarxien temples.
DAY 2: ŻEJTUN, A DIP IN HISTORY!
Indeed the locality takes its name from olives. A Roman site of an olive oil production house can still be viewed today. A special permit needs to be obtained from the Girls’ Secondary School. A tour around the locality of Żejtun will reveal chapels going back to medieval times, baroque architecture, palaces and historic homes. Whilst in the parish square, one can admire the baroque cathedral and the religious heritage museum.
A comprehensive heritage route around the main attractions of Żejtun has been designed and created by Żejtun Local Council. The full comprehensive trail can be downloaded here.
DAY 3: WALKS OR BIKE RIDES ALONG THE COUNTRYSIDE ROUTES
Ta’ Silg: Marsaskala – Marsaslokk
This walk is a fairly easy one going along the coast, around parts of the villages of Marsaskala and Marsaxlokk, St. Thoman Bay, and the pristine coasts of Munxar and Delimara. There are two route options for this walk, both start in the same way but in the St. Thomas Bay area, one can choose either Route A or Route B. Both routes will finish in Marsaxlokk. Route A takes you through the countryside not following the coast while Route B follows country roads around the coasts for most of the walk. Both routes are similar in duration at approx. lengths of 6.76km for Route A and 6.92km for Route B. Note that only Route A can be followed by bicycle.
Bike Ride: Żejtun and Surrounding Areas
There are many options for tailored bicycle rides starting in Żejtun and visiting the surrounding areas of Marsaskala and Marsaxlokk. Here is one route of approximately 11.26km that goes around the Marsaskala coast for a view of Zonqor to one side and St. Thomas Bay and Munxar on the other side. Many such routes can be planned to take in different attractions on the way.