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Spotlight on: Victoria, Gozo
Spotlight on: Victoria, Gozo
Any tourist should know that the obvious starting point for a trip to Gozo is the capital city of Victoria. Geographically located in the centre of the island, the city is easily accessible from all directions. Victoria, which is often referred to as ‘Rabat’ by locals, is the most populous city in Gozo, with a total population of 6,901. In 1887, the town was granted the name Victoria in honour of the illustrious British Queen’s Golden Jubilee. At the same time, the settlement was upgraded to a city and given the name Citta’ ir-Rabat.
Since the Neolithic era, people have lived in the region around the settlement, which is located on a hill close to the island’s centre. Given that it has been the island’s hub of activity since the Neolithic era, this city is rightly known as the Crown of Gozo. After 3,000 years, Gozitans started to dwell around the city, giving it its current structure, since they were required by law to spend the night inside the walled city for safety from attackers.
According to archaeological findings, the city was colonised by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevines, and the Aragonese. Later, it came under the control of the Knights of the Order of Saint John, Napoleon, and then the British, who gave the city the name Victoria. Despite this, Gozitans continue to call the city by its previous name, Rabat, which was given by the Arabs.
Victoria encompasses the Citadel, the historic walled city in the island’s centre, as well as the neighborhood’s Old Rabat, as well as its contemporary extensions. Many of the major historical sites of ir-Rabat are located inside the Citadel, including the Cathedral Museum, the Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, the Gozo Nature Museum, the Old Prison, the Old Gunpowder Magazine, the Grain Silos, the Battery, and the World War II Shelter. Its towering fortifications provide spectacular views of the entire Island.
Independence Square, also known as it-Tokk, is the hub of Rabat and is dominated by the Banca Giuratale, a structure constructed between 1733 and 1738.. A daily open-air market offers a variety of tourist items, and there are several cafés nearby that provide pastizzi and cool drinks to the onlookers. Getting lost in Victoria’s winding, labyrinth streets while being assured that the Christian saints who occupy the niches at their corners are keeping an eye on you is part of the city’s allure. The town’s pace of life is relatively idle unless you arrive in the morning. This is when the flea market and the square are bustling.
The two biggest feasts observed in Victoria are the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. George’s Day. The feast day of St. Mary is celebrated on August 15 at the cathedral located in the heart of the citadel that dominates the whole island. The other is devoted to St. George, who is honoured at St. George’s Basilica on the third Sunday in July as Gozo’s patron saint.
Citadella is the Victoria citadel, located on the hill of the capital. This region of Victoria has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, formerly operating as an acropolis of the Punic-Roman city of Gaulos. The acropolis was later transformed into a fortress that provided shelter for the people of Gozo throughout the Middle Ages. A suburb had developed outside of the Citadella by the 15th century where now Victoria’s historic centre is situated. The Citadella was demolished in 1551 when an Ottoman force invaded Gozo due to the castle’s futile and ineffective defences.
VILLA RUNDLE GARDENS
These gardens are precisely embedded in the heart of Victoria, between Republic Street and the main parking lot. They offer visitors a tranquil haven with a mix of indigenous and foreign plants and a soothing fountain. A bronze bust of the Gozitan historian, lawyer, and priest Giovanni Pietro Francesco Aguis de Soldanis can be found in these gardens. There is also a monument honouring the Ottoman conquest of Gozo in 1551. For the purpose of watering the plants, a new reservoir was constructed in the garden to collect rainfall.
St. George's Basilica
The maze of winding lanes encircling St. George’s is definitely worth a stroll. The Basilica unveiled its brand-new, unique in the nation, contemporary museum in February 2013. It is the first structure constructed with a museum in mind. ‘Il-Hagar’ is a museum and cultural centre that houses an extensive collection of historical and artistic artefacts that were previously off-limits to the general public.
If you are in the mood for a quick shopping spree, Republic Street may be just for you. Aside from the plethora of stores and a few shopping arcades which are located in Republic Street, the Bishop’s Chancery, the Astra and Aurora opera theatres, and many more are at your disposal for a persual around the city. The Villa Rundle Public Gardens are also located in the vicinity of this vivacious street.