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The great escape


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The minuscule Mediterranean island south of Sicily has double-jabbed 84% of its population and is welcoming fully vaccinated Brits. Often used as a film location, Malta has a pretty capital, is steeped in history and offers “exceptionally good value”, according to the Evening Standard. It was saved from the Nazis by a British convoy in the Second World War, the subject of Max Hastings’s latest book.

Places of note The walled capital, Valletta, is all sloped streets, grand buildings, wooden balconies and picturesque gardens. The ornate St John’s Co-Cathedral houses a Caravaggio masterpiece and eight cannon are fired daily at noon on the 16th-century Saluting Battery – where the British mounted an anti-aircraft gun to defend the city from the Germans. You’ll see plenty of superyachts in the Grand Harbour, from which you can take a water taxi to the Three Cities, a trio of golden-stone fortified towns. Yippee offers island tours on electric tuk-tuks and there are ferries from Cirkewwa to Gozo, Malta’s smaller sister island. There’s a megalithic temple in Mdina, Malta’s former capital, which looks out over Sicily and Mount Etna. For a day on the beach, try San Blas Bay on Gozo or the Blue Lagoon on Comino.

Weather Summers are hot and sunny, winters mild.

Famous faces Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe filmed scenes from Gladiator on Malta – Oliver Reed died in Valletta while working on the movie. Game of Thrones was shot on the island and Steven Spielberg, Guy Ritchie, Sharon Stone, Madonna and Sean Connery have all filmed movies there. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie spent their honeymoon on Malta, and the Queen and Prince Philip lived on the island as newlyweds.

To eat Ion – The Harbour is a rooftop restaurant in Valletta with good views and, until late September, a special menu by two-Michelin-starred guest chef Alex Dilling. Hammett’s Macina, in the Three Cities, serves up “note-perfect” lunches: lamb roasted with Moroccan spices, mushrooms with za’atar and pomegranate, and fig tart with sumac, labneh and cured lemon. For a lunchtime sandwich, you won’t do better than the Submarine, in the heart of Valletta.

1 To stay

The Xara Palace is a luxe boutique hotel in a 17th-century palazzo in Mdina, with views of the Maltese countryside. It has a Michelin-starred rooftop restaurant and individually decorated rooms and suites. Doubles from €159 a night.

2 To rent

Blossom Farmhouses, on Gozo, is great for a large group of family or friends – it sleeps 12 and has a pool, a barbecue and terraces with sea and countryside views. It’s a 10-minute drive to the beach. From £1,674 for a week.

3 To Airbnb

Jasmine Suite is on the first floor of a house near the seafront in St Julian’s, 15 minutes from Valletta. It has two ensuite bedrooms, a private roof terrace and access to a shared pool and walled garden. From £285 a night.

4 To buy

This historic townhouse in the Three Cities has a roof terrace with wonderful views of the fortifications and Valletta’s Grand Harbour. There’s a courtyard downstairs and a lift to the four ensuite bedrooms on the first and second floors. The airport is 15 minutes away. €895,000.