Count of Monte Cristo movie tourism: Adventure Travel In The Maltese Islands

Scenes for the 2002 movie Count of Monte Cristo, based on the classic adventure story by Alexandre Dumas, were filmed at various locations on the Maltese Islands of Gozo, Malta, and Comino, south of Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. All three islands offer travelers a wealth of archaeological and historical treasures, along with beautiful scenery, favorable weather, and a variety of things to see and do. This article will cover some of these points of interest for vacation planning.

Gozo, meaning “Joy,” is about 3 miles or 25 minutes by ferry from Malta and popular with travelers for its laid-back rural atmosphere and friendly villagers. Victoria, or Rabat, is the cultural center of activity for shopping, dining, and visiting the many churches, museums, and other attractions of historical interest on the island.

A camera is a must while visiting The Citadel, with a history dating back to the Bronze Age, the Phoenicians, and the Romans, until it was eventually overtaken and much of it destroyed by the Ottoman Turks. Restoration is ongoing, however, and you will get incredible views as far as Malta from the top of the walls. Within these walls stands the Cathedral of the Assumption, built in 1697 on the site of old Roman temples. Cathedral & Museum Hours: Mon – Sat, 10am to 1pm and 1:30 to 4:30.

Located just inside the main gate, tourists will find the Museum of Archaeology, once the town hall for the Knights of St John, filled with exhibits from the various historical eras. Further uphill within the Citadel, you can visit the Folklore Museum, the Natural Science Museum, the Old Prison, Law Courts, and St Joseph’s Chapel.

Hours: Mon-Sun, 9am to 5pm. Admission to 3 sites: $5

Accommodations: Several hotels are available such as the Excelsior and the Kempinski, but many travelers choose to rent rustic farmhouses or upscale villas for their vacation. These offer more privacy and freedom to explore the island, take leisurely walks through the countryside, shop at the It-Tokk market, or socialize with the villagers where bars open early and close late.

Restaurants: Highly recommended to travelers is the Ta Rikardu restaurant in the Citadel, offering good food and a small gift shop. A fun place for drinks and snacks is the Two Twenty Two; enjoy the terrace at the Fusion 4 bar/cafè, or dine on game, seafood, or local specialties at the Country Terrace.

Other Things to Do: Watch the sunset over the rocky cliffs at Dwerja Bay; visit the wineries; sample the Maltese cuisine. Do some rock climbing, or for real adventure, experience the thrill of diving the Blue Hole near Gozo. Come in October for the Olive Oil Harvest Festival. Historians and archaeologists will want to visit the two oldest freestanding temples in the world at Ggantija, a UNESCO Heritage site of megaliths similar to Stonehenge dating back to 3600 B.C. Hours: 9am – 5pm, 7 days a week. Admission: Adults, seniors, & children – $10, $8, and $6. Ages 5 and under free.

Comino, the smallest of the Maltese Islands, lies between Malta and Gozo. Virtually uninhabited except for a few farmers and small wildlife, there are no cars on this tiny island. Famous for the Blue Lagoon, hidden coves, and sandy beaches, travelers come to Comino to spend a day or even longer to unwind and escape the crowds on the larger islands. Besides swimming, picnicking, sailing, and sunbathing, scuba and snorkel diving is extremely popular here, especially around the Santa Maria Caves seen in the movie and the coral reef of Kemmunett Islet. Tourists can take a 20-minute boat trip for about $7 from Malta or Gozo, have lunch and drinks onboard, or leave the boat to hike and explore the hillsides covered with wild herbs and flowers. For vacationers, the only hotel on the island at San Niklav Bay has its own ferry service and offers 4-star quality rooms with balconies, a gym, 10 tennis courts, two swimming pools and private beach, bars, and restaurants. Comino Hotel ferry service rates average $10 for adults. Forty-six fully equipped cottages are also available, about a 10-minute walk or free shuttle bus service to the hotel. Breakfast is served on the terrace for bungalow occupants, lunch and dinner at the hotel.

Open: April to October. (Spring is a perfect time to visit Comino.)

Rates: Reasonably priced from $45 to $75 p/p with ½ board. Special rates in June and July from $50 to $60.

The main attraction on Comino from the movie is St Mary’s Tower, used to represent the Chateau d’If where the Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel) was imprisoned and eventually escaped. Dramatically situated on the cliffs high above the sea, this 17th century Tower served as the vantage point to warn of pirates and Turkish invaders. The Knights of St John used it for a hunting lodge in the peaceful years of the late 1700’s, and later by the British until the end of the 19th century.

Mdina, known as the “silent or noble” city on the island of Malta, is a fascinating medieval town with traditions dating back over 4,000 years of rulers and religious orders. Believed to be the refuge for the Apostle St Paul, the old capital of Mdina remains a home for several monasteries. Stroll through the uncrowded streets past old homes and palaces of elegant Baroque architecture and visit the Museum of Natural History, the Medina Cathedral, and the Museum of Roman Antiquities near the walls of Mdina. The Palazzo Falzon, or the Norman House, probably built in the early 13th century, was first occupied by the Frenchman L’Isle Adam in 1530 and was restored in the 16th century by the Knights of St John. The Palazzo is actually medieval in design, with living quarters on the 2nd floor, stables and kitchens below. Museum with a large collection of antiques on the ground floor.

Open: 7 days a week, 10am – 1pm, & 2 to 5pm. Admission: Free

After visiting the attractions, stop for lunch or dessert at the well known Fontanella Tea Rooms, or linger until the street lamps are lit and have a quiet, romantic dinner at the exclusive Bacchus restaurant. The Bacchus is known for fine dining with an impressive wine list, great entrees, and inviting atmosphere. Open: 9am to 11:30pm. Reservations suggested.

Transportation: Ferries from Mediterranean ports to Malta, and flights from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Buses are very inexpensive at less than a $1 for up to an hour’s ride; average daily rates for rental cars are $25 to $35, and cabs and water taxis are available for tours and island hopping. You can take the 5-mile tourist train tour in Rabat for $5, leaving every hour from 10am to 5pm, to see some of the various attractions.

Relive history and adventures of the past on your vacation to the Maltese Islands.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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  1. Thank you for including Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum in the itinerary. Please do note however that the Museum’s opening hours are now as follows: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm (last visit at 4pm). Audio guides in several languages are provided. A roof-top cafe and gift shop further compliment the Museum. More info on the Museum’s history and its collections on http://www.palazzofalson.com

    Thank you

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