The Italian influence on Maltese culture

1 March 2017

The Italian influence on Maltese culture

Many tourists plan holidays in Malta without knowing quite what to expect, aside from endless sunshine and the captivating blue hue of the sea. As a Mediterranean island that is completely independent from any other country, Malta is a pleasant mix of cultures, drawing strong influences from Italy and Great Britain.

Though Malta was a part of the Kingdom of Sicily for centuries, it seems that the islands truly embraced Italian culture when the Order of the Knights of Saint John settled here in 1530 for just over 250 years. As the Knights were previously stationed in Italy, the Order brought with it an immeasurable wealth of knowledge, influence, and customs.

Here are a few ways cultural influences from Italy have become interwoven in modern Maltese culture.

The Italian influence on Maltese culture

The food and cuisine

Whether you’re eating out or settling in for a lovely homemade meal, you’ll find that Maltese cuisine is very similar to what you might find in Sicily, with pasta and pizza being among the locals’ favourite dishes. While Maltese cuisine does indeed hold some very unique dishes that seem completely native to the islands, Maltese food lovers are quick to indulge in fresh fish, light fluffy bread and delicious pasta dishes, all topped off with a drizzle of olive oil, of course!

The language

Speaking of food, even while reading a menu at a restaurant, you may find yourself wondering why some dishes have Italian names, like linguine mare (flat noodles in a seafood sauce). Up to 1934, Italian was considered as the de facto language of the Maltese islands, and nowadays over half the population has good knowledge of the language, by way of speaking, listening reading and/or writing. Italian travellers are likely to find themselves at home straight away thanks to this. The Maltese are also big fans of incorporating Italian phrases into everyday conversation, with some favourites including: ‘buon apetito’ right before a meal, ‘ciao’ when saying goodbye, and ‘troppo tardi’ when someone has simply done too little, too late.

The Italian influence on Maltese culture

The way of life

Some say it’s simply the Mediterranean way, while others are adamant that the Maltese have picked up more than a few habits from our Italian neighbours. It’s no secret that Maltese people appreciate a laid-back lifestyle, one where shops close for the afternoon just in time for lunch, with a siesta to follow. You’ll also find that communication in Malta is not just verbal – it’s physical too. Maltese people love to gesticulate as they speak, just don’t get on their bad side, you might be on the receiving end of purely physical gestures!

Malta is a rich tapestry of cultural influences that have shaped it into a truly unique place to visit, book your flights to Malta to immerse yourself in its fantastic culture!


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