I don’t know if this is a universal phenomenon but when I was younger my friends and I would scheme on plans for our future. It was less about which colleges we planned to apply to or where we hoped to work than it was plans to pool our future funds and buy an island somewhere. We’d set up our own rules and our own laws; anyone we didn’t like we’d kick out. So far that hasn’t come to fruition but I’m still holding out hope. However, it was that youthful ambition to own an island with my friends that first drew me to the Knights of Malta (aka the Hospitallers)- a group of guys who did what me and my friends dreamed of- they took an island and made it theirs.
That initial contact with Malta and her Knights introduced me to the nation’s amazingly storied past. The Maltese Archipelago lies almost squarely in the center of the Mediterranean, making it gold-plated real estate for those interested in centralized hub in trans-European/African/Middle Eastern trade routes. Over the centuries an incredible assortment of powers and superpowers have enjoyed Malta’s mild Mediterranean climes, once held exclusively by the Knights Hospitaller.
From earliest recorded antiquity to modern times, those landlords have included the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Normans, the Byzantine Empire, Goths and Vandals, the Byzantines again, the Kingdom of Sicily Aragonese and Capetian House of Anjou , Arabs, Knights of Malta, Arabs again, Knights of Malta again, Spain under the Hapsburgs, the French, the British and the Maltese themselves. For a history buff like myself, that’s the rarest kind of fascinating historical pedigree- every one of those cultures left remnants of their culture, their relics and artifacts, their ruins and their history on Malta. A paradise for fellow history buffs.
Recently there’s been another kind of Maltese invasion, albeit one much gentler and more appealing than its many military conquests- retirees, expats and pensioners. To some degree these invaders are attracted to Malta for the same reason that their less-welcome historical predecessors were: it’s centrally located amongst some of the world’s great powers, enjoys the aforementioned terrific Mediterranean climate and features turquoise seas beyond white beaches.
Those same visitors are also, however, seeking something unknown to their forbearers- Malta’s EU membership and the economic stability accompanying that membership, great tax rates, a lower cost of living than much of mainland Europe and a less crowded/less “discovered” vibe than so many vacation and retirement hotspots (Gozo in particular). For British expat pensioners Malta has become particularly attractive due to the dozens of “double taxation agreements” (DTAs) the Maltese government has established with other nations, providing a stellar environment for the investment of Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS).
So, for those attracted to warm days and cool nights on pristine and picture-perfect beaches, a vibrant and modern nightlife, a place with fascinating history enough to nearly qualify it as an inhabitable museum, extremely low crime rates, an extremely favorable tax rate, a friendly and accepting population and areas seemingly untouched by modern tourist-ification, consider Malta.
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