Friday 17 August 2018

Discovering the rural areas of Malta

It is impossible to miss the caressing of the sun and the beautiful sight of the Mediterranean sea when
you are on the island of Malta. It is beyond gainsaying, as tourist and honeymooners alike can testify to this fact. The little archipelago of Malta animates both young and old with delectable cuisines and a views, hidden from the mainstream touristic traps, that only matches the description of paradise. The beautiful land and seascapes of the tiny sandy beaches, the high and indented cliffs, the crystalline water and the huge number of cultural and historical attractions, are most pleasant and the main selling points of this little country. But beyond these rare attractions is the evergreen vegetation and beautiful diversity of Malta's green beating heart.

Moving away from the central-east coast of Malta, as you leave Valletta, Vittoriosa or St. Julian's,  you will discover the pocket-sized terraces of cultivated farmlands. The aerial view of this part of the island makes it look more like a chessboard, a feat accomplished by the use of low stone walls to demarcate one farmland from the neighbouring one. The beautiful northern and southern terraces of Malta is a sizeable expanse of cultivated fields of strawberries, olives, pumpkins. tomatoes and vines. The farmers of Malta are generally into a mixed-type of cultivation and animal production. The fertile lands of Malta produce crops of great quality, a compensation for the small land area (316km²) available for cultivation. The quantity of crops produced is also limited because of the traditional means employed in the cultivation of crops due to the lack of large machinery and farming technology to local farmers.

As you move around the hinterland of Malta to meet its people and culture, you will easily recognise
the local farmers by their tanned faces which are furrowed with wrinkles and their calloused hands from local farming activities. At first glance, the Maltese look like they only mind their own business, but on a closer look you will find out how welcoming and accommodating they are. They are quiet, and they are proud of their work. They are happy people and are always ready to show their guests around their evergreen vegetation cultivated farmlands of fruit orchards and animal farms. Taking a trip around their wineries, cheese and olive oil farms will make you realise that behind the bustling 'mass-tourisim-zone', Malta is such a little and idyllic paradise.

For the rural communities of Malta, it takes hard work to maintain the beating heart of their little paradise. The Maltese go around their businesses day-in, day-out. Getting to know the humble and hardworking people of Malta will make you realise how connected to nature these persons are.  We see this in farmers like Grace, a local who works daily to keep her sheep to produce the Ġbejna, a typical sheep's milk cheese. Regardless of the humid and windy conditions of the winter or the stifling heat of summer, Maltese will still go by their businesses be it the baking of Ftira (Maltese bread) or tending to their farmlands throughout the year. 

One would expect an average Maltese farmer or artisan to look stressed and overworked, but on the contrary, these passionate people look radiant. The Maltese are so passionate about their work. This fact is attested by Mario who views his herd of sheep differently from other shepherds and introduces you to his sheep like they are family. Even Charlie, another member within the Merill Rural Network, sees his bees as his colleagues as he tends to them,  as carefully as possible. The Maltese appreciate nothing more than a sincere appreciation of their work and products.

The island of Malta is not merely an amazing place for honeymooners or tourists, but for everyone that is willing to experience the true identity of such a little island community. Once tourists leave the hectic life surrounding urban Malta, there is nothing compared to the closeness to nature that one experience in the rural. Come, hear and feel the sound and caressing of nature, far away from the crowded beaches and the hum of the urban life. Immerse yourself in this little, green, alternate and rejuvenating reality. Smell the olives on the trees and feel the freshness and goodness of the true Maltese product.


Chiara Dalla Fontana

Chiara was born in the province of Vicenza (Italy), but she spent these last four years in different Italian and Spanish cities like Lucca, Valencia, Seville, Rome and Milan. Passionate about travel, curious by nature, and with a great desire to explore the world, she's always with a suitcase at hand, ready to leave for any destination. For this reason, she decided to approach the world of travel through her profession. Chiara graduated in Tourism Sciences at the University of Pisa, then followed a Master's course in Travel and Photo Report. Now she is putting her studies into action by linking the two interests that matter most to her: writing and travelling. Currently, Chiara is in Malta working for the Merill Rural Network, and is excited to explore this new type of tourism approach, based on rural communities, sustainability, ecology and authenticity.

Friday 18 May 2018

Our Food and Wine Tour from Miyuki's view

Miyuki Sugihara, a Japanese artist, joined us for a Food and Wine tour. The images speak for themselves!

Home Page:
Facebook Page: Meyoukey

Sunday 31 January 2016

Mġarr Rural Trail

The Mġarr Rural Trail, which features a number of sites of historic, cultural and natural importance, was inaugurated today. The trail includes information panels which highlight natural attractions, and historic treasures amongst which are the Ħaġrat Temples, an ancient religious site, and the Roman baths on the way down to Għajn Tuffieħa. 

The Mġarr local council and the Majjistral Local Action Group made this project possible through EU funding.

The Mġarr Rural Trail - Click to view flier

Inauguration speeches

Walking towards the grove

Dr. Ian Borg, Parliamentary Secretary for EU funds and 2017 Presidency

Majjistral LAG Manager Ms. Marisa Marmara’ and Mġarr Mayor Mr. Paul Vella planting young olive trees

Monday 7 December 2015

Olive oil in the Maltese islands

From amber yellow to emerald green, olive oil comes in many shades and hues. Sometimes known as ‘liquid gold’, it has been a staple in our diets for time immemorial – around 400 generations, to be exact.

The History

Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, the olive tree has played a crucial role in our diets and nourishment for around 10,000 years. It is believed, in fact, that we've picked olives from trees since the early Neolithic period, and that we started extracting this fruit’s oil some 8,000 years ago. Everyone from the Grecians to the Israelites to the Romans and the Minoans cultivated and consumed olives, and all of these milked them for their delicious and wholesome juices.

This age old tradition that pre-dates written history has survived the test of time, and nowadays, olive oil is a favourite among all the people of the world, be they Mediterranean or not. So much so, that the global production of olive oil is of over 3,200,000 tonnes per year; and it is assumed that close to 100 per cent of that is consumed each year as well.

Fun Facts About Olive Oil
  • Olive oil’s renowned health properties and aromas are due to their plant-based antioxidants called ‘polyphenols’. These are believed to be both anti-carcinogenic and anti-aging.
  • We all know that some red wines get better with age, but olive oil is a product best consumed as fresh as possible. For this reason, you should always check its harvest date.
  • It should be stored in cool, dark places with the lid firmly in place as light, heat and oxygen can destroy its chemical compound. In fact, the fridge is one of the best places to preserve its taste, colour and nutritive elements. It may solidify, but, once taken out, it will go back to being a liquid within a few minutes.
  • The notion that extra virgin olive oil (evoo) should never be heated or used for cooking is not supported by research. However one should not use EVOO for frying. During our EVOO experiences we examine this fact in more detail and discuss from where this myth originated.
  • While unfiltered olive oil may look less appetising – muddy, even – it is actually much tastier and much more nutritious than its filtered counterpart.
  • No two harvests are the same, so no two batches of olive oil can ever taste the same.
  • A certain degree of bitterness is required to ensure that the olive oil is genuine.
  • In tasting sessions, different people may taste the same olive oil differently; that is why the aroma is given more importance.
  • Proper, unfiltered olive oil contains natural fats, meaning it has a high-calorific value – but, don’t worry, they’re good fats!

Extra virgin olive oil can be easily coupled to other local ingredients

Merill & Olive Oil
Olive oil was one of the first products we discovered at Merill. This was no coincidence, however, as two of the first people we teamed up with were Charlie and Ray Vella, the hard-working farmers and owners of tan-Nixxiegha Olive Grove.

Over the years, we have made it our mission to support the farmers in our rural network, particularly those whose work is eco-friendly, thanks to the EU LEADER funded Project. This training consists of pest control and management, olive oil appreciation, and health and safety regulations when working around trees, among many others.

As part of our on-going work, we also support researchers who are rediscovering old Maltese varieties and studying their unique properties; and we help create awareness about the benefits of choosing local and unaltered food products. 

What We Offer

Should you wish to organise an Olive Oil Tasting session to find out what real, unfiltered olive oil tastes like, feel free to get in touch with us.

We have:

  • Professional Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Tasting – As one of newest ventures, this offers small groups the chance to sit down to a glorious olive oil tasting session that will challenge everything you think you know about the taste and smell of good olive oil.
  • Bottled Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - Bottled liquid goodness that’s of a guaranteed quality and origin.

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For more information on Merill or our Olive Oil Tasting sessions, why not drop us a line at or call us on +356 9944 3118? 

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