Revamp of Malta’s historic Cittadella Gozo attracts more tourists
An ancient fortified city on the island of Gozo, Malta, has been restored with the help of EU funding. A new visitor centre and improved accessibility are helping to attract more tourists to this imposing landmark, which had fallen into disrepair over many decades.
" This restoration project has given a new lease of life to Gozo’s Cittadella and added to the island’s cultural identity. It has also boosted tourism and significantly enhanced the overall experience for visitors. "
The Cittadella Gozo is visible from all over the island. Its past and military architecture make it a place of huge historical and cultural importance. It is also home to numerous rare species of flora and fauna. Despite these assets, its full potential as a tourist destination remained largely untapped.
The project involved the restoration and rehabilitation of internal structures within the walls of the Cittadella. The work undertaken included:
- rebuilding the facades of all the public buildings;
- the rehabilitation of Cathedral square;
- creating accessible paths across the site;
- converting an unused water reservoir into a visitors’ centre; and
- restoring an access road and installing lighting.
In addition, an existing Folklore Museum was converted into an historical house that provides a look at life in the Cittadella during the 17th Century. The project also improved accessibility for physically infirm people. Replacing stairs with ramps and lifts has made more than 60 % of the site accessible to everyone.
Converting the old reservoir into a state-of-the-art interpretation centre has provided the Cittadella with a major new attraction which encourages people to extend the duration of their stay. Multilingual interpretative panels, high-tech multi-media platforms and a 3D show highlighting the Cittadella’s history are all helping to enrich the visitor experience.
The revamp is proving popular. Recent surveys revealed that the numbers of tourists visiting the restored site in 2016 increased by around 29 %, compared to the projected 6 %. In addition, 97 % of visitors considered their overall experience as good or very good.
Local economic operators are also happy with the improvements, with satisfaction ratings increasing from 48 % to 86 %. Some local businesses have even extended their opening hours to cope with the fresh influx of visitors.
The project has won numerous architectural awards including the Prix d’Honneur 2016 for major regeneration projects; the Malta Architects Award 2016 for public buildings; and the Malta Architects Award 2016 for rehabilitation & conservation projects.
Moreover, the 3D show has also attracted major international plaudits such as: Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 2017; the Top Choice Tourist Attraction 2017 by Lian Org for Asian countries: and the Best Themed Entertainment Award in California.
“Since the completion of the Cittadella project the number of visitors and commercial activity within the restored fortress has increased considerably. The installation of a new lighting system permits the visitors to stroll around the regenerated Cittadella and enjoy impressive views of Gozo even after sunset. As a commercial outlet operating within the inner part of the fortress, we decided to extend our normal operating hours to very late so as to capture and benefit from this fresh influx of visitors."
Ricardo Zammit, proprietor of Ta’ Rikardu Restaurant
“Undoubtedly the overall visitor experience at the Cittadella – for both foreigners and locals – has been extremely enhanced in the past recent years. Heritage Malta manages four museums and sites within the Cittadella walls, and we can tell that visitors are having a pleasant visit before they reach our doors. Thanks to the Cittadella ERDF 246 Project various archaeological remains have been discovered while other abandoned historic sites have been restored and regenerated. Additionally one of Heritage Malta’s museums – the Gran Castello Historic House – benefited directly from funds of the same project, with improved interpretation facilities inside the museum. All attractions have now become part of one holistic experience. Visitor numbers have also increased considerably due to a number of combined factors."
Nicoline Sagona, Manager, Gozo Museums & Sites, Heritage Malta
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Rehabilitation and restoration of Cittadella Gozo” is EUR 14 873 403, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 12 167 295 through the “Investing in Competitiveness for a Better Quality of Life” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Promoting Sustainable Tourism”.