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Report 2011: Gozo, Calypso’s Isle

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 17 of 26: Fontana and Xlendi

photo by MAW

Cliffs at Xlendi

Fontana is a now a suburb of Victoria on the Xlendi road. It is named after a natural spring which flows all year. In the 16thC the Knights built arched shelters over the spring which were used as wash houses. This is another stop for the bus tours and there is a small parking area beside the road.

Originally there were five springs but now only two run. The Knight’s Wash House has three carved coats of arms on the back wall and a row of stone basins on either side. Channels take water to each and a drainage hole in the bottom ensures a continuous supply of clean water. There is a solid stone bench in the centre for sitting. Across the road is ‘Farmer’s Basin’ which has a series of stone basins with a flat sitting area next to each one.

There are tourist shops close by. Gozo Craft Heritage sells a wide range of lace, knitted sweaters and cardigans. Prices are reasonable. Next to it is an up-market jewelers. Across the road and up a flight of steps is Gozo Traditions which sells wines, vacuum packed cheeses, figs, preserves. These are very much geared to the tourist market and we felt the shop gave itself airs and graces and was expensive.

It is a splendid drive from Fontana down through the Xlendi valley which is a deep gorge in the limestone with dense green vegetation in the bottom. The sides are very steep with a series of dry stone walls and terraced fields, no longer used. On the other side of the road is the Lunzjata valley, a very fertile valley with small terraced fields and stone walls.

The road drops steeply down into Xlendi, past a square full of parked cars and buses. Guide books describe this as a small fishing village. It is now a major tourist resort on the south coast of Gozo. Large hotels and restaurants have been built around the narrow inlet which is surrounded by vertical cliffs with horizontal strata. There is no beach. New apartment blocks climb up the hillside.

To the left of the bay, the Kantra valley drops down into another small inlet. This is still untouched by tourist development, but it is spreading fast towards it.

A series of paths runs round the headland and down across the valley to Xlendi Watch Tower on the headland. We parked at the side of the road above the side valley. A well made track climbs to the head of the valley and then contours round the far side with the remains of terraced fields, to the watch tower. Vegetation was lush along here with many deep purple flower heads of wild artichoke.

Xlendi Watch Tower is the oldest free standing coastal watch tower in Gozo built in 1650. It was used as a defense against the Turks as well as smugglers as it had an extensive view of the south-western approaches to Gozo and the entrance to the Comino Channel. It was manned until the 1870s. Now it is closed, although there are plans to restore it.

The views from the watch tower are very good. Carved out on the rocks below are the remains of salt pans. The proceeds from the salt provided money for maintenance. Wild capers grow over the rocks.

There is a good cliff top walk around to Ta’Cenc.

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