Zejtun attracted me for a special Festival: Zejt iz-Zejtun!
Hi Explorers 🙂 In this article I’m going to share with you my first experience of Zejtun, a beautiful village in the South East of Malta.
There are many ways and times to explore a new village and all can give you different emotions. It could be a cloudy day where I like to see the yellow Maltese walls reflecting on the pods, or a sunny spring morning where I love open my arms and feel the warm of the sun, wherever I am I open my arms and I feel…being part of this beautiful Island!
I found this Festival special for a reason, it is a festival dedicated to a local product, the olive oil, the king of the Mediterranean cuisine.
Coming from Umbria, an Italian central region where the production of olive oil has an important role in our economy, I was researching about the Maltese authentic products, its food and wine productions.
I believe that we can have a deep experience of a territory also experiencing its cuisine!
The local products tell a story of a place, so that Zejt iz-Zejtun is more than a festival is a story to be discovered…click here 😉
I always take the bus to move around for my explorations, so my recommendation is be awareabout the time of the last bus before, especially if you need to stop in Valletta and then take the next bus for your destination.
My tip is to download the Malta Public Transport “Talljnea Smartphone App”, so you can check in live time all the buses routes closest to your location, click here
Arrived in Zejtun I was welcomed by a spacious square where dominates the summer residence of Grigor Bonnici.
The Palace called ‘Aedes Danielis’ which means ‘The House of Daniel’ (as Daniel the Prophet of the Old Testament) is next to the little Church of St Angelo Martyr, mausoleum of the Bonnici family.
Grigor Bonnici (1612-1698) was the Mayor of Mdina, we can say that for those time he was actually as a prime minister today. He used to live in Zejtun and for the love of his people and territory he was the main benefactor of the construction of the new parish church dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria.
The decision to built a new parish was not only to host the big community that was growing in Zejtun but also to unify the two main hamlets that were forming Zejtun: the upper village of Bisbut (Hal Gwann) with the lower village of Bisqallin, this one probalby inhabitated by the Sicilian fishing families called by the Maltese “qalli”.
Apparently Bonnici had to use his diplomatic skills to put together the two hamlets in decision of the place for the contruction of the church. He not only gave the land and the resurces to financiate it but the inhabitants wanted the new parish be bigger than the Cathedral in Mdina!
So Bonnici called the celebrated architect Lorenzo Gafa, who design the new Mdina Cathedral, to design the Zejtun one, a real baroque masterpiece in the Maltese islands.
Bonnici couldn’t see the parish finished because the works started in 1692 and completed in 1744 but the Zejtun people of the upper and the lower village where finally united in a new centre, not only religious but also civic and commercial.
During the Festival I could explore the crypt of the Parish church, have a look in the pictures below 🙂
Then I visited the Zejtun Parish Museum of Art and History, it is just next to the church.
Inside a beautiful Madonna painting, called ‘The Zejtun Madonna’ by Antonio de Saliba end of 15C, precious wooden statues, silverware, liturgical vestments and also archeological pottery.
Another masterpiece that you can see in the museum is the Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1610, probably made by a follower of Caravaggio.
I liked a lot also the short video presentation of Zejtun showed in the musem, you can buy the dvd as a nice memory of Zejtun to bring back home!
Well I will surely tell you more about all the Zejtun’s secrets, for now I like to dwell on the Festival.
I really suggest to experience Zejtun in this moment of the year. It will be every last weekend of September, the Saturday evening is the best moment!
You will see the blessing of the olives harvested in full regalia under the Parish Priest and Knights Parade!
The new oil is the promise of a good season and his straw yellow colour and sweet taste revealed a good winter time.
Time to taste it and enjoy it on a nice bruschetta (toast Maltese bread dressed by olive oil, salt and garlic or chopped tomatos)!
The Festival offers to the visitors different Maltese dishes to taste, the squares and the streets are decorated with the stalls and the agricultural carts.
All the village participate to this event, even children are dressed with typical medieval costumes occupied in different depiction of rural activities, this is what gives a special touch to Zejtun!
Local food, colourful flag bearers, drummers and dancers everything is authentic as the folk singers playing the traditional Maltese music ‘ghana’.
This visit opend my mind with lots of questions.
For instance, why Zejtun hosts a Olive Oil Festival?
Well, my experience was just at its first step, come with me and you will know more about Zejtun and the Maltese history 😉
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