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Malta

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Malta is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea that lies south of the island of Sicily, Italy. The country is an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited.

Although small, Malta has a long and rich history, with evidence for habitation going back to the Neolithic era (4th millennium B.C.). The country boasts some of the world's most ancient standing buildings (the Neolithic temples), and its strategic location and good harbors in the middle of the Mediterannean have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French and finally the British, with the colonial period lasting until 1964.

The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitallers, took over sovereign control of Malta in 1530, and by 1533 the Order had built a hospital at Birgu (one of the three cities) to care for the sick. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, mounted a great siege of Malta with a fleet of 180 ships and a landing force of 30,000 men. In response the Order, with only 8,000 defenders, drove the Ottoman Turks away after a hard siege of several months. After this siege, the Order founded the city of Valletta on a peninsula, and fortified it with a massive stone wall, which even withstood heavy bombing during the Second World War. By 1575 the Order had built a large hospital known as the Grand Hospital or Sacred Infirmary in order to continue with its primary mission of caring for the sick.

In 1798, the French under Napoleon took the island on 12 June, without resistance, when the Grand Master of the Order capitulated after deciding that the island could not be defended against the opposing French naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years, until they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson's command, in September 1800.

Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars.

The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance during the Second World War. An image of the cross is displayed on the flag. The colors on the flag are red and white, colors related to the Order of St. John.

No visa is required for entry by EU and American citizens. Visitors from outside the EU, including Americans, must fill out a landing card, available on board some arriving flights (sometimes) or in the entrance hall of the airport from the small box between the customs' agents.

By plane
Malta possesses its own national carrier, Air Malta, with regular connections to many European, North African and Middle Eastern centres.

The islands possess one international airport, Malta International, located at Luqa.

By boat
There are frequent fast ferries to the Sicilian port of Catania, Italy. The trip takes around 4 hours, can get bumpy (or cancelled) if it's windy, and is often more expensive than flying.

There is also a highspeed catamaran between Pozzallo and Valetta that takes approximatly 90 min.

Information provided by Wikipedia

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