The Movie: Troy
Any place that has hosted Brad Pitt in a leather skirt is a destination I'd like to visit. And it seems I'm not alone. Since Pitt, Eric Bana and Co filmed the epic Troy a few years back the island has experienced an influx of Troy-seeking tourists. Now Pitt is there again and is currently filming his new sci-fi zombie thriller, World War Z. He and
Angelina Jolie were seen dining at De Mondion restaurant at the five star Xara Palace hotel, an old stomping ground for Pitt who stayed there while filming Troy.
In Troy Pitt played the Greek character Achilles, in the film based on Homer's The Iliad, who leads a bloody assault on the Trojans after Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom, also in a skirt) steals away the beautiful Helen of Troy from her husband.
Malta is one of those islands that only the British know really well but once the rest of the world get a look at the ruggedly beautiful Maltese scenery we predict that tourists will be invading Malta like the Greeks laid siege to Troy.
The Luxury Travel Bible suggests that those in search of Hollywood glamour and luxury hotels should head to the following locations:
The main sets for Troy, including King Priam's palace and the gates through which the famous wooden horse is drawn, were built at Fort Ricasoli, overlooking the Grand Harbour at Valletta, Malta's capital city. Take a walk along the old walls of the fortress city to get a feel of its long history. The narrow streets are full of tiny shops selling antiques, maps, books, prints and jewellery. Secluded courtyards and squares house outdoor cafes and you'll also find some of the best baroque churches and palaces in Europe.
At sunset its yellow stone buildings have a golden glow. For designer fashion luxury - lovers should head to Valletta's main streets - Republic Street and Merchants Street. When it's not being used as a movie location, the main square is the setting for Knights of Malta re-enactments every Sunday at 11am.
Pitt and his then wife, Jennifer Aniston, spent much of the 11-week film schedule on the island so first stop for Brad worshippers is probably to check into the same luxury hotels as he did; Intercontinental Hotel in St Julians or the Westin Dragonar. Go to the gym in either hotel and you might sweat it out on the very treadmill (gasp) used by Pitt. He worked out regularly at both luxury hotel gyms.
St Julians is now an extension of the more bustling town of Sliema, although it started life as a small fishing village based on Spinola and Balluta Bays. And you can still see the fishermen's traditional coloured boats moored beneath the waterfront cafes at Spinola Bay. St Julians is where you find some of Malta's ritziest and newest hotels. Next door is Paceville, which lives up to its name as Malta's main night-life centre where there are enough clubs, casinos, restaurants, cafes and bars to keep the most serious Hollywood party animal happy. The elegant Spinola Palace, built in 1658 by an Italian knight, is the landmark historic building on the bay and Villa Dragonara, now a casino, is on the headland of St George's Bay.
Many of the water and landing scenes for the $US180 million epic were filmed here. Ghajn Tuffieha is a popular sandy beach nesting below hills designated as a nature park. It is unspoilt and undeveloped - hence its attraction for the filmmakers - but you can hire a beach sunlounger or beach umbrella and there are pedallos and a small snack bar. The beach can be reached only down a steep flight of steps or by a gravel track.
Ghajn Tuffieha's location means it is not usually as crowded as its neighbour, Golden Bay. Stay after most bathers leave for their hotels and enjoy the best time on the beach - the spectacular sunset.
Filming also took place at Golden Bay, another of Malta's most popular sandy beaches. Despite its popularity, it is still set amongst countryside and relatively undeveloped.
There are plenty of water sports from jet skiing and paragliding to banana boat rides. It is easier to access than Ghajn Tuffieha so more popular with families. The sunsets are good from here too making it a popular spot for evening barbecues.
Book a table at the restaurant in Xara Palace, a five-star boutique hotel in the old city Mdina, where Brad and Jen were spotted dining.
Once Malta's capital, Mdina, in the centre of the island, is an ancient city with a laid-back feel. It is the city that time forgot and I doubt its back streets have changed much for centuries apart from the addition of the odd TV aerial and satellite dish.
Another town with an historic feel is the 15th century Mellieha, perched on a ridge between St Paul's Bay and Mellieha Bay. It was abandoned for a couple of centuries because of its vulnerability to pirate and Saracen attack and was re-inhabited in the early 18th century. Filming for the Trojan blockbuster also took place here.
From the terrace of the Parish Church, there is a panoramic view over Mellieha Bay and the surrounding countryside. Beneath the church is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, a national shrine. A fresco of the Madonna and Child is said to have been painted by St Luke. This legend has made the troglodyte chapel into a popular place of pilgrimage. If you want to rent a private villa as some celebrity visitors do, this is the place to do it. Large luxury villas and houses have been built overlooking the bay.
Last stop on the Maltese Troy tour is Cirkewwa, where you can catch the ferry to Gozo. Some filming took place on this tiny island, mainly at Dwejra on the west coast. But you don't really need an excuse to go there. Gozo is an idyllic island with everything that Malta offers, only on a smaller, more rural scale. Gozo and its little sister island, Comino, have a more leisurely pace with rhythms dictated by the season, fishing and agriculture. In summer the islands are awash with oleanders, bougainvillea and geraniums. Gozo has some of the Mediterranean's best dive sites and its own connections with Homer. Popular myth has it that Gozo is the legendary Calypsos Isle of Homer's Odyssey.
5 Best Hotels in Malta
Xara Palace, Mdina
A privately-owned luxury Relais &Chateaux property in Malta's medieval capital. The historic hotel forms part of the medieval bastions that surround the city. Jacuzzi lovers should check into the Superior duplex suites.
InterContinental Hotel, St Julians
The five-star luxurious hotel sits on its own waterfront complex on St George's Bay with a private beach and water sports and all the usual 5 star amenities.
One of Malta's only contemporary boutique hotels, Juliani is a converted seaside town house. Balconies look out over the harbour and rattan sofas give it a add to the seaside feel. Love that rooftop pool and the blue cushions on the terrace. Luxury lovers should book a Junior Suite with a seaview.
Westin Dragonar, St Julians
Set on a peninsula with the blue Mediterranean all around the hotel has great views. Luxury travel aficionados should book into the luxurious Bay Suites; with private terraces and spectacular sea views, not to mention plasma screens and that all important Westin Heavenly Bed.
The Palace, Silema
Luxury lovers looking for the best the Palace offers, can book into the Palazzo Suites housed behind the façade of the 200-year-old Palazzo Capua next to the main Palace hotel. The five suites have colonnaded terraces. The Palace's little four-star sister is Hotel Victoria, also housed in an historic building.
Hilary Doling updated 1/7/11