Former British colony is set to get a planet-sized chunk of attention
The trip will be Kate's first official overseas trip without Prince William
Duchess will represent the Queen on the official visit later this month
Tour will celebrate 50th anniversary of Maltese independence
By Harry Mount for MailOnline
Published: 05:23 EST, 1 September 2014 | Updated: 09:58 EST, 1 September 2014
Malta is a small island - and Valletta is the smallest capital in the EU. But now the former British colony is getting a planet-sized chunk of attention.
Later this month, the Duchess of Cambridge will represent the Queen on her first official overseas trip without Prince William (or Prince George) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Maltese independence.
Already the island has gone Kate-crazy. People could talk of little else as I travelled around Malta and its neighbour, Gozo.
In the spotlight: The Duchess of Cambridge will visit Malta’s pretty capital, Valletta
Red letter day: The Duchess will feel at home on Malta, where 150 years of British rule have left their mark
Leaving the family behind: Kate and William took Prince George to New Zealand and Australia in July but this time the Duchess will travel solo
As if that wasn't enough, Brangelina - the newly wed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - have been in Gozo filming By The Sea, written by Jolie. The couple took over the secluded pebble beach of Mgarr ix-Xini.
Brangelina - the newly wed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - have been in Gozo filming By The Sea, written by Jolie. The couple took over the secluded pebble beach of Mgarr ix-Xini.
The Duchess of Cambridge visited the Solomon Islands as part of a Diamond Jubilee Tour in 2012
Kate and William received a warm welcome when they visited a primary school in the Solomon Islands in 2012
Short hop: A 25-minute ferry takes passengers across the channel that separates the islands
The Duchess will feel at home on Malta, where 150 years of British rule have left their mark. The Maltese drive on the left, British phone and post boxes are everywhere, there's even a M&S in Valletta - and they still use three-pin electric plugs.
What's more, Malta has been held in great affection by the Queen for nearly 70 years. Between 1949 and 1951, as Princess Elizabeth, she lived just outside Valletta, when Prince Philip was stationed there as a naval officer.
Kate recently cut the ribbon to start English leg of Tour De...
Star attraction: Newly weds Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie took over the pebble beach of Mgarr ix-Xini in Gozo
Secluded spot: Brad and Angelina were in Gozo filming By The Sea, which was written by Jolie
Angelina travelled to Malta ahead of Brad, who was finishing some promotion work for his upcoming film, Fury
The links were strengthened during the war when the island came under Luftwaffe bombardment. It held out and was awarded the George Cross by George VI as a result.
It's a pity the Duchess will be there for only two days - there's so much to see on these small, but fascinating islands.
Malta is by far the larger of the two and the more crowded, while Gozo is the deserted, rural cousin. Do take the regular 25-minute ferry across the channel that separates the islands.
Both are so rich in history that I swam off the golden-red sands of Ramla Bay, on northern Gozo, without realising its significance. Only later did I discover this was the beach where Odysseus, hero of Homer's Odyssey, was washed up, clinging on to a timber, the last fragment of his shipwrecked boat.
He was given refuge in a nearby cave by Calypso, a drop-dead gorgeous nymph. He promptly hopped into bed with her. Calypso's Cave, on the hill overlooking the bay, was depressingly short on attractive nymphs.
Back on Malta, Valletta was a delight. It's only a three-hour flight from London, but it feels tropical: a former British colony meets Italy meets Arab Africa. Sicily is only 50 miles north; Tunisia 176 miles west.
Legendary beach: Odysseus, hero of Homer's Odyssey, was washed up on the golden-red sands of Ramla Bay
Ornate: St John's Co-Cathedral in Valetta was built by the Knights of Malta from 1573
All that glitters: St John's Co-Cathedral is a blingy series of gilded rooms, studded with baroque monuments
The city is built on a grid, like an early Manhattan, but there are no skyscrapers and all but essential traffic is banned.
At its heart is St John's Co-Cathedral, built by the Knights of Malta from 1573. The knights — from Italy, Provence, Auvergne and Aragon - competed to produce the most ornate chapels. The result is a blingy series of gilded rooms, studded with baroque monuments.
The generous knights gave two Caravaggios, of St Jerome and The Beheading Of John The Baptist, to the cathedral. Both are still there.
As a crucial naval port, Valletta once had a rackety side, concentrated on Strait Street, in the heart of the city. Nicknamed 'the Gut' by heavy drinking sailors, it was once thick with brothels, bars and seedy lodging houses.
Charming: For a grander experience of Malta, stay at the Phoenicia, which the Queen and Prince Philip visited for naval parties when they lived on Malta
Long friendship: The Queen is pictured on a state visit to Malta in 2005
These days, the Gut has cleaned up its act - I ate well at Palazzo Preca, a 16th-century palace at 54 Strait Street, run by the pretty, young Preca sisters, Ramona and Roberta.
For a grander experience of Malta, stay at the Phoenicia, which the Queen and Prince Philip visited for naval parties when they lived on Malta. It has all the charms of a grand colonial hotel — along with free wi-fi and excellent service.
I can understand how Odysseus couldn't tear himself away from Malta and Gozo for seven years. You might find it just as difficult to leave.