What is a luzzu?

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An integral part of Malta’s cultural history, the Luzzu is a traditional Maltese fishing boat, easily recognised by its bright colours and distinctive shape. Like most aspects of Malta’s history, it can trace its ancestral influence back to the various cultures that surrounded and settled on the islands many centuries ago. In fact, the name itself derives from the Sicilian word ‘Guzzu’ which was a common fishing or transport vessel used in those parts.

Perhaps the Luzzu’s most intriguing feature, and one that has become a popular memento among tourists of the islands, is the pair of eyes painted, or fastened to the bow of each vessel. The eyes refer to the ‘Eye of Osiris’ (the Phoenicians’ god of protection against evil) and  locals believe that they protect fishermen from any harm while out at sea and ward off evil spirits. This is typical of Maltese superstition, which also holds that it is bad luck to change the colours of a Luzzu which are traditionally red, blue, white and yellow.

While Maltese summers boast hot days and calm waters, the winters can make for some rather rough sailing. For this reason, the Luzzu is built quite sturdily, with a double ended, carvel built hull, specifically to allow the fisherman to head out to sea every day, even in bad weather. Many years ago, the boats were equipped with sails and powered by the wind but today most Luzzus work with diesel engines.

While there are many of these boats in fact still used for fishing, many have been converted for commercial purposes taking tourists and locals on charters around the Maltese islands. These trips provide an immersive experience into the natural beauty of the localculture and heritage and some would say a holiday to Malta would not be complete without a day trip on a Luzzu! These trips usually leave from the seaside villages in the north, such as Mellieha bay where Neptune Charters operate. One would also do well to visit Marsaxlokk in the south, the largest fishing village in Malta which is well known for the large number of luzzus moored there.

The boats make for a feast of colour among the quaint backdrop of the quiet seaside village, a truly memorable scene.

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