This is the smallest of the inhabited Maltese islands.Comino takes its name from the cummin herb, one of the few plants that grow wild in the inhospitable top soil of this basically uninhabitable island. For centuries, Comino sat orphaned in the middle of the channel separating Malta and Gozo. Now it is a prized jewel; one of the few places left in the Mediterranean where there are no cars or roads and the land is a wildlife sanctuary.The indigenous population remains in single figures, and with the exception of the residents of the one hotel, all visitors and day-trippers depart before sunset.Comino offers the finest bathing, snorkeling and diving for hundreds of miles around.
A tower to guard the troublesome channel on Comino was first mooted in the early 15th century when King Alphonso V of Aragon levied a local tax to pay for it, but having collected the money, he squandered it elsewhere. Nearly 200 years later, in 1618, Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt built St Mary's Tower to the design of Vittorio Cassar.Commanding the high ground on the southwestern cliffs, St Mary's Tower is smaller but no less robust and fierce than the towers on the island of Malta. The classical four square fort has a commanding presence of both channels from its raised podium and it once housed a permanent garrison of 30 men.Today it is a lookout post for the Armed Forces of Malta.The crumbling escutcheon above the makeshift drawbridge is de Wignacourt's. The fort has struggled with the elements for nearly 400 years and is not in good condition.
Chapel of Our Lady's Return from Egypt
The island's chapel is dedicated to Our Lady's Return from Egypt. Comino falls under the parish of Ghajnsielem on Gozo but has had its own chapel dating back to the 13th century. Its setting is more Greek than Maltese; the small white-fronted building with its little picket gate, tamarisk trees, three hooped bells and snout-like water spouts was built not long after the fort.Mass is said on weekends, when the priest comes over from Qala.