Whether playing tourist and staycationing or travelling abroad, what type of accommodation qualifies as providing an “authentic experience”?
A question bound to invite many subjective definitions varying from: simply being in the host country down to hanging out with the locals.
For me, when any type of accommodation promises to offer an authentic experience, I think of a boutique guesthouse. Specifically, one run by locals, unique in its offerings and 100% a standalone business, independent of any chain or typical holiday resorts.
An example of accommodation in Malta that offers you an authentic experience is The Mulberries.
We were lucky to spend a weekend there in October. During our stay, we also got to hang out with the owners, Aaron and Jesabel.
After checking in with ease, we sat down in the comfortable living room, chit-chatting like old friends. And it was incredible hearing their back story into how they (ever so lovingly) restored life into an old, dilapidated farmhouse.
The Mulberries is located in agricultural village Zabbar and tick all boxes of what an accommodation offers to provide you with a genuinely authentic Maltese Experience.
Currently, over 5000 listings on Airbnb alone in Malta (many promising an authentic experience to would-be travellers), so it would be a shame if I didn’t share a post about this epic find right here!
Aaron and Jesabel -The Story Behind The Mulberries
Upon meeting Aaron and his wife Jesabel, the first thing that stood out was their love for Malta, their culture and preserving it. Both are natives of the area and have eco-environmentalist values.
During our stay, they delighted in sharing all they knew of the history of Zabbar, and I learned Mulberries is the local tree of Zabbar (Morus Nigra); and the reason behind the name chosen for their 19 room guesthouse.
Currently, in Malta, there aren’t any eco-friendly guesthouses as such. The Mulberries is the first-of-its-kind and is set to become farm to plate dining pioneers, offering only locally sourced produce.
Aaron and Jesabel understand the lack of environmental awareness on the Maltese islands. Their mission is to showcase everything the beautiful island of Malta has to offer, underpinned with sustainability at its core.
The Mulberries champion sustainability, and in a bid to drive further awareness locally, Aaron and Jesabel plan to collaborate with a network of local agriculture businesses.
This will guarantee business for local people, reduce carbon emissions and provide guests with a truly holistic experience – down to the foods served at The Mulberries.
The Mulberries A 9 Year Long Dream
The Mulberries have been a dream in the making for a long time. Nine, to be exact. Much of this was due to diligently collecting and upcycling local resources – raw materials and vintage pieces alike.
Aaron, who has an architectural background, was keen to show us around and tell us the story of how different parts of the guesthouse came into existence.
For instance, the 400-year-old spiralled staircase salvaged from an old house in Floriana. Aaron also showed us some remnants of the old farmhouse that once stood where the Mulberries now boldly stands.
The design of The Mulberries makes full use of natural elements such as the sun path and rainwater recycling. Owing to the ingeniousness of the architecture, it is still in keeping with a traditional Maltese rural farmhouse. And staying true to both their Maltese heritage.
Guests will find Maltese limestone, elegant centuries-old chandeliers, art, and many vintage pieces by local artisans.
A Lesser-Known Location
So just how important is location when it comes to guesthouses offering you an authentic experience?
No offence to big resorts in the commercial hubs (and/or people); personally, I prefer intimate smaller places.
Especially when it comes to learning more about a place and immersing myself in the local culture.
Often though, you’ll tend to find spots such as this somewhat off the beaten track and away from the samey-samey commercial places as is the case for The Mulberries.
Lesser-known places often conceal hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. As well as providing more authenticity of the area you are visiting.
For instance The Mulberries is almost hidden down a quiet hamlet in Zabbar. Thus, the location paired with the comfort home feel offers guests a holistic Maltese escape.
Staying At The Mulberries
Finally…our stay at the Mulberries.
From the moment you peep behind the whimsy looking doorway and find yourself standing in the courtyard of The Mulberries, you’ll instantly feel a reassuring pull to stay put.
Jampacked with bundles of unpretentious elegance, The Mulberries has everything in mind to provide you with a superior relaxing experience.
You’ll find an uber-cool games room in the communal spaces, complete with a pool table and packaged with more vintage pieces collected along the way.
The kitchen is the perfect blend of rustic-luxe meets modern-day countryside living. In the week before arriving, Jesabel contacted me to double-check our dietary requirements, and we managed to enjoy a delicious local breakfast.
Additionally, you will find a cosy and homey spacious living room laden with sumptuous home comforts, inviting you to curl up in one of the plush sofas with a book.
The Mulberries Gardens + Nearby Areas
Then there’s the garden…
A whopping 3000m2 space awaited us complete with local tree – Mulberries. The garden also houses olive and oranges, and lemon trees. The outside space is partially walled off, offering a shield and further separation from you and the outside world.
We sat outside in the gardens during our stay, watching the trees swaying this way and then in the gentle autumnal breeze. The outdoor space offers a peaceful oasis with the sounds of the birdsong and not much else.
Zabbar is close to The Three Cities. Given The Mulberries environmentalist values, guests who wish to explore more of the village are encouraged to enjoy the 20-minute walk.
The guesthouse is also close to picture perfect Marsascala and fishing village Marsaxlokk. You can also reach Valletta in 15 minutes by bus (the bus stop is 2 mins away from The Mulberries).
Aaron was only too happy to share hidden spots along the Marsaxlokk coastal walk on the second day of our stay.
Taking the time to show us pictures of his own local adventures. We visited Marsaxlokk and took a quiet coastal walk completely off the beaten track.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know just how much I love to explore Malta. However, following personalised recommendations, we managed to see a completely new spot where we barely encountered a soul.
Our Room @ The Mulberries
The Mulberries house has 19 rooms. I was able to have a little nosey around and all have been naturally decorated to offer maximum comfort.
Jesabel, who has a hospitality background, told me in the bid to guarantee this, even the colour palettes of muted purples + countryside hues and tones used throughout the Mulberries have been considered.
All rooms overlook the centralised courtyard and have large shared terraces and/or personal ones.
Each room has the same amenities, such as the double-deluxe comfort beds. However each has been individually furnished with eclectic Maltese vintage pieces salvaged and up-cycled and ringing true to their sustainability values.
Upon arrival we were greeted with our welcome pack containing shampoo, shower gel and moisturiser (all sustainable products of course) and a lovely touch added to the room.
We stayed in one of the Terrace Suites during our visit – a mezzanine-style room with beautifully exposed beams, complete with an ensuite bathroom. Our room also had a personal terrace overlooking the quiet hamlet. We found our room spacious enough to feel cosy without feeling cramped and slept like a baby on both nights of my stay.
Guesthouses offer you an authentic experience through the sharing of storytelling and being somewhat revolutionary.
Sure enough big resorts provide you with comfy luxurious beds, a hearty meal all with staff that bear smiley faces.
But, how often do you find yourself sat face to face with the owners, native to the local area hearing exactly what they stand for, and their own personal stories?
Storytelling is what humans live for and it how connections are forged. I left The Mulberries feeling like not only had I learned something new but like an invited guest in the home of a friend.
Leaving this right here to encourage and help you find an authentic experience in Malta.
Trejqet il-Wied ta Mazza
Prices start from €80 (for 2 adults) with breakfast.
If you have any further questions, please ask in the comments?