Best Islands to Live On: Gozo

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Why Gozo? Four words: Sunny, affordable Mediterranean island. That's why we get googly-eyed over Gozo, Malta's quiet and quirky little brother. We developed a full-on crush when the expats told us you can retire there for about $35,000 per year and that you can legally live there indefi nitely as a "temporary resident." You can use the island as a springboard from which to explore the rest of Europe, and according to the World Database of Happiness, you can find some of the happiest people on Earth on Gozo -- and they speak English.

Life of an Expat "We could feel the old-fashioned pace of life on Gozo as soon as we set foot on the island," says Catherine MacDonald. "It's not unusual to see pony carts on the roads and hear sheep and roosters in the villages. This rural atmosphere here really does appeal to us."

Catherine and her husband, Martin Higgins, along with children Colin, Ceilidh and Rebecca left the chilly eastern coast of Canada for the warm Mediterranean island of Gozo in October 2005. "We were looking for adventure and a better quality of life, as well as a way for our children to experience travel and living in another culture," Catherine says. "We considered a lot of countries. However, living and traveling in Europe was very appealing, and Malta ranked high in terms of stability, safety and quality of life, which is important to us because we have teenage kids."

These days Catherine and Martin are so passionate about life on Gozo, they run a website about it, gozoliving.com. "We get to meet lots of interesting people through the site," Catherine says. The couple also founded a Web development company that works with clients across the globe. "We knew we had the skills to work remotely and support ourselves," she says.

Making ends meet is easier on Gozo than in many other areas of Europe. Catherine's family rents a furnished, four-bedroom, five-bathroom home with a swimming pool and terrace for less than $1,500 per month. "We have a panoramic view of the fields of the Ramla Valley and out to sea," says Catherine. "Occasionally on very clear mornings we can see Sicily in the far distance, sometimes even Mount Etna." So will the family always live the good life on Gozo? "We're going to stay as long as we're happy," she says, "and we hope to be happy here for a very long time."

Facts of Life

  • Climate: Mediterranean
  • Population of island: 31,000
  • Percentage expats: 4 percent
  • Population of main town, Victoria: 6,395
  • House starting price: Low $100,000s
  • Travel from US: Fly to a European capital, take an Air Malta flight to Malta and a 25-minute ferry trip to Gozo.
  • Closest hospital: Victoria
  • Price of local beer: $1.50 for a pint of Cisk Lager.
  • Languages: English, Maltese and Italian
  • Ease of immigration: Easy
  • Ease of buying a home: Easy
  • Website: visitmalta.com

Purchasing Paradise

  • $ Three-bedroom maisonette with large kitchen: $167,282.
  • $$ Furnished two-bedroom farmhouse with arched entry ways: $281,748.
  • $$$ Six-bedroom limestone farmhouse surrounded by more than 80 olive trees: $1.6 million.

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