The Maltese archipelago consists of Malta, Gozo, Comino, Cominotto, and Fifla, plus a few minute limestone outcroppings.
Over 92 percent of the inhabitants live on Malta, by far the largest island, and the rest live on Gozo except for a few farmers on Comino.
Although all residents call themselves Maltese, people on Gozo also are called Gozitans.
Terracing is used to contain erosion in agricultural areas, and herding is confined mostly to Gozo.
There is little wildlife besides insects and migratory birds.
Public buses reach large towns on Malta and Gozo, and regular ferry service connects the islands.
Beaches, coves, grottoes, and fishing villages lie close to roadways, but in some places, the islands fall abruptly into the sea over rocks and cliffs or look out to it across elaborate medieval fortifications.
A rainy season occurs in October through February, but the climate is mild year-round. The population as of July 1999 was 369,451, of whom 341,906 lived on Malta and 27,545 lived on Gozo except for a handful on Comino.
The Grand Harbor of Malta is dominated by Valletta, the national capital, whose construction was begun by the Knights of Saint John in 1566, a year after the defeat of the Great Siege by Ottoman Turkey. Live births in that year were 4,826 for a birth rate of 13.1 per thousand.The fact that the estimated national population as of July 1999 was 381,603 indicates that it is continuing to grow.Sicily is 58 miles (93.3 kilometers) to the north, and Tunisia is 194 miles (312.5 kilometers) to the west.The territory of the three inhabited islands is 94.9 square miles (320 square kilometers).Gozo has more greenery, and farming there is done on a larger scale.The environment has thin soil and scarce groundwater.