I'm not a foodie, but the standard fare of Malta seemed bland for a country so close to Italy, where blindfolded you can find great restaurants. I'm sure there's great food here; I just didn't find it, with that one exception in Marsaxlokk.
The only chichi restaurant I wanted to try was the one in Mdina seemingly favored by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when he was shooting a movie here in 2011 ("World War Z," set for release in 2013). The man answering the phone at De Mondion (tinyurl.com/csyq5r2) seemed stunned that I thought I could make a same-day reservation. I didn't try again.
Malta's national dishes are rabbit stew and lampuka (dolphin fish). I thought the "stew" part meant I would not see enough rabbit shape to discern that I was eating a bunny. But there that big leg sat. It wasn't bad, but I prefer fish. The lampuka was OK, but my serving was no big deal.
OK, the history
You could spend an eon visiting crypts, churches, museums. For a comprehensive history lesson in one 45-minute sitting, do it with a film, "The Malta Experience" (themaltaexperience.com) along the Grand Harbor in Valletta. See St. John's Co-Cathedral in central Valletta for jaw-dropping opulence. This place is integral to Maltese history's chief players: the Knights of Malta (the Crusades, the Maltese cross, etc.).
You should see at least one of the prehistoric temples. Some are on the smaller island of Gozo, requiring a ferry ride. I preferred the Hagar Qim Temple on the southwest coast of Malta, minutes west of Zurrieq. (How the heck did those guys quarry and transport a 20-ton stone?)
And spend a day in Mdina. The Normans did nice work. Trust me. History can make for a relaxing vacation.
Want to go?
Flying to Malta from the U.S. means you will have a connection. Mine was in Paris, requiring a 2 1/2-hour flight south. The cost was in line with most any European destination.
GETTING AROUND: Arriva Malta (arriva.com.mt) provides bus service all over Malta, including the airport. Daily and weekly passes are dirt-cheap. If driving, expect Italian-like intensity while driving on the left. GPS advised.
STAYING THERE: I rented through homeaway.com last October, but the Malta Tourism Authority provides a wide array of options at visitmalta.com. There you also find links to historic sites.