The Alpine Valley is a little piece of Italy in Victoria, with unspoilt, natural beauty. There are many ways to enjoy it. There are resorts and snowfields for downhill and cross-country skiing in winter and trail riding in summer.
Myrtleford, at the base of Mt Buffalo in the heart of the Owens Valley, was settled in 1837. Soon after, miners arrived on the gold crusade. In the 1950s, Italian immigrants flocked to this spot because of the many similarities to the old country. It's an agricultural town, growing hops, tobacco, walnuts, asparagus, mint, grapes and wine.
The highly acclaimed D&C Butchery is run by Chook Novak and Daryl Keesing. Chook's parents came from a long line of Italian butchers. They are true artisans and their 1950s-style shop sells items such as osso bucco, veal scaloppine, prosciutto, pancetta, coppa colla, salami and other Italian delicacies.
Just a little way along the Great Alpine Road is Michelini Wines. Emo Michelini came from the Trentino Alto Adige region of the Italian Alps where his family had grown grapes since the mid-1800s. He arrived in Australia with a carpetbag and a load of dreams and began share-farming with several other Italians, growing and curing tobacco.
Emo had vision and wine grapes became his future. His two sons are continuing this vision and they produce fragolino, marzemino, merlot, pinot grigio, barbero and sangiovese. The cellar door is open every day from 10am to 5pm and tastings are free.
Feltrin Café Ristorante is run by husband and wife team Franco and Diana Feltrin. Coming from the Venice area, their family settled here in the 1960s. They have always been involved in the food industry. Franco's skills are in the preparation of porcini, truffles, polenta and game meats. Apart from superb cuisine, diners enjoy the warm Italian friendliness.
Our crew called in to Nino Mautone's asparagus farm to see where the delicious vegetable they had tried at Feltrin's was grown. Nino has been living in the area for 40 years and believes the clean air and water are responsible for his success. Spears that are 10-12 centimetres in the morning can be 30-35 centimetres by afternoon. Visitors are always welcome.
A visit to Bright Berry Farm is sure to get your tastebuds jumping. Run by Colin and Lorraine Leita, it is a rich tapestry of their Italian ancestry. They grow raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, youngberries, blackcurrants, silvanberries, elderberries, lawtonberries and gooseberries. They also grow cherries, seedless table grapes, walnuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts. Fresh berries are available in season and frozen berries year round. They also have a range of premium jams, berry ice creams and sorbets and fruit wines.
Villa Gusto is in the beautiful Buckland Valley, which is often compared to the hills of Piedmont or Tuscany. The luxury accommodation which overlooks majestic Mt Buffalo was modelled on the great villas of northern Italy, with a strong emphasis on Italian-style cuisine and wines. They open every day between December and May and from Friday to Monday between June and November.
The large Tuscan gardens feature Italian cast iron water fountains and urns. The Cioccolato Grande Suite and three deluxe suites Limone, Rosso and Bianco have king beds, 17th-century antiques, artworks, tapestry, a marbled balcony and private garden. The marble bathroom has a spa bath.
Three luxury cabinas are perfect for groups travelling together. They can enjoy the facilities of the other suites and have a Jacuzzi spa bath on the sundeck. Two standard villa rooms Verde and Arancia are beautifully appointed with marbled shower, double vanities and charming art.
Villa Gusto's kitchen is overseen by chef Douglas Elder. His four-course degustation menu highlights produce of the region. No two menus are ever the same and they live by the rule: 'cook and eat on the same day of harvest'. Breakfasts are very special. Cooking styles change with the seasons.