Pour the grappa, crank up the music and raise the lanterns.

After a four-year hiatus, the much-loved Swiss Italian Festa is ready to rock Hepburn Springs and Daylesford over four days, from the 21 to 24 October.

“COVID-19 has disconnected us from so many things and so I see the Festa as a great way to not only bring people together for a socially great time, but to reconnect people with something even bigger than just a party,” says Michele Bauer, the Swiss Italian Festa Director.

While acknowledging the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples as the traditional owners, the gold rush of the 1850s onwards brought a richness found in not only the yellow stuff, but also the culture of the Swiss Italians, mainly from the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino. They headed to the Hepburn Springs region to seek their fortune.

“The terrain reminded them of home,” says Robyn Rogers, President of the Swiss Italian Festa. “They recognised the importance of the mineral springs in the area and were heavily involved in lobbying the Victorian Government of the day to save the springs from destruction.”

With many descendants still living in the area and reminders of a bygone era caressing a landscape dotted with lavender fields, dry stone walls and Italianate buildings, the Festa pays homage to the past as well as looking towards the future.

And in a region where streets bear Italian names, the language is taught in the schools and the famed bullboar sausages are a delicacy, the Festa is a chance to immerse in a slice of Europe in an Australian setting.

“As spa towns we have a history of hospitality and we warmly welcome visitors to come and celebrate with us,” Rogers says. “We’ll be showcasing the wonderful food and wine produce of our region that is a direct link to those first Swiss Italian settlers who planted many of the first vineyards and olive groves”.

As the Festa Director, Michele Bauer believes there’s a growing interest in history, ancestry and the stories behind the people. Combining a background as a director of festivals with a long career in arts, theatre and music, Michele brings skills and passions to curate her first Festa.

Traditionally held in Hepburn Springs, this year the Festa will spill into Daylesford. “We want to touch on the whole audience of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. They are separate entities, but conjoined.”

Within the constraints of COVID safety, the program will be designed to be flexible and reflect the way of the world in October.

“We want to be optimistic in what we set out to achieve, but we also need to be realistic.”

With a focus on celebrating the food, wine and culture of Swiss Italian history, the program will include favourite activities from past Festas as well as new elements.

“Expect added pizazz,” says Michele. “Our goal is to hold a strong Festa. After a four year break, we’re not only coming back for this year, we’re coming back strong.”

About the author

Jocelyn Pride
Jocelyn Pride
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Jocelyn Pride is an award winning freelance writer / photographer who made a long awaited tree change to Castlemaine in early 2020. Her work has been published in a range of Australian and international travel magazines including; Signature Luxury Travel & Style, Vacations & Travel, Selector, Australian Traveller, International Traveller,  Sawasdee (Thai airways), Cruise Passenger and WellBeing. Jocelyn has a strong interest in writing stories about wildlife, nature, sustainability, history, food / wine and cultural experiences. She loves to keep fit and is handy on a horse.