The region of Daylesford-Hepburn Springs, 100 km northwest of Melbourne, was the destination of many 19th century gold diggers. The miners’ tents may have disappeared, but a strong Swiss and Italian presence remains.
“Bellinzona”, named after the capital of Ticino, was Daylesford’s first guesthouse (beginning of the 20th century). It is now a conference centre and one of the city’s most expensive hotels. The price of a room is so high (around SFr250 a night) that the receptionist advised me to go away and book online to benefit from a lower rate!
Hepburn Springs is one of Australia’s best known spa resorts. Tourist operators and arthritis sufferers owe a debt of gratitude to Vincenzo Perini, an emigrant from Mergoscia, near Locarno, who in 1855 was on the first committee formed to protect the mineral springs.
Difficult to imagine an Italian without pasta. True to tradition, the Lucini brothers built the “Macaroni Factory”, thought to be the oldest Italian-owned building in Australia. In 2009, it celebrates its 150th anniversary.
From the street and family names in and around Daylesford, you would think you were in a Ticino valley. Though it is difficult to imagine the Swiss Post dropping off letters and parcels in an oil-drum.
Even the top Italian and Swiss bowls players would not stand a chance in Australia. The bowls they use in these parts are heavier on one side than the other, which makes them curve in – or curve out – at the end of their trajectory. Spectators on the sidelines, be warned!