Just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the area is famous for its natural mineral water, luxury spas, fine dining and lush natural surroundings.
It’s also renowned for its strong Italian heritage: around 2,000 Swiss-Italians migrated to Hepburn Springs and the surrounding districts in the 1850s, escaping an economic embargo between Switzerland and Italy at the time.
The area’s Italian influence can be breathed and felt at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, located in Shepherds Flat.
The farm’s original owner was Aquilino Tinetti, a migrant from the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino, who established a dairy business on the property.
Over a century later, traces of the farm’s former life can still be found and its Italian roots are honoured through its annual events.
One of these is the Autumn Harvest Festival, in which locals and tourists alike come together to celebrate the land and a bountiful harvest.
Set to unfold on May 20, this year’s edition will showcase local trades, with artisans leading demonstrations on distilling lavender, harvesting oil, preserving jam, spinning wool and blacksmithing, to name a few.
For those who like what they see, stalls will pepper the farm so that visitors can purchase authentic products made by local artisans.
Headlining this year’s festival is Santa Taranta, a Melbourne-based band which plays a mix of original tracks and traditional songs inspired by Italian folk music.
The band’s co-founder, Salvatore Rossano, has been bringing the melodies of his native southern Italy to Lavandula’s festivals since 2015.
“I love the way [these events] create a magic atmosphere at the farm,” Mr Rossano said.
“I am sure [visitors] will go home enriched, having experienced a wonderful day in a little paradise!”
One of the major highlights of the festival is the captivating raptor show, in which Martin Scuffins from the nearby town of Garibaldi will give a flight demonstration of his majestic wedge-tailed eagle, falcon and owl.
The original stone farmhouse built by Aquilino Tinetti will be open for tours all day, so that festivalgoers can take a journey through time to the farm’s humble beginnings.
And for those wanting to explore the gardens in style, a horse and carriage will take visitors for a scenic ride around the picturesque property.
Children will also be able to join in the festivities, with free face-painting by a local artist all day.
And it wouldn’t be an Italian–inspired festival without a delicious spread.
Visitors can rejoice in the arrival of autumn with a bag of roasted chestnuts, a product for which the region is renowned.
For something more substantial, steaming Italian fare will be served from the farm’s wood-fired oven, while Italian sausages will be available fresh off the barbecue.
Other food on offer includes a giant paella and a selection of tasty Indian-style dishes to warm you up.
A crowd favourite at the festivals, Mr Rossano concluded by emphasising how much they bring to the local community.
“They are inspiring and remind everyone of the importance of preserving the history of the area,” he said.
“That history contributes to the [cultural] richness of today’s Hepburn Shire.”
The Lavandula Autumn Harvest Festival has an entry fee of $6 per adult and $2 per school-age child. For more information, visit Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm’s website.