"One not only drinks wine,
one smells it, observes it,
tastes it, sips it and
one talks about it"

King Edward VII

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Swiss-Italian Heritage

The Shire of Hepburn, the towns of Hepburn Springs and Daylesford and the townships and villages of the surrounding region are proud of their Swiss/Italian heritage - the people who came for the gold or to escape the political upheaval and persecution in their home regions and who stayed because this region reminded them so much of home.

They hailed from the northern Italian areas of Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and the Duchies of Modena and Parma (before Italy even existed as a nation), as well as from neighbouring Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland, Ticino. It is to them we owe the discovery and preservation of the mineral springs and spas which are the region's trademark, the early wineries, the early establishment of a multicultural community and the lifestyle which is reflected in so much of the district today.

Hepburn Springs is a small town nestled in undulating countryside. It was the site of several gold discoveries (along with neighbouring Daylesford) during the Gold Rush and the area was settled by large numbers of ex-diggers from the regions of northern Italy and the Italian canton (Ticino) of Switzerland..

Hepburn Springs township has many historic buildings such as Villa Parma & the Macaroni Factory which make clear our links to our past. Other culturally historic buildings are found in nearby villages - especially Shepherd's Flat (Lavandula, Lavender Farm) and Yandoit. The Daylesford district was one of the first districts in the Colony of Victoria (and, indeed, in Australia) where Italians bought land for farming which, unlike mining, resulted in the creation of permanent settlements.

According to a French observer who visited the colony during the gold-rush years, Daylesford contained the largest concentration of Italian speaking diggers in Victoria. The writer claimed that the Jim Crow diggings (as the mining townships were then known) had something of the appearance of a Northern Italian village. The Italian speakers numbered some 3000 and had all been miserable when they arrived. "Are they still miserable?" the writer asks. "I cannot say. I know only that they are living far from their mountains without regretting them in the least."

Andrew Garran also wrote in 1886;"Near Daylesford, in a place known as Hepburn Springs, there are some houses inhabited by Italian migrants .... These pioneers still keep dear the memory of the land of citrus and bilberries and their hearts warm to a stranger who speaks to them in their own language, of their plains of Lombardy and the beautiful shores of Lake Maggiore." Many of the mining sites still carry names linking back to the Italian origins. The Garibaldi mine, the Magenta Tunnel and particularly Italian Hill - where one of the most successful miners, Albino Pietro Paganetti, lived - all reflect the strength of the Italian connection."

This kept heritage reflects many aspects of our multicultural community. For visitors it is a unique insight into a very interesting aspect of Victoria's history.

Each year the region celebrates the Swiss-Italian Hertiage with a Festa - currently held in spring.

Swiss-Italian Area Around Daylesford and Hepburn