We have a “not so secret” love affair with most things Italian, and it is easy to see why.
With so many Italian influences around the Yarra Valley, our love for Italy is reinforced every day. When you visit our home here in the valley, you could easily be mistaken in thinking you have been transported across the ocean to beautiful Italy, rather than a short one-hour drive from Melbourne.
If you, like us, enjoy the Italian lifestyle of relaxed, positive living, a deep connection to nature along with seasonally inspired food, easy drinking wine and passionate conversations with family and friends, we thought you might like Eight of our Yarra Valley – Italian favourites.
One ~ Sun kissed Roma tomatoes
Freshly plucked from the Botanica Editions seasonal kitchen garden - tomatoes are a delight at garden temperature - served with buffalo mozzarella or burrata, a sprinkling of Murray River salt flakes, and a drizzle of Taggerty extra virgin olive oil found in your kitchen pantry at The Willow House and Habitat House.
Two ~ Family
Planting fruit trees, growing vegetables and following traditional family pasta making recipes was a natural way of life for Lisa Colaneri growing up in the Yarra Valley. Fast forward to 1997, the Colaneri family began to share their unique culinary traditions with the rest of the world through their lovingly crafted Yarra Valley Pasta.
If an authentic pasta making experience excites you, where simple luxuries and preserving Italian heritage are honoured, it is worth visiting Yarra Valley Pasta Shop in Healesville during your stay at Botanica Editions.
Seasonal and local produce influence the artisan range of pasta on offer – spring time asparagus; almond and lemon for summer; figs when in season; local eggs and milk for the pasta and ricotta; and a short drive over the picturesque Black Spur mountain for the most delicious smoked trout from Buxton. Gnocchi is made by hand, fresh tomato based sauces, and cooking tips for dinner direct from the chef is a treat found only when you visit the Colaneri’s pasta shop here in the Yarra Valley
Image: Lisa Colaneri Yarra Valley Pasta
Three ~ Coffee – Prosecco - Gelato
Social ritual, established habit, meeting place, relaxed atmosphere, stimulating conversations, connections.
For centuries, drinking coffee and the espresso bar has been synonymous with Italian culture and it has clearly become an integral part of our own Yarra Valley lifestyle.
While we are blessed with loads of coffee options in the Valley, on the occasion you are looking for an authentic Italian experience (fused with all good things Australian), Healesville’s first Italian styled espresso bar Essenza is an absolute must visit.
Roasted in house, Essenza’s Kafe Kulcha beans are organic, fair trade and work perfectly black or paired with milk – organic and sourced locally of course.
The Essenza philosophy is simple. Produce fresh, simple and tasty Italian influenced food and drinks. Use local organic produce and whole foods where possible, support the community you love, and offer a carefully curated array of local and imported produce.
We love that our guests have been filling their Botanica Editions tote bags with loads of Yarra Valley treasures from the Essenza selection of Italian culinary gems.
Founder and chef Gianpaolo Federici is found each morning in store baking a range of fresh pastries and cakes (including terracotta pot-baked muffins) with a comforting aroma that summons you from across the street. The simple, rustic menu of toasted sourdough panini, antipasti, tasting boards and more substantial Italian dishes are to be enjoyed throughout the day.
Summer afternoons are perfect for a relaxed glass of Veneto Prosecco (where else would you source Prosecco), or a mini bucket of artisan gelato (3 scoops of choice). Pair these delights with the company you enjoy most; friends, family, colleagues; artists, intellectuals, musicians, writers; or simply visit solo. Essenza consistently imbues that welcoming feeling of arriving home.
Four ~ Fibonnaci
The famous Fibonacci sequence has captivated mathematicians, artists, designers, and scientists for centuries.
We loved this 12th century Italian mathematician, not only because he sailed extensively around the Mediterranean meeting merchants and learning their system of arithmetic; we love him because of his eloquent sequences, ratios, description of form and proportions. We love his brilliant connection between the intelligence found in nature and why we are attracted (defined mathematically) to the beauty and peace of nature’s simple aesthetic.
Fibonacci’s golden ratio, spiral, curve, rectangle and sequence can be seen throughout the design and daily activities of Botanica Editions.
The unfurling of the tree fern Dicksonia antarctica, the proportion of males to females within the colony of native bees, the smile on a guests face, the spiral galaxies of the milky way above, and the considered placement of art and furnishing that is the interior styling of Habitat and the Willow House.
We pay homage this great man with a garden of whimsy - the Fibonacci Garden found in the landscape of Habitat House. This particular garden, planted exactly to the spiralling dimensions of Fibonacci’s sequence, offers an unusual sense of formality within the otherwise deliberately relaxed and flowing garden design of our botanical retreat.
Five ~ Festivals and Classic cars
November is the month for Italian themed music festivals, street festivals, night markets, and dinners with guest Italian chefs hosted by some of our favourite Yarra Valley restaurants, including Chateau Yering, Oakridge and Meletos.
For over 80 years Sicily, one of the most enchanting Italian regions has been the home of Targo Florio, a symbol of passion for cars, luxury and elegance. Over the weekend of 1 – 2 December classic cars will descend on Healesville when the Targo comes to town and the world’s most ancient road race will pay tribute to legendary cars and beautiful scenery.
Six ~ Bella -Italian Variety at Maddens rise
One of the most beautiful souls in the Yarra Valley is Emma, Cellar Door host at Maddens Rise. The wine tasting experience at Maddens Rise is like no other in the Valley and it is Emma’s warm hospitality that sets this boutique vineyard apart from others. You feel like you have been invited in to the home of an old friend who is opening, just for you, some of her favourite treasures stored in a private cellar.
Or perhaps it is Emma’s time living in Bologna, Italy, the food and music mecca of the north, that underlies the Maddens Rise unparalleled cellar door hospitality.
Our favourite summertime hang out is the shaded lawn of Maddens Rise sipping on silky Italian varieties such as Nebbiolo (roes, red currents, wood spice and perhaps a little forest floor violets and woodland truffles); or the estate grown, hand-picked hand made Arcobaleno (Italian for rainbow) with beautiful varietals of Arneis, Vermentino, Fiano, Garganega and a little French Chenin Blanc.
This place of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with Emma spontaneously breaking in to Italian conversation or operetta, is a must visit on the boutique wine tour list we leave for your arrival at The Willow House or Habitat House.
Seven ~ Vermouth Causes & Cures
It is reported merchant Antonio Benedetto Carpano of Turin, Italy, first introduced the modern version of sweet drinking vermouth to the world in 1786. We could end the story there for the purposes of our Italian connections. This would however ignore the simple fact that a similar aperitif was popular in France and Germany at the same time, or that a Hippocrates [c. 460 – 370 BC] served his patients a similar fortified wine infused with botanical herbs and roots for medicinal purposes. As have the Chinese in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 4000 years.
Locally, our great friends at Giant Steps have crafted a favourite summer drink in Causes & Cures. Whole bunched, hand-picked, biodynamic Viognier grapes are pressed and fermented before blended with exacting measures of local and imported botanicals, mostly wormwood, juniper, gentian, bay leaf, cinchona and Seville orange.
With this complexity and medicinal influence, we love serving a generous amount (some might say 60ml but you please yourself) straight over ice, with a twist of orange and torn bay leaf harvested fresh from the Botanica Editions gardens.
Perfect at cocktail hour in the gardens of The Willow House or Habitat House.
Eight ~ Fromaggio – Prosciutto – al fresco
With this next favourite in our list of eight, you are going to have to plant a few trees – big trees – to offset the transport miles as we import the authentic ‘ham and cheese’ from Italy. But it will be totally worth it and we suggest you plant a few big trees regardless.
Kitchen & Butcher offer something for every taste when creating your own antipasto platter to enjoy in the gardens of The Willow House or Habitat House.
Fromaggio and prosciutto straight from northern Italy - Occelli Fogli di Castagna [Langhe region, Italy], Rosso di Langa [Piedmont Italy], San Daniele Prosciutto [north east Italy] – along with a of selection local olives, cured meats, pickled vegetables, home made pâté and locally baked crusty bread, make the perfect platter.
Crank up the playlist, Pavarotti /Bocelli /any other Italian ‘rockstar’ of choice, harvest a few fresh herbs and leafy greens from the kitchen garden, embrace ‘slow living’ and dine al fresco in the mid-summer twilight.