Six reasons to visit Myrtleford


THE High Country Harvest is north-east Victoria's big food festival with dozens of events in Beechworth, Bright, Rutherglen and towns in between (from May 18-27, program at The final event is La Fiera, a celebration of the Italian heritage of the Ovens Valley community of Myrtleford. Saturday fortnight will see the main street taken over by Italian groups representing migrants from the provinces of Calabria, Trentino and Vincenza, cooking and serving their region's traditional dishes; the Vicentini, for example, will have spezzatino (beef stew) with polenta. Old Mrs Defazio, a much-loved local caterer, will be dishing up three different handmade pastas. Another special part of this program is the Hidden Treasures Winery Tour, a chance to jump on a bus, tour the back roads of the Ovens Valley and visit four local boutique wineries. It includes pasta lunch (spaghetti, gnocchi and fettuccine) at the Savoy Club, $40. La Fiera, May 25-27,


FROM 1942 to 1947, there was a prisoner-of-war camp on the edge of town for Italian officers captured by the allies in North Africa. They were repatriated by the end of '47 but some so loved the countryside they immigrated to Australia to return to the region. Photos of the POWs are on display at the old School House Museum. It was built in 1876 as a school with a roof pitched steep enough to let the alpine snow fall away. The museum houses paraphernalia from the defunct tobacco industry, including a hand-operated tobacco-chopping machine - displayed under strict security in case of a visit from members of the illicit chop-chop industry, we're told. 29 Elgin Street, Sun 2-5pm or by appointment (5752 1963), entry $2, children 50ยข


SHARAN West's father was born in Slovenia, where he was part of their rural pumpkin industry. He moved to Australia and changed his name from Garbjas to West, John West, and started growing the Styrian variety of pumpkin. It produces a seed without a hard hull and is perfect for pressing for its delicious oil. The seeds, roasted, are brilliant on salads or blended with roasted tomato to make a dip. You can buy them from their new farm-gate shop, Australian Pumpkin Seed Company, which opened on Australia Day this year. 5061 Great Alpine Road, Ovens, 5752 1199, Fri to Tues 8.30am-5pm,


ASK Roberto Parolin for a prosciutto-and-provolone panino and he may burst into song. He was born to Italian parents and became a tobacco grower, but when the local tobacco industry closed, the old Italian grocer shut shop. ''So I, as a true wog, did my duty to look after the local heritage and opened a deli selling good local salumi and imported formaggio.'' Parolin pours a decent coffee, has a good stock of pasta, deli goods and is just a bloody funny bloke to be around. 105 Myrtle Street, Mon to Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 8am-2pm, 5751 1772


MYRTLEFORD has a gold history based on the finds at Reform Hill on the outskirts of town. From 1856 until the 1900s, 23,000 ounces million these days. A rather pleasant hour-long walk to the summit starts at the five-head rock crusher and follows tracks worn into the rock by sluice courses and miners and their mules. It goes through regenerated bush (including the rare orange-and-yellow-coloured stony bush pea) and fine strands of grass trees. The track passes open mining tunnels towards the peak with its stunning view to the Warby Ranges to the west, Mount Buffalo to the south-east and Mount Hotham to the east. Clamber down and finish with a drink and a meal at the Butter Factory across the road. Pick up a map from Myrtleford Visitor Information Centre, Post Office Complex, 36 Clyde Street, daily 9am-5pm


THE road to Mount Beauty is the aptly named Happy Valley Road. It's worth a drive along here to check out the Homestead Estate - a winery, olive grove and historic accommodation (713 Happy Valley Road, 5753 5318). Also consider Souter's Vineyard (390 Happy Valley Road, 5752 1077) and Eagle Range Estate (228 Happy Valley Road, 5752 2518).